Each spring we are greeted with the restoration of flowers and trees. Even in the sparse desert climate of Southern California, there is enough new growth to create an ample surge in pollen production to be noticed by many living creatures blessed with a sensitivity… it is allergy season.
Allergies may seem like an exclusively human phenomenon however, everything from environment to food allergies can afflict four-legged friends. In fact, according to recent research published by the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet allergies are on the rise for both environment and flea issues.
“Food allergies affect just 0.2 percent of dogs and 0.1 percent of cats, according to the 2018 State of Pet Health Report from Banfield Pet Hospital. Flea allergy has been on the rise over the past 10 years, according to the report, with a 12.5 percent increase in dogs and a 67.3 percent increase in cats. Environmental allergies are also on an upward trend, with a 30.7 percent increase in dogs and an 11.5 percent increase in cats over the past decade.”
Dermatitis and Skin Irritation
The most common allergy in pets is flea bite dermatitis. Dogs and cats have similar dermatology reactions to humans, in that they can have hypersensitivity reactions to certain proteins and allergens. In this case, your pets’ skin has an exaggerated reaction to the compounds found in fleas’ saliva causing skin irritation, rash, and itching. Typical signs and symptoms include chewing, licking, or scratching at the affected area. This can lead to patchy hair loss, scabs, or scarring at affected areas. While fleas are a common culprit, other insects and arachnids can also cause a similar inflammatory response in sensitive pets.
“Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is an eczematous itchy skin disease of dogs and cats. … Affected animals develop allergic reactions to chemicals in flea saliva. Symptoms of this reaction include erythema (redness), papules (bumps), pustules (pus-filled bumps), and crusts (scabs).”
Environmental factors may also cause allergic reactions in your pet. While humans may exhibit runny nose, sneezing, or watery eyes, environmental allergies in pets manifest as itching. Skin irritation with environmental allergies tends to be body-wide, so your pet may scratch, bite, and lick their body in various places as opposed to with dermatitis caused by an insect bite.
As with allergic dermatitis, this is important to identify early, as excessive biting, licking, and scratching will further irritate your pet’s skin and could lead to infection.
While far less common than insect and environmental allergies, some pets are vulnerable to food allergies as well. The most common culprits for your dog or cat are beef, dairy products, wheat, eggs, chicken, lamb, and soy. These can cause gastrointestinal upset, cardiovascular symptoms, and itching. Given that food allergies can develop at any point during your pet’s life, it is important to take note of any acute changes in your pet’s behavior to quickly identify a food allergy. Additionally, an elimination diet may help identify the offending component of your pet’s diet. We suggest waiting to introduce new foods about a week apart, or as long as you need to be able to thoroughly monitor your pet’s eating, evacuation and behavior.
“An elimination diet involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect your body can’t tolerate well. The foods are later reintroduced, one at a time, while you look for symptoms that show a reaction.”
If you suspect that your pet has allergies, it is important to get them checked by a trusted and skilled veterinarian. At Banning Veterinary Hospital, we provide top-notch veterinary care with our comprehensive services and commitment to excellent pet care. Schedule an appointment, and your pet will be their healthy and happy self in no time.