May 2013 – Pets and Allergies – Symptoms and Treatments

The month of May has been declared “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month” by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).  According to the foundation, nearly 50 million people in the United States suffer from allergies. However, our pets are susceptible to allergies, too.  Because the most common symptoms of allergies in pets is different than in people, following is some information to help you determine the cause, symptoms and treatment of pets affected by allergies.

What triggers allergy symptoms in pets?

Dogs and cats can develop allergies to a variety of things including pollens, dust mites, fleas and food.

Cat at food dish







The most common allergy seen in pets is due to flea bites. The saliva of just one flea bite gets into a pet’s blood and can cause sudden skin issues in some pets more than others.  Most owners have trouble believing this because they never see the flea that bites the pet and worsens the pet’s condition. Any and all pets with allergies should be on a safe flea preventative all year long to minimize severity of breakouts. When food is implicated, it is actually the proteins in the particular food that are causing the reaction.

Allergy symptoms – what to look for:

Pets manifest their allergies through their skin.  They are usually itchy and can sometimes erupt with sudden itching, licking of their feet, and horrible skin and ear infections.

Cat grooming

Food allergy symptoms are basically indistinguishable from airborne allergies.  We cannot tell simply by looking at the pet exactly what the cause is without further documentation of when symptoms occur and possible testing.

It is important for the pet owner to notice whether the condition appears on a seasonal basis.  The most common times for allergies are with the change of the seasons spring, summer, and fall.

Pets with food allergy usually are uncomfortable with skin issues all year long plus or minus gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea vomiting, and loose stools.

Allergy testing:

The only reliable testing for a possible food allergy is dietary restriction trials.  We try to find a novel protein source to feed the pet.  The typical canned commercial pet food usually contains several protein sources in just one variety. We offer something that the pet has never eaten before. The food trial should last up to three months in order to see results.

For airborne allergies, skin prick tests can be done, similar to how humans are tested.  There are also blood tests available on the market that screen for allergens, but these tests are not 100% accurate.

Allergy treatment:

Since flea allergies are the most common cause, we recommend you ask your veterinarian what they recommend as the best preventative to protect your pets.

Allergy shots are the only remedy for pollen and dust mite allergies, but this form of treatment can take six to nine months to work and is not a guarantee. Allergy shots can be miraculous for some highly allergic dogs, but on average only help approximately 65% of dogs treated.

More information:

We can help guide you in caring for your pet by providing the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding your pet’s health and well-being.  Please don’t hesitate to call our office at 908-874-4447 if you notice symptoms or behavior changes in your pet that are cause for concern.  We are here to help.

Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors