An Allergen for You, An Allergen for Your Pet
Spring has sprung on Brevard County’s Space Coast and with it comes a lot of itching and ailments. From Titusville to Melbourne and Palm Bay – allergens seem to be inescapable. Allergies exist in the Spring, Fall, Summer and even in the Winter. Cats, dogs, horses, people – they can all have allergies! Symptoms of allergies can be as simple as itchy ears to as extensive as vomiting. Allergies can be caused by three main factors in dogs and cats: fleas, food, and allergens in the environment.
Causes of Pet Allergies
Flea dermatitis is a medically correct way to say that your dog has an allergy to fleas. Some dogs react to fleas completely different than other dogs. A dog that genuinely has a flea allergy can be bitten by one flea and have a significant allergic response. This is why it is imperative to keep your pet on a monthly flea preventative.
Food allergens for dogs and cats can be very confusing to people. Advertising and marketing try to have people believe that humans and dogs are much the same. In this aspect, dogs do not mimic their human companions. Humans are very often allergic to grains and gluten, but dogs are more often allergic to proteins in their food. Proteins such as chicken or beef are common food allergens for dogs.
Environmental allergens are the most difficult to treat. Environmental allergens are not as easy to eliminate from a dog’s life. This often means the pet will need to be treated for the other types of allergens and managed for the environmental allergens. Giving your dog or cat a bath with a shampoo formulated especially for animals without mineral oils, synthetic perfumes or artificial dyes can help soothe the skin. The products you put on your pet can make a big difference – read the labels!
Symptoms of Pet Allergies
There are many symptoms of allergies. Itching is the most common. Your pet might be itchy around the ears, eyes, muzzle, and paws. He might also display hives, swelling of the paws, muzzle and/or ears. An inflamed and irritated abdomen can be seen with allergies as well. Gastrointestinal symptoms are most commonly seen with a food sensitivity but can be seen with environmental allergies too. Your pet might also have recurrent ear infections that are being caused by an underlying allergy.
Diagnosing Allergies in Your Pet
Diagnosing allergies is a challenging task. It takes a lot of time and money. An allergy test can be performed to give the knowledge of which allergens your pet specifically reacts to. Once the test is completed the company can make an allergy injection to desensitize your cat or dog. This injection must be given on a strict schedule. These tests can be expensive and takes time to see results. For these reasons veterinarians usually discuss options with owners to determine if another form of diagnostics will be more beneficial.
Understanding the Itch Threshold
A key point of allergies is understanding why your pet is itching. Imagine that your pet has a level of 10 before it begins to itch. Each type of allergen is five points. Your pet has a food allergy to chicken, but you have fed your pet food with chicken in it for several years, so that is 5 points. Your pet also has an allergy to pollen, so add 5 more points which equals 10 points. Now, your pet’s allergy level is right at a 10. One month you accidentally forget to give your pet its flea preventative. Your pet gets one flea on its body. Flea dermatitis is five points, so now your pet’s itch level is at a 15, and it has surpassed the level 10. Now, he will not stop itching, chewing on his feet and scratching his ears. This pet just went over its itch threshold. The only way to help your pet to stop itching is to get back under level 10. This means one of the allergens need to be eliminated.
If your pet is a prime example of the one described above, your veterinarian will prescribe a flea preventative first and foremost. This may be enough for your pet to return to normal. If your pet does not stop itching the next step will be a food trial to determine if the food is causing the itch response. This could also be coupled with allergy medication. If this does not produce a difference in your pet, it may be necessary to have your pet tested for specific allergens so they can begin the allergy immunotherapy injections.
As you can tell from this article, allergies in pets can be very complicated. If you think your pet is suffering from allergies schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Even if you cannot drive your pet to the veterinarian yourself contact Space Coast Pet Services. We can save you the time and take your dog or cat to the vet for you! Is your pet already on allergy medications? Does that make it difficult to find a pet sitter in Brevard County? We can administer medications safely to your pet when you want or need to leave town.
After traveling the world as a ‘military brat’, Melanie settled in Brevard County, FL in 2013. She is the mother of 2 amazing children and 2 adorable pups. She volunteers at her children’s elementary school, Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds (HART) and served on the Committee of her son’s Cub Scout Pack. When not being a Mom Taxi between hockey practices, Cub Scouts, fire stations, horse riding lessons and various school activities, she enjoys reading, swimming, hiking in the mountains and traveling. (And naps!)