Spring allergies in pets

Allergies in pets at this time of year can vary from food, environmental or household, and 10% of allergies in dogs are said to be food related, but many pets can suffer from more than one.

There are certain breeds of cats and dogs that are more susceptible to allergies and most affected, including Retrievers, German Shepherds, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels and Rex Cats.

Just like their owners, allergies in pets are a common occurrence with an estimated 20% of dogs suffering from them. The type of allergy that your pet has can be hard to diagnose as many of the symptoms are almost identical. Seasonal allergies in pets usually manifest as itchy, dry, or sensitive skin, but there are other common signs. For example, if they have a runny nose, excessively drooling of just not themselves, it could be down to allergies.

Common causes:

Although they can suffer with more than one allergy, there are common types that pets can develop:

  • Atopy (also known as Atopic Dermatitis)
  • Flea allergy
  • Hay fever
  • Food allergy

Other causes of common allergies in pets can include, pollen, mould spores, dust, feathers, perfumes, cleaning products and fleas.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy) is an allergy to something in the environment, such as pollen, moulds, grass, or dust mites. Pets with Atopic Dermatitis tend to have very itchy skin, usually it’s worse on their paws, ears, tummy, and armpits. If your pet has Atopic Dermatitis they may be constantly scratching, licking, and biting, which can make their skin red, sore and open to infection. Pets can develop Atopic Dermatitis at any age, although it can be more common in young dogs and in certain breeds, such as the West Highland Terrier (Westie). Common symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis can include itchy skin, ear infections, licking or chewing themselves, hair loss, dark/thickened skin, weepy eyes, bacterial skin infections and yeast infections.

Finding out what your pet is allergic to can be quite challenging as flea and food allergies can cause almost identical symptoms as Atopic Dermatitis.

To help reduce symptoms and prevent future flare ups, your vet may recommend steps to avoid triggers, such as:

  • Avoid walks when the pollen count is high
  • Rinsing your dog off after walking in long grass
  • Avoiding sprays (except flea sprays) in the home
  • Vacuum and dust regularly

Keep your pet up to date with their flea treatment, symptoms are likely to flare up if they are bitten.

Some pet supplements on the market can contain high quality Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin-E, which can naturally calm sensitive skin, sooth dry, flaky skin and reduce itching and scratching.

Hay fever

Hay fever is an allergy that is common in spring and summer. The allergic reaction is caused by the body’s response to pollen in the air. An allergy to pollen is less common than an allergy to fleas or house dust mites and it’s not easy to tell the difference unless your pet has an allergy test.

When a pet suffers from hay fever can depend on what type of pollen, they are sensitive to and what part of the UK you live in:

  • Tree pollen – from late March to Mid-May
  • Grass pollen – Mid-May to July
  • Weed pollen – end of June to September.

Flea allergies

When your pet gets bitten by a flea, it injects saliva into their skin. Flea saliva is irritating to most animals, including humans and can trigger an allergic reaction in some cats and dogs. Everyday itching from a flea bite is not the same as a flea allergy. A pet that is allergic to flea bites will have a skin reaction every time they are bitten, which can cause intense itching and inflammation of the skin. Other common signs of an allergic reaction to fleas include hair loss, over grooming, lumpy skin, red, inflamed skin, and fleas.

If your pet has a flea allergy, as an owner you need to ensure it is managed properly. A poorly managed flea allergy could cause severe skin disease and illness. With the advice and treatment from your vet and a good flea control, most pets with flea allergies can live a happy and healthy life.

Your vet will be able to offer advice on the best flea treatment sufficient for your pet. Make sure you treat both indoor and outdoor cats as outdoor cats can bring fleas inside.

Food allergies

A food allergy is when a pet’s immune system overreacts to one or more ingredients in their diet. Common signs for this can include itchy skin, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore tummy, or excessive wind.

Food allergies in dogs can develop at any stage of their life but are most common when they are less than a year old. In cats, they can develop by 4-5 years old. It’s not always easy trying to find what your pet may be allergic too and a food elimination diet is often used to diagnose a food allergy. Dogs tend to be allergic to protein (meat or dairy), with some also allergic to wheat and grains. Cats can be allergic to products such as beef, dairy, or fish.

If an allergy is well managed, your pet can live a perfectly normal life. If you are worried about your pet and suspect they have allergies, speak to your vet who is best placed to monitor their symptoms and manage their treatment.