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Types of Allergies in Cats & Dogs: Their Symptoms + Reasons + Treatment
New pet owners must understand that caring for a pet comes with challenges. Sometimes your pet may become sick or ill; unlike humans, they cannot tell us what is wrong.
Pets also sometimes suffer from allergies, which can stem from multiple sources. An allergy occurs when there is exposure to a foreign substance. A few different types of allergies can occur in cats and dogs.
Some questions you might ask yourself if you’re concerned about allergies may be:
- What types of allergies do cats and dogs suffer from?
- Why do some pets have allergies while others don’t?
- How do I treat my dog or cat suffering from allergies?
Here are the answers to some of those questions. It will help you be more equipped and understand what to expect and how to help combat allergies in your pet.
Types of Allergies in Dogs and Cats
There are essentially three types of allergies that can cause your dog or cat to feel uncomfortable. Those three allergies are:
- Food allergies
- Atopic dermatitis (skin allergy)
- Flea Bite allergies
Other seasonal allergies in dogs exist, but these are the three primary types that your dog or cat can suffer from, causing irritability.
Food allergies are specific to an ingredient or item found in your pet’s food. Beef is a food that dogs or cats can be allergic to. Other allergens include wheat, corn, chicken, lamb, or pork. Usually, a dog or cat will only be allergic to one or two foods.
Changing your dog or cat’s pet food brand doesn’t always solve the problem. Since the issue is a specific ingredient, just changing the brand isn’t helpful. For example, if your pet is allergic to soy, you must look for a brand that doesn’t contain or is manufactured in a soy-free plant.
Veterinarians diagnose food allergies, usually after multiple tests. Your vet may need your pet to go through a series of foods and eliminate a particular ingredient for a while. The vet will usually have you, the pet owner, perform this testing at home with strict food limitations, to discover what is causing the reaction.
Atopic dermatitis is an itchy skin disease in dogs and cats. This can occur due to inhalation or skin contact with an allergen. When an animal encounters certain environmental substances like pollen, grass, dust, or something they are sensitive to, this irritates the skin. Your dog or cat will react by biting or scratching frequently.
You might also witness your pet shaking its head vigorously if the skin inside the ears becomes infected. Pets can also lick a lot in the area that came into contact with the allergen. The licking most likely occurs due to your dog or cat itching so hard that it breaks the skin, which can worsen the infection.
Why Some Pets Have Allergies and Others Don’t
Skin allergies can be genetic, with some breeds or species having a predisposition to allergies. The history for specific breeds that are more predisposed to allergies includes Dalmatians, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Lhasa Apsos, and Scottish Terriers. Environmental factors may also play a role in pets contracting atopic dermatitis, among other allergies.
Some dogs or cats may contract an infection when parasites or viruses attack their bodies, especially if it happens when their immune systems aren’t built up (like with puppies) or developed completely. Animals who are sometimes more frequently exposed to allergens can build up their immunity, in the same manner, making them less likely to be sensitive to it.
Flea Bite Allergies
A flea bite allergy is a form of skin allergy that's caused by a severe reaction to a flea bite. Both dogs and cats become affected by Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). The response comes from proteins in the flea’s saliva that it injects into your pet’s skin during biting.
Your cat or dog will frequently chew and bite at the area when suffering from a flea bite allergy. It usually breaks the skin, causing open sores and scabs. Your vet must examine your dog for any fleas or flea dirt to diagnose.
Acute Allergic Reactions
Acute allergic reactions are the scariest when they happen to your dog or cat. The problem with a critical response is that your pet can go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction, which is fatal if not treated.
Be wary of your pet reacting to something like a bee sting, which can cause an anaphylactic response. Other issues that can cause acute reactions include new medications, vaccines, or food your pet hasn’t eaten.
How to Treat or Prevent Allergies in Dogs and Cats
Prevention is one of the best ways to help treat allergies when possible. In the case of flea allergy, this would mean regular preventative treatment, such as monthly flea medication. Identifying allergies can help manage environmental allergens (such as house dust mites).
But, when that doesn’t work, and you need to take your pet to the vet for diagnosis, other treatments must be considered. There is some evidence that desensitization can be helpful, where you directly expose the allergen to the animal in small doses over time. Eventually, your pet can become less sensitive to the allergen after exposure.
Other treatments come in the form of medications, vitamins, and supplements. They can help rid your dog or cat’s body of the allergen and treat infections. Skin and flea treatments might include special baths to help your pet’s skin to heal.
Helping Your Pet With Allergies
You may need to take special precautions or more steps to prevent any more allergy outbreaks. Keeping a close eye on the foods around your home to ensure that a particular ingredient isn’t present may be necessary in case your pet is prone to eating scraps.
You may also need to treat your yard if you notice visiting wildlife that may carry fleas (rabbits, deer, etc.), and treat your house indoors if you have seen fleas on your pet. Keep areas where your pet sleeps nice, clean, and free of dust.
If you fear your pet is suffering from an allergic reaction, the quickest action is to contact your veterinarian immediately, maybe even an emergency visit. Keep your pet safe and be aware of the types of allergies your dog or cat may sustain and how you can help treat them.