Just like people who cough, sneeze, or break out in hives from certain substances, pets can have allergies to items in their environment. Allergies in pets can cause them to experience breathing issues, skin problems, and other struggles.
Finding out what allergens are causing the problem can reduce or eliminate issues. Not only does that help your pet feel better faster, but it may also help protect their long-term health.
What are Allergens?
Allergens are any substances that produce an allergic reaction. Because allergens are proteins, they can stimulate mast cells. These cells are found in the respiratory and GI tracts and the skin.
Stimulated mast cells release substances, like histamine, that produce an allergic response. Some reactions occur within minutes of exposure to the allergen, while others don't appear until hours or even days later.
What are the Most Common Pet Allergens?
Among the most common pet allergens are grass pollen, dust, food proteins, and flea saliva. Of course, these aren't the only things that can cause allergies in dogs and cats. For example, your cat might be allergic to cigarette smoke, or your dog could have a medication allergy.
To help determine what's causing your cat or dog allergies, it's important to understand the main allergy causes and what kinds of problems you generally see from them. While cats can experience allergy issues, dogs often have the most severe or noticeable allergies.
The Main Causes of Allergies in Pets
Finding the cause of your pet's allergy is the first step toward getting them a treatment that works. Some allergies are easy to avoid once they're first discovered, and other allergies must be managed with medication and diet. But the first step in addressing your pet's allergy is pinpointing what they're allergic to.
Cats and dogs can both be allergic to fleas or, more specifically, to the saliva that fleas produce when they bite your pet. The saliva often causes a histamine reaction that affects the skin and can make your pet incredibly uncomfortable.
Food allergies are common in pets. The most frequent allergies are to grain or proteins in meat such as fish or chicken. Dairy allergies also occur in some pets.
Pet allergens can come from the environment. Grass, pollen, mold, cigarette smoke, feathers, dust mites, pests, chemicals, and medicine are just some of the allergens that pets react to.
Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs
Allergies in dogs and cats can both be severe. Dogs often experience more significant allergies, especially when they spend much of their time outside.
Being outdoors can give them exposure to allergens like grass and pollen, and they can also come into contact with fleas, ticks, and other pests.
One of the most prominent symptoms of allergies in dogs is itchiness. It might be because of an allergy if you notice your dog repeatedly scratching, especially in the same spots or much more than usual.
Itchy dogs may also chew and bite and lick at the areas where itching occurs, which can lead them to pull out their fur and even damage their skin.
Dog allergies can also cause hives. These small, red bumps can appear in a pattern in one area or may appear all over your dog's skin. Hives are most easily seen on the belly, where the fur is thinner but can appear anywhere.
While hives aren't really harmful, they can come with itching and discomfort. That can lead your pet to scratching and digging at their skin, creating the chance for cuts, scrapes, and infection.
Swelling of the Face, Ears, Lips, Eyelids, or Earflaps
Swelling is a common sign of allergies in pets. If your dog's face or lips are swelling up, or they have puffy eyelids, ears, or earflaps, it's important to find out what's causing their allergic reaction.
Sometimes swelling can also occur in the throat, which can potentially restrict your dog's breathing. You want to solve allergy problems before that happens.
Red, Inflamed Skin
Even if your dog doesn't have hives, their skin can still get red and inflamed. Contact allergies are some of the most common causes of this problem.
For example, if your dog has been rolling in the grass, the pollen could cause their skin to turn red and inflamed. That may or may not include itching.
Diarrhea & Vomiting
Dogs who eat things they shouldn't often experience diarrhea or vomiting. Sometimes they'll have both of these problems, and sometimes it might be just one or the other.
You might not always be able to stop your dog from consuming something they found in the yard or on a walk, but you can control the kind of food you're giving them. When you feed them good-quality food, allergies are less likely.
An allergy that causes gastrointestinal problems could still occur, though. If your dog has GI issues, try a different food to see if there's a specific ingredient they're reacting to. Grain, meat proteins, and dairy can all be allergens.
The Best Ways to Avoid Most Pet Allergies
The best thing you can do for allergies in pets is to find the source of the allergy and then eliminate the allergen. That could mean giving your cat grain-free food or walking your dog in an area that doesn't have grass.
Sometimes, avoidance of an allergen isn't entirely possible. In those instances, you'll want to work with your veterinarian to see what medications and treatments are available to help your pet feel as well as possible.
Since there are several common triggers for allergies in pets, those allergens should be the first things you consider. If you've eliminated all the common allergens and your pet is still having trouble, a trip to your vet can help you and your pet get to the bottom of the problem for a happier, healthier future.