Allergies in cats and dogs

Allergies in pets

As a pet owner, we need to understand and detect when our beloved companion animals start to be allergic to many things as we are. One of the most common types of allergies suffered by companion animals mimic those suffered by people: environmentally factors, due to dust, pollen and mold; ingested allergens, usually caused by certain kinds of food, topical allergies, or allergies triggered by contact with various things.

What is an allergy?

The allergy symptoms usually occur when the immune system overreacts to something that it is harmless to most pets but triggers a reaction in anyone sensitive to it. Those substances are known as allergens.

Atopic Allergies/ Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies also referred to as inhaled allergies or atopic, are probably already familiar to you. That’s because the same things that trigger these allergies in humans: dust mites, mold, and pollen spores trigger them in companion animals. Atopic allergies are the most common allergies in pets, and they can be difficult to pinpoint because many of the symptoms they cause can be easily confused with other problems.

What is an atopic allergy?

Various substances, called allergens, can trigger especially atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common causes of chronic itching in dogs. In general, the atopic dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction as hypersensitivity to one or more substances in the environment. The main symptom of atopic dermatitis is usually itchiness. The face and feet may seem particularly irritated, the skin on some parts of the body may be moist, reddened, or damaged due to scratching/chewing. The ears may also be inflamed, and recurrent ear infections (otitis externa) are quite common in these patients. Very often skin infections can also occur. Less often, dogs with atopic dermatitis have other signs of “allergies” including a runny nose or eyes.
Atopic dermatitis in cats, progressively worsens with time, though they become more apparent during certain seasons. The most commonly affected areas in cats include the: ears, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, in between the toes. The signs associated with atopic dermatitis, meanwhile, consist of itching, scratching, rubbing, and licking, especially around the face, paws, and underarms.

Food Allergies/Ingested Allergies or Food intolerance?

Food allergies affect both dogs and cats. Unlike atopy, between specific breeds and food allergies, there is no strong link. Food allergies affect both males and females and intact or neutered animals equally. They can show up as early as five months and as late as 12 years of age. Many animals with food allergies also have concurrent inhalant or contact allergies.
There is always a distinction that needs to be made between food allergies and food intolerances. Food allergies are true allergies and show the characteristic symptoms of itching and skin problems associated with canine and feline allergies.
Diarrhea or vomiting can result from food intolerances but do not create a typical allergic response. Food intolerances in pets would be similar to people who get diarrhea or an upset stomach from eating spicy or fried foods. Both food intolerances and allergies, fortunately, can be eliminated with a diet free from offending agents.
In general, it is difficult to distinguish an animal suffering from food allergies from an animal suffering from atopy or other types of allergies based on physical signs. However, there are a few signs that can increase the suspicion that food allergies may be present. One of these is a dog with recurrent ear problems, particularly yeast infections, or a very young dog with moderate or severe skin problems. As an example, if a dog suffers from allergies throughout the year or if the symptoms begin when seasons changes, one of the clues can be an itchy skin on the dog which does not respond to steroid treatment.

Topical Allergies

Topical allergies are the least common kind of dog allergy and are caused when a pet comes into contact with something that irritates his/her skin. Pet’s owners usually notice these allergies right away, since they are often triggered by the introduction of a new product in pet’s life. The most common behind topical allergies in dogs are flea collars, shampoos, pet sweaters, plastic food bowls, plants, wool bedding and certain grasses. The symptoms of topical allergies may include redness, itching, swelling, and hair loss. It is important to pay close attention to your pet behavior and physical conditions at all times, to be on the alert for symptoms.

Are the pets scratching just due to an allergic condition?

Pets will also scratch if they are suffering from mite infestations in the skin, from bacterial infections or from yeast or fungal infections.
Mites cause the conditions collectively known as Mange, in dogs. Demodectic Mange is the commonest, but Sarcoptic Mange is also occasionally seen. Mange infestation can only be diagnosed by your veterinarian who will usually do some skin scrapings to attempt to find the mites.
The bacterial infections are more often a cause of itchy skin. Bacterias can spread over the skin surface causing the development of pus-containing blisters, red inflamed areas of skin, or red and revolting, moist, oozing sores called Hot Spots.
Yeast and fungi are also infectious organisms that cause most of the skin complaints. When these bugs are present in a pet, the result is often the development of black, thickened skin, excessive scale and odor and a greasy feel and appearance of the skin. Face-rubbing is also a common sign.
Determining the cause of skin conditions in pets is not easy. Don’t allow your pet to suffer, see your veterinarian for a skin management program and ‘lick the itch’!

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