We all know, at some point in our lives, what it feels like to have an allergy. With symptoms ranging from a runny nose to itchy eyes or even a rash, it is an irritating feeling that makes us miserable. So why would we want to put our beloved pets through similar discomfort if we can prevent it?
Allergies can be caused by fleas and a myriad of environmental allergens, such as pollen, moulds and dust mites. Some of these are very prevalent in spring and summer.
Allergies are common in both cats and dogs. In most cases, there is not much that we can do about the allergens, but we can get rid of parasites, such as fleas, to an extent. Areas around the feet, face, ears, armpits or groin are most commonly affected. You may also see hair loss, crusting or scaling.
It is no wonder then that affected pets constantly scratch, lick, itch and flap their ears. Continuous scratching, biting and excessive grooming due to itching often damage the skin. This allows allergens to penetrate the skin more easily, causing secondary skin infections, like the dreaded hotspots.
Irritated skin is not the only discomfort your pet may experience: you may even notice an unpleasant smell or inflamed ears. If your dog or cat shows any allergy signs, consult your veterinarian to avoid more serious complications, discomfort and stress.
When you suspect that your pet has an allergy, ask your veterinarian to do a simple blood test. This test can alert you to both environmental and food allergies your pet may have. Once you have the results, make a copy and keep it in your purse or wallet. If your pet has a variety of allergies, it is best to have the list on hand whenever you go shopping for pet food.
It is not possible to cure allergies, but it is possible to manage them, according to Dr Darren Berger, DVM DACVD, assistant professor, Lloyd Veterinary Medical Centre, Iowa State University. He adds that washing bedding and changing beds regularly will help with dust mite allergies. Eliminating parasites and meticulous flea control are essential in managing your pet’s allergies.
Dr Berger advises that although bathing removes allergens from the coat and soothes and hydrates the skin, don’t over-bathe dogs. Wiping the dog or cat with a damp cloth or allergy-relief wipe will remove allergens from the coat.
Ask your vet about over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines to help with any triggers you can’t eliminate.
Many large pet food brands have come up with special allergy formulas, such as Hill’s nutrition-formulated food, to reduce signs of environmental allergies by disrupting the internal allergy response.
In a case where the allergy is caused by food, it is a little easier to manage. It will mean that you have to read the labels of pet food and treats. If your dog is allergic to grains, take a look at canned dog food, where you’re more likely to find 100% meat formulas or meat and veggie mixtures that your dog can tolerate.
Where possible, make your pet’s treats yourself. For instance, for dogs allergic to grains, some all-meat canned dog food can be sliced and baked in the oven for crispy homemade dog cookies.
Allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy and runny eyes
- Itchy ears
- Ear infections
- Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin
- Increased scratching
- Itchy back or base of tail
- Paw chewing or swollen paws
- Constant licking