What are Pet allergies?
As humans, we are allergic to so many things that could either be what we eat or changes in our environment or weather. These allergies cause certain changes in the way we behave. It's not only humans that suffer from allergies - our furry friends get them too.
You find your pet scratching continuously and called your vet, only to be told that it could be an allergy and you may not be well-informed about what that is.
Today, I am going to be taking you through the understanding of pet allergies; what it's all about, how your pet got it, how it can be managed and how they affect your pet’s health.
After reading this post to the end, you'll learn:
- Different types of pet allergies
- Pet allergy symptoms
- How to diagnose and treat allergies
For starters, allergies are reactions a body gets when it detects foreign, strange or new substances in its immune system or environment.
There are different types of allergies in pets ranging from skin allergies to food allergies, and they all pose challenges to the pet owners as sometimes the symptoms of these allergies are similar.
When a pet has allergies, it means that their immune system has noticed some changes either in its immediate surrounding or what they’re being fed and it begins to see it as dangerous thereby making it show a variety of symptoms.
The remaining part of this blog post explains the different types of allergies, their symptoms and how to manage them with more focus on food allergies.
This is the most common type of allergic reactions in pets. There are two main causes of Skin allergies, also known as allergic dermatitis in pets, and they are:
- Flea Allergies
- Environmental allergens
Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to fleabites. Some dogs are allergic to flea saliva. These makes affected dogs extremely itchy, especially at the base of the tail, and their skin may become red, inflamed, and scabbed. You may also notice signs of fleas, such as flea dirt, or even see the fleas themselves.
Flea allergy dermatitis is typically the easiest allergy to diagnose. It is usually diagnosed by identifying fleas on your dog’s body and applying a product that kills fleas before they can bite to see if that solves the issues.
Environmental allergens, such as dust, pollen, and mold, can cause an atopic allergic reactions or atopic dermatitis. In most cases, these allergies are seasonal, so you may only notice your dog itching during certain times of the year. As with food allergies, the most commonly affected areas are the paws and ears (but also include the wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and in between the toes).
Dry and Itchy skin are also common symptoms of environmental allergies. Although this is not entirely due to allergies as change in weather conditions and environment can contribute largely to this, change in environment too can come into play here. This can be grouped under seasonal allergies and the best way to tackle this is to observe the particular season that gets your furry friend all itchy and take proactive measures to stop it.
All skin allergies pose the risk of secondary infection. Due to the excessive itching and scratching, your pet is at risk of causing sores and injuries on its skin thereby opening the skin to yeast and bacterial infections that would require treatment.
Acute Allergic Reactions
Perhaps the most alarming of all the types of allergies in dogs is an acute allergic reaction. Dogs, like people, can go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen. This can be fatal if not treated.
Bee stings and vaccine reactions, among other things, can cause an anaphylactic response in some dogs, which is why it is always a good idea to keep a close eye on your dog following the administration of any new vaccine, drug, or food item. Luckily, anaphylactic reactions are rare in dogs.
Your dog may also develop hives or facial swelling in response to an allergen. Swelling of the face, throat, lips, eyelids, or earflaps may look serious, but is rarely fatal, and your veterinarian can treat it with an antihistamine.
They are not as common as we think. In fact, what we call food allergies are basically food intolerance - which is a gradual reaction to an offending ingredient in your dog’s food, for example to beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, or milk.
Dogs with food sensitivities can present with several symptoms, including gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea, or dermatologic signs like itchiness, poor skin and coat, and chronic ear or foot infections.
True food allergies result in an immune response, which can range in symptoms from skin conditions (hives, facial swelling, itchiness), gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and/or diarrhea) or a combination of both. In some rare cases, a severe reaction resulting in anaphylaxis can occur—similar to severe peanut allergies in humans
According to an interview conducted by Pets WebMD, about 10% of allergies in dogs are food allergies.
So, as a pet owner, one would ask, ‘What are the causes of food allergies in my pets?’
First, I would like you to know that it’s a genetic problem and a pet has to be genetically predisposed to develop allergies. Allergens are what triggers these reactions in our pets and the common food allergens includes beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and fish. And, most dogs are usually allergic to more than one thing.
Also, there’s a lot of research going on right now to determine what, in early puppyhood or early kittenhood, makes the immune system more likely to express that trait. There’s an immune education process happening in the first few weeks of life. Young animals treated with antibiotics could potentially be predisposed to problems later in life because antibiotics change the environment inside the gut, which is the largest immune organ in the body. That could be a predisposing cause, but then the trigger would be being exposed to the allergen.
Another allergic substance to pets in our homes is the air fresheners and scented candles. Though research has not yet proven how harmful air fresheners are to our pets, it is known to cause respiratory illnesses and stomach upsets. This suspected toxicity that comes with air fresheners happens when pet comes in contact with the chemicals in the spray, either by spraying it close to them or them sniffing the residues or droppings of these chemicals on the floor which in turn poses a very serious health threat to their respiratory and central nervous system.
According to Petbutler, both scented candles and some aerosol or plug-in fresheners can release volatile organic compounds as well as toxins like lead, naphthalene, formaldehyde, and phthalates. Synthetic fragrances and carcinogenic soot from paraffin candles, a petroleum product, can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma in humans and pets.
Phthalates, another airborne product released from burning candles, have been implicated in causing endocrine system disruption leading to diabetes, birth defects, and cancer.
In addition to the harm caused by the burning of candles and the release of artificial chemicals into the air, the delicious smells can entice dogs to nibble on candles, wax, or ingest oils. Ingestion of most candles will generally lead to nothing more than an upset stomach and diarrhoea.
The best way to diagnose and treat a food allergy is to work with your veterinarian to manage your dog’s symptoms and the ingredient causing the reaction.
Since pets are more prone to being predisposed at an early age, what can be done to keep them from developing allergies?
If your puppy or kitten is predisposed, there’s no way to prevent food allergies. So, the key is to maintain their gut health by providing them with diet that has some variety in it, so they’re getting a natural rotation.
Also, we recommend young puppies and kittens are put on pre or probiotics. We are against the use of antibiotics for growing animals because it can mess up their gut balance and, over time, makes them more likely to have allergies. So for puppies, we advise that pet owners try to avoid antibiotics and use micro-biome enhancers up to six months to one year of age and give them a diet that’s fairly high in variety.
Common Pet Allergies Symptoms
These symptoms being shown by your furry friend are what should be taken note of to understand what should be done in taking some measures towards treating your pet of these allergies. In some pets, allergies are a genetic problem and it is always triggered by whatever the pet is allergic to. In general, however, the following symptoms could be a sign of an allergic reaction.
- Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
- Red, inflamed skin
- Itchy ears
- Chronic ear infections
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Constant licking
Some of these symptoms could also be a sign of another condition. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis and to help your dog start feeling better.
Treating Allergies in pets
The best way to treat an allergy is avoidance of the cause and allergen. This may or may not always be possible. But, in terms of treatment, it depends on your dog’s type of allergy. For example, the best way to treat flea allergy dermatitis is to kill the fleas, whereas the best way to treat a food allergy or food intolerance is a change in diet.
In addition to any lifestyle changes that might be necessary, your veterinarian may also prescribe an allergy relief medication for your dog that will help control the signs associated with the allergic reaction, such as itching and any secondary skin infections that might have developed as a result of the irritant.
Last week, we took Jessie to the river in the late afternoon. We stopped at a food truck for supper and decided she could have a pork smokie as a treat. She did end up getting itchy, developing goobers in her eyes, and a small red patch on her tummy. We proceeded to give her Restore, our potent anti-inflammatory, and she was back to normal within the week. Sometimes these things happen!
If your dog has a severe allergic reaction, your best course of action is to get him to an emergency veterinary hospital as quickly as possible.
Essentials is our formula that contains active digestive enzymes (like a prebiotic) to assist in absorption of proteins and ease digestibility of the ingredients that may cause allergic reactions.
Now, we hope you have learnt a few things from what you just read about pet allergies, do share with us any questions, suggestions or additions you have about what you just read in the comment section.
Lindsay from PureForm.