Cats and dogs can suffer from all sorts of allergies. If you have allergies yourself, you can easily empathize. No devoted FurMom or FurDad would knowingly put their dearest four-legged companion through all that misery. The only way to avoid that is to know the kinds of symptoms dogs or cats might exhibit if they are having an allergic reaction.
Even if your pet is currently allergy-free, that could change if you will be moving to a foreign country. (It could change for you, too.) Your new environment could very well offer up potential allergens your pet has never faced at home. That makes it doubly important to identify signs of trouble early on, before suffering gets out of hand.
What causes symptom?
An allergic response indicates your pet’s body is trying to get rid of a “foreign invasion” by some substance. It could be something she inhaled or touched or ate. Many symptoms are shared by pets and people, but others are specific to animals and some are species-specific.
Here are signs you should look for:
- Scratching – dogs and cats can develop itchy skin anywhere, but you’re most likely to notice her scratching her eyes, ears, back or the base of her tail.
- Itchy skin may appear red, swollen, moist, or blistered
- Licking – if your dog is constantly licking her paws, flanks, or groin area, that’s a common allergy telltale.
- Chewing – both dogs and cats may chew their paws, or their paws may become swollen.
- Watery eyes
- Ear infections
- Sneezing, diarrhea
- Snoring or wheezing (cats, in particular, can develop asthma)
- Facial swelling
- Anaphylaxis (this is rare, fortunately, but it underscores the need for awareness)
If the problem goes untreated, your pup may scratch her skin raw. This encourages bacterial or yeast infections, which can lead to crusty or scabby skin as well as hair loss in the area. Poor thing! Knowing the early signs of allergy allows you to protect her from this sort of misery, too.
What triggers allergies in pets?
The list of possibilities is so long, you might ask, “What doesn’t trigger allergies in pets?” Again, with the exception of insecticidal shampoo and flea/tick prevention medications, the list will look remarkably familiar to any human allergy sufferer:
- Plants and pollen
- Mold and mildew
- Dander or feathers (hey, maybe you dog is allergic to your cat!)
- Dust and dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Foods or drugs (some 10-15% of all dog and cat allergies relate to food)
- Household cleaning products
- Fabric, plastic, or rubber
Cats and dogs can be allergic to fleas, which is a regular regimen of preventive medication is vital. Just a couple of flea bites can set off a nasty, itchy reaction in your poor pet.
Age has nothing to do with it. Some cats and dogs have life-long problems, while others may not develop signs of an allergy until they get older. Symptoms may get worse as your pet ages. Experts say if your pup is a snub-nosed breed, she’s more likely to suffer from allergies. Perhaps that’s because these dogs have “built-in” breathing issues that could exacerbate nasal symptoms. On the other hand, longer-snouted breeds such as retrievers, setters, and terriers are also particularly susceptible to allergies.
Your vet is your pet’s first line of defense
At the first sign of trouble, talk to your veterinarian. You want to be sure that an allergy is, in fact, what is causing your poor furred one’s symptoms. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your vet can recommend the best course of action, to eliminate the problem or at least relieve your girl’s suffering. If your dog or cat has an extreme allergy, the vet may even recommend you carry an epi-pen to use in an emergency.
Of course, there are many more types of potential pet emergencies than a life-threatening allergic reaction. Read here how you can be prepared to help your dog or cat in any emergency.