Allergies in Dogs and Cats
Does your pet scratch or chew at his paws during one particular time of the year? Is hair missing from scratching? Has she been diagnosed with “hot spots” or recurrent ear infections in the past? If so, there is a good possibility there is an underlying problem: allergies, also known as atopy.
Most dogs will lick and chew their paws, develop areas of redness on the skin, and scratch with seasonal allergies. Cats will scratch and cause areas of missing hair from over-grooming. As time passes and the allergies go untreated, pets often develop ear infections and bacterial skin infections.
Depending on the allergy, there may be times of the year when symptoms seem worse. This can be due to the type of pollen to which the pet is allergic. For pets that seem to have year-round problems, there may be an allergen that is ever-present, such as dust-mite feces, wool, cigarette smoke, etc. Some pets also have food allergies, which are present year-round and can be due to the proteins or carbohydrates in the diet. Gluten and grains are not routinely the culprit.
Allergic responses to an inhaled allergen (something that stimulates the allergic response like a pollen or molecule of cigarette smoke) typically result in itching and skin lesions. Hay fever is not common. Sometimes, allergies can cause chronic lower airway inflammation and cough in dogs and cats. Skin contact with an allergen (such as laying on grass if a pet is allergic to grass pollens) can cause itchiness and redness directly in the areas that have been contacted.
Treatments can include omega fatty acid supplementation, medicated baths, prescribed diets, allergy testing and hyposensitization treatments with a dermatologist, and suppressing aspects of the immune response with prescription medications to help with inflammation and itch.