With the spring and summer weather, we tend to see allergies flare up in many dogs and cats. If you notice that your pet is scratching, licking their paws or grooming excessively, they may be experiencing an allergy to something. There are 3 categories of things that cause allergies in pets: fleas, environment and diet. We will address each category below.
Fleas: Luckily, here in the Denver area, dog and cat fleas cannot survive. If you live in or travel to an area with fleas, they are the first thing to rule out in an itchy pet. Even if you do not see fleas, your pet could still have a flea allergy. One flea bite is enough to cause an allergic response in some dogs and cats. Make sure you are using a reliable flea control product regularly. There are many new effective products including some that are oral and do not lose efficacy, so no risk of get washed off with bathing or swimming.
Diet: Dogs and cats can be allergic to one or several ingredients in their food. We commonly see pets that are allergic to the common proteins such as chicken, beef and turkey. They can also be allergic to grains such as wheat and corn. Less commonly, pets may be allergic to a preservative in the food. If food allergies are suspected, you can perform a food trial by feeding a grain free food that contains only one protein that your pet has not had before (rabbit, duck, venison, etc) and one carbohydrate source (potato, pea, sweet potato). Feed this diet exclusively, no table scraps, treats, chew sticks or supplements for at least 10 weeks. If the allergies improve while they are on this diet, then it is likely that they have a food allergy.
Environment: Pets can be allergic to a multitude of things in their environment such as dust mites, pollens, weeds, grasses, molds, chemicals, or laundry detergents. Allergy testing (simple blood test) can be done for many environmental allergens. Your veterinarian may prescribe allergy injections or medications to alleviate symptoms in pets that are allergic to things which cannot be eliminated from the environment.
Diagnosing allergies in pets is a step-wise process that can take several weeks to months. Over time, untreated allergies can lead to more severe skin issues and therefore itis important to diagnose and manage the symptoms as soon as possible.This will keep your dog or cat much more comfortable and happy in the long run. If you suspect that your pet is allergic, consult with your veterinarian for diagnosis and management.