If your pet is itching, scratching, and licking their skin, you may wonder if allergies are the cause. Allergies can affect cats and dogs, but their reactions appear differently than those of people. People’s allergies often manifest as upper respiratory issues, including sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and watering eyes. On the other hand, pets’ allergies typically cause skin conditions, including itchiness and inflammation. To help you better understand pet allergies, our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team explains allergy types, signs, and treatments. 

Pet allergy types

Allergens are foreign substances that the immune system considers invasive, responding by releasing histamines into the body. These substances can be anything in the environment, from pollen and dust mites to food and fabric dyes. In your four-legged friend’s case, the following allergy types are commonly diagnosed:

  • Flea allergy — A flea allergy is pets’ most common allergy type, causing intense itching and discomfort. Many cats and dogs are highly sensitive to flea saliva, which causes skin conditions.
  • Food allergies — Approximately 10% of pets’ allergies are caused by food. Certain ingredients, such as beef, poultry, dairy, or grains, can trigger allergic reactions, manifesting as skin irritation, gastrointestinal (GI) issues, or sometimes respiratory problems in cats and dogs.
  • Environmental allergies — Airborne substances, such as pollen, dust mites, and mold, can cause pets’ allergic reactions, leading to itching, sneezing, wheezing, and watery eyes. 
  • Contact allergies — Your furry friend can also be allergic to fabrics, laundry soaps, or cleaning products. If your pet has a contact allergy, they develop a skin problem if they come in contact with any of these allergens.

Allergy signs in pets

To truly know if your pet has an allergy, our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital veterinarian should examine them. Diagnosing allergies in pets is a complex process that may involve blood testing, skin scraping or biopsy, a food elimination diet, or allergy testing. However, if your pet has an allergy, they may exhibit any of the following signs:

  • Skin irritation — Itching, redness, rashes, and hot spots (i.e., raised, moist lesions) are pets’ common allergic skin reaction signs.
  • Respiratory issues — Sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing may indicate environmental allergies.
  • Digestive problems — Vomiting, diarrhea, and GI upset can occur in pets with food allergies.
  • Ear infections — Recurrent ear infections are prevalent in pets with allergies because their overactive immune system can break down the skin barrier within the ear canal, increasing ear wax and the opportunity for infection to develop.
  • Behavioral changes — When experiencing allergic reactions, pets may exhibit changes in behavior, such as increased agitation, irritability, or lethargy.

Diagnosis and treatment for pets’ allergies

If your four-legged friend exhibits any of the allergy signs we have described here, the next step is to call our team for an exam. Skin analysis, blood tests, and elimination diets may be conducted by our team to identify specific allergens triggering your pet’s allergy signs.

While allergies have no cure, we can manage their effects and minimize or eliminate your pet’s discomfort, infections, and other issues. If your pet has an allergy, we may recommend any of the following treatments:

  • Allergen avoidance — Minimizing your pet’s exposure to known allergens is key to managing their allergies. This may involve dietary changes, environmental modifications, and flea prevention measures.
  • Medications — Antihistamines, corticosteroids, and other prescription medications may be prescribed to alleviate your pet’s allergy signs.
  • Immunotherapy — Allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy can help desensitize your pet to specific allergens, reducing their allergic reactions’ severity.
  • Symptomatic relief — Medicated shampoos, topical treatments, and soothing ointments can relieve skin irritation and itching.
  • Regular wellness exams — Ongoing veterinary visits are essential for monitoring your pet’s health, identifying allergies, and adjusting treatment plans.

By staying informed about your pet’s allergy types, signs, and management strategies, you can help your four-legged friend thrive. Contact our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team for allergy testing and treatment.