If your pet has been showing signs of itchy discomfort lately, clouds of potent springtime pollen may be to blame. Just like people, cats and dogs can be allergic to common environmental substances including pollen, mold and dust mites—and they can also be allergic to ingredients in their diets and to fleas. According to the ASPCA, more than 20% of pets may suffer from some sort of allergy. Most cats and dogs who are going to develop allergies do so in their first years, although adult onset also occurs.
Common signs of allergies include recurrent ear or skin infections and scratching, licking, chewing/biting or face-wiping; the face, ears, armpits and paws are most often the targets of a pet’s distress.
If you suspect your pet is suffering from allergies, talk to your veterinarian, who can provide short-term relief by prescribing itch-control medication, and then help determine the source of the allergy or refer you to a specialist in veterinary dermatology.
- The first step toward an allergy diagnosis will generally be a skin scraping to check for mites, yeast, and/or bacterial infections. Your vet might prescribe special shampoos or topical sprays and frequent bathing, which solves the problem for many pets.
- If not, the next easiest thing to test for is food allergies, which will require you to put your pet on a strict hypoallergenic diet for several months (your vet will prescribe the food) to see if there is a change in his condition. No treats or animal-based chewies are allowed during this period!
- The next option is blood testing. It’s a little pricey, but provides definitive confirmation of contact/inhalant allergies. If your pet tests positive for environmental allergies (mold, pollen, cat dander, etc.), your vet will analyze the results, along with your pet’s clinical signs and history, to devise a treatment plan. This may be as simple as changes around the house, or your pet may need drug therapy or allergy shots (immunotherapy).