Spring is finally here and it’s time to enjoy the amazing weather and sun with our furry friends. However, in spring we see many pets being affected by allergies. That said, some cats and dogs are affected by allergies all year round! Symptoms of allergies can range from watery eyes and/or sneezing to more severe symptoms like excessive itching, scratching, paw-chewing and rashes.
At our clinic, people most often talk about the seasonal allergies and the food allergies that their pets suffer from. However, you should know that there are actually 4 different types of allergies that pets suffer from!
So, what are the 4 different types of skin allergies and what can you do about it?
Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) is very common in dogs and cats. Affected animals are allergic to the flea’s saliva. Hence, one flea bite can cause a terrible allergic reaction. Pets suffering from FAD are often very, very itchy around the tail base and their back legs. You might notice your furbaby biting his/her tail and scratching excessively.
It is very easy to treat pets with FAD now because of all the new, effective flea treatments that are available on the market. Oral flea preventatives have been revolutionary since they guarantee protection without needing to wonder if the treatment has somehow rubbed off.
Monthly flea treatment is usually recommended for both cats and dogs. Your veterinarian will be able to tailor the best flea preventative for your pets if they suffer from FAD.
Pets that suffer from food allergies are usually allergic to a type of protein in their diet. The main culprits are chicken, beef and lamb. Pets that have food allergies usually display excessive licking of their front paws and recurrent ear infections. Food allergies are more common in dogs than cats, usually occurring in pets under 2 years of age.
If your veterinarian suspects that your pet suffers from food allergies, they will very likely put your pet on an elimination diet which may involve a strict home cooked diet of ONLY kangaroo and sweet potatoes. This is not meant to be fed on a long-term basis and is only used rule out/in food allergies. Alternatively, there are prescription diets your veterinarian might recommend, such as Hill’s z/d or Royal Canin Anallergenic.
As the name suggests, this is when your animal has come into contact with a particular allergen, usually a plant or grass and sometimes a chemical. A pet that suffers from contact allergies most commonly presents with inflamed and red skin around the muzzle, paws and belly.
The trick to contact allergies is determining the culprit (allergen) and this is often the trickiest part. Plants that cause issues can be seasonal, given the pollens they produce. Your veterinarian will most likely treat the symptoms and rashes with antihistamines, medicated shampoo, and, in some extreme cases, long-term medication. If you know what is causing the allergies, though, avoiding the culprit will be the best plan long-term.
Airborne Allergies aka Atopy
Pets that suffer from atopy are allergic to anything airborne, including dust and pollen. This type of allergy is commonly knowns as “inhalant allergy”. The most common symptoms that we see in pets that are diagnosed with atopy are: redness and inflammation all over with constant itching/scratching in all areas of their body. They also tend to chew their paws and may have recurrent ear infections.
Treatment of atopic dermatitis can be quite challenging and you should speak to your veterinarian about the different treatment options that are best suited to your pet. This is because treatment is usually lifelong and a combination of treatments may be needed. Some of the treatments options include: immuno-therapy (allergy injections), antihistamines, steroids, immunomodulatory medications, and dietary changes, including supplements.
It is very important to work closely with your veterinarian to determine what kind of allergy your pet has. The best way to diagnose what kind of allergy your pet suffers from is through a process of elimination, which can be time-consuming! However, the end result is always very rewarding and nothing beats having a pet that is happy and healthy!