Pet Allergies Aren’t a Catchall and Require Different Treatments for Relief
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on March 31, 2018
Posted in Pet Allergies
If you’re someone who suffers from allergies, you know there are different triggers for them. You might avoid foods that contain wheat gluten or stay indoors on days when the pollen count is especially high, for example. Knowing what sets your allergies off is key to avoiding them. For pets, it’s the same.
Pet allergies can vary as greatly as allergies in humans. Your dog might be allergic to certain food ingredients, microbes in the air, organic substances and much, much more. Some pets are even allergic to dander, just like humans! And, just like with your own allergies, it’s important to know what sets off your pet’s allergies to help them avoid feeling crummy.
Not all allergies are the same
The biggest misconception about pet allergies is that they all present with the same symptoms. We like to think of things like sneezing, itchiness or coughing when we think of allergies. And while these might be signs and symptoms of your pet’s allergies, they’re far from the only indicators. Depending on your pet’s sensitivities, allergies can present in a variety of ways. Some of the most common include:
- Atopic allergies (inhaled) are the most common, which present in the common symptoms: itchiness, lethargy, sneezing and fungal infections. These are generally caused by organic materials like pollen, mold or hay.
- Flea allergies are extremely common and present primarily in itching. Lethargy is also a common flea allergy trait, along with skin sensitivity and adversity to being touched or pet.
- Food allergies can manifest in a variety of bathroom problems for your pet, most notably constipation or diarrhea. In other cases, lethargy is a common sign. Still more pets can encounter dermatological troubles as a reaction to a food allergy.
- Contact allergies are the most widespread type of allergies and the hardest to diagnose or qualify. They can include everything from skin and eye irritation to excessive itching or breathing problems.
Unfortunately, allergy symptoms overlap, which makes it nearly impossible to diagnose a specific cause without testing. Who’s to say your dog’s rash is from a flea allergy versus a contact allergy with a recently-sprayed herbicide?
Treating allergies and symptoms
Knowing what’s causing your pet’s allergies is key in treating both the root cause and the symptoms. In some cases, it’s only possible to do one or the other; in others, both are possible.
For example, if you know your dog is allergic to soy, you can buy them soy-free food to prevent triggering their allergy altogether. On the other hand, if you know your cat is allergic to dander, you may not be able to treat the allergy, but you can help them achieve hydrated skin and a healthy coat to minimize reactions. The more you know about the cause and the effect, the better able you’ll be when it comes to delivering a better quality of life!
The most important thing to remember is that there is no panacea. General allergy medications may suppress reactions, but they often come with side effects and high, recurring costs. Likewise, trying to address symptoms only means missing the underlying cause—like treating a skin rash instead of changing the food that triggers the allergy causing it. Relief comes from a tailored approach to pet wellness.
Get your pet tested
The simplest way to get to the bottom of your pet’s relentless allergies is through a simple blood test or allergy screening. Your vet can run an allergy panel to determine what, exactly, is triggering your pet’s allergies—as well as provide insight into allergies you might not have ever suspected! It’s a great way to get a handle on the specific triggers for your pet’s unique symptoms.
The other benefit to visiting your vet for insight into allergies is to learn more about causes and reactions. Your vet will be able to tell you more about how specific allergies are triggered and how to best avoid them. This can include food recommendations, tips for avoiding contact allergies and information about flea treatment. Your vet might even be able to tell you if your pet is susceptible to specific allergy-related conditions, like asthma induced by atopic triggers or gastrointestinal conditions prompted by food allergies.
It all comes down to understanding your pet’s allergies. Each pet is unique and while the allergy symptoms may seem general, they’re having a very unique impact on your furry friend. Don’t generalize their allergies—understand and treat them specifically.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan