“Ugh,” you think to yourself as your eyes itch and your nose drips yet again. “I’m so sick of these springtime allergies! Hopefully, the pollen count drops soon.” After a day spent gardening outdoors, you are miserable with all the typical allergy signs—a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. You take a break on the couch, and notice that your pet is licking and chewing at their paws and abdomen, which appear pink and irritated. You wonder if your furry pal got into a fertilizer or other chemical while you were out gardening, because their skin seems to be as irritated as your eyes. So, you call your Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital veterinarian, who suggests that, like you, your four-legged friend is probably suffering from springtime allergies. Because you are curious about how allergies affect pets—why such different effects compared with yours?—you chat about this condition with our team. We recorded our conversation, for you to refer to, or to share with other pet owners with allergic pets. 

Question: How do pets develop allergies?

Answer: Unlike people, who tend to grow out of their allergies, pet allergies often become more severe with age. After repeated allergen exposure, your pet’s immune system can become hypersensitive, and mount an exaggerated response the next time the allergen is introduced. For example, if your pet is allergic to Bermuda grass, they can develop an increasingly severe reaction each time they step a paw outdoors, unless their allergy is well-managed.

Q: What are common allergens that can affect my pet?

A: Pets are allergic to many of the same substances as people, and can be allergic to anything they contact. Some of the more common allergens that may bother your furry pal include:

  • Fleas
  • Grasses
  • Weeds
  • Trees
  • Pollen
  • Mold spores
  • Dust mites
  • Fabrics
  • Chemicals
  • Insects
  • Food

Your pet may also be allergic to the plastic in their food and water dishes, and develop chin acne and skin irritation from contact with the dish. Unfortunately, your pet may be allergic to anything in their environment, which makes a thorough, accurate diagnosis tricky.

Q: Isn’t food a common pet allergy?

A: Many pet owners believe their pet has food allergies, but they’re actually allergic to something else. True food allergies are rare, and allergies to corn and other grains are much less common in pets. If your pet has been diagnosed with a food allergy, they more likely have developed a reaction to their food’s protein source, such as chicken, beef, lamb, eggs, or dairy products.

Q: What signs may I see in my allergic pet?

A: Depending on the severity and type of your pet’s allergies, signs can vary widely. Common allergy signs in pets include:

  • Red, inflamed, irritated skin
  • Licking, chewing, scratching, or digging at skin, face, ears, or paws
  • Red hives or wheals on skin
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Skin infections
  • Hot spots
  • Skin with a yeasty odor
  • Anal gland issues
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing

Over time, your pet’s allergy signs may change. They may suffer with more frequent ear infections, or may suddenly start chewing at their paws. Most commonly, you’ll notice that your allergic pet has skin issues, but allergies can also manifest in respiratory signs, like sneezing and watery eyes.

Q: How are my pet’s allergies diagnosed?

A: Itchy skin doesn’t always mean your pet has allergies. They could have an underlying skin disorder or other condition, which makes diagnostic testing extremely important to reach the correct diagnosis. To determine if your pet has seasonal or environmental allergies, blood testing or intradermal testing options are available. These two methods allow us to pinpoint most of your pet’s allergens, determine their itchy season, and create a personalized treatment plan. If we suspect your pet has food allergies, we will suggest they take an 8- to 12-week hypoallergenic food trial, during which they eat only a hypoallergenic diet. Blood, saliva, hair, and skin testing is not accurate for diagnosing food allergies.

Q: How can my Kennedy Heights veterinarian manage my pet’s allergies?

A: Managing your pet’s allergies will be a lifelong battle, as the reaction will change over time and your pet will require an updated treatment protocol. Fortunately, many effective products can help your pet live a comfortable, itch-free life. Depending on your pet’s allergy triggers, we may recommend any combination of the following treatment options:

  • Apoquel
  • Cytopoint
  • Atopica
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Medicated shampoo
  • Skin health supplements
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Topical supplements
  • Prescription diets
  • Immunotherapy

With so many options available to help manage allergies in pets, we can create the best individual treatment plan to ensure your four-legged friend’s comfort.

Has the spring weather turned your furry pal into an itchy mess? Contact our Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital team to schedule an appointment to find your pet relief from their allergies.