Causes of Allergies in Pets

Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor

If you suffer from any type of allergy, you know how miserable it can make you feel. Our pets can suffer from allergies too, and it can make them just as miserable. Allergies occur when the bodies immune system overreacts to a substance. Unlike people, pets don’t suffer from sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. They are more likely to suffer from itchy skin and hair loss.

There are four ways pets can be exposed to allergens. A common allergy for cats and dogs is from flea bites. It does not take an infestation, one flea bite can cause a reaction. Your will notice your pet scratching, licking and chewing at his skin as well as patches of hair loss. When you treat your pet for fleas, it is important that you also treat your home as well.

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction caused by a substance touching the skin. Some things that might cause an allergy are, grass, wool, plastic, and chemicals from lawn care or carpet cleaning. Contact dermatitis is the least common cause of allergies in dogs and cats, but it can be the easiest to prevent.

Just as they do in people, inhalants can cause difficulty in breathing for pets. Inhalant allergies are known as Atopy and are the most common cause of allergies in dogs.  Your dog or cat will also likely suffer from the itchy and irritated skin. This particular allergy can be seasonal because it can be caused by mold spores and pollen. Other sources for inhalant allergies are dust and smoke.

Veterinarians have several methods of treating your pets allergy symptoms. The vet may prescribe an antihistamine, the same as the ones you would use. Your vet could also prescribe a steroid treatment. This could be given as a pill or topically. Steroids have more of a chance of side effects, including  increased thirst and urination. Just as is the case with people, steroids are not usually a long term treatment. Another option to treat allergies in your dog or cat, is desensitization. Over a period of time, your furry family member is given an injection under the skin of the allergy causing substance. This will build up the animals resistance to the substance.

The most difficult allergy to diagnose in dogs and cats is from food. The main symptom of a food allergy is itchy skin and the problems that result from constant scratching. If none of the other causes of allergies can be confirmed, you will need to work with your vet to figure out which ingredient in your pets food is causing the problem. The most common foods that cause allergies are beef, soy, chicken, milk, corn, wheat and eggs. Unfortunately, these are the main ingredients in most commercial dog foods. You will have to change your pets food to a special formula which your veterinarian can recommend, or you will have to prepare a homemade diet. This allows you to control everything your dog or cat eats. Whichever feeding method you choose while you are trying to find the culprit, your pet can have no other food at all, including treats. It takes up to 12 weeks to determine if the diet change has eliminated the problem.

Recent research has shown that certain dietary components can help dogs and cats in the treatment of allergies. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to be good for the skin and coat, but now it has been determined that these fatty acids can work in the skin to help reduce the histamines released in response to allergies. It takes several weeks or even months to notice a significant change, but Omega 3 fatty acids are very safe. Another dietary component that helps with dry, itchy skin is Biotin. Biotin is a B vitamin. You can find these dietary supplements in an all natural, human grade pet vitamin.

We don’t like to see our four-legged family members suffer with allergies. A visit with your veterinarian can help eliminate the problem so your pet will be happier and healthier.

Joseph M. Sabol is a world class Doberman breeder. Please go to or to for further information.

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