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Pet allergies: causes, symptoms and treatment


Allergy does not choose how and with whom to manifest itself. Often people with pets suffer from this phenomenon. However, sometimes the pets themselves can suffer from this dangerous and, at first glance, such a human disease.

Typically, pet allergies begin to develop between 6 and 24 months of age. However, sometimes the first symptoms of the disease may appear later, when the animal is older.

Like humans, animals – cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters – can sneeze, cough, and itch. And skin symptoms can lead to the development of secondary infections. Therefore, if you notice unusual behavior of your pet, it is better not to postpone the visit to the veterinarian. It is estimated that more than 50% of repeated ear infections in animals are caused by allergies.


As with humans, a wide variety of factors can trigger allergies in pets. At the same time, animals that have allergic relatives are more prone to this disease, in particular, to pollinosis. It is also believed that certain factors, such as antibiotic use, may increase the likelihood of developing allergies over time. Therefore, some dog handlers recommend using probiotics rather than antibiotics, in particular, in dogs.

In general, allergens surround animals almost everywhere. Just like humans, pets can react to household chemicals or food. Cats, particularly those with asthma and allergies, are very sensitive to cigarette smoke. Animals can also suffer from exposure to dust, fungal spores or hay fever caused by pollen from trees, grains and weeds.

For example, pets allergic to tree pollen tend to itch unnecessarily in the spring. Those who experience this symptom in late summer tend to be allergic to weed pollen. And pets that have an itch that makes them itch in rainy autumn weather tend to react to fungal spores. But over time, for example, more than 70% of dogs with allergies develop symptoms that appear regardless of the season. Then it can be quite difficult to find out the cause of the reaction. Although, according to statistics, the most common form of allergy in pets is allergic dermatitis from flea bites. 

This condition is a hypersensitivity to proteins or antigens in the saliva of fleas, which they release into the skin of a cat or dog when bitten.

Food allergy is considered a less common form of allergy in pets. It accounts for about 10% of all allergy cases in pets.

Wheat, beef, foods with milk, eggs, chicken, lamb and soy are the food allergens dogs most often react to.

In cats, most of the allergic reactions are detected when eating the same beef, fish and dairy products.

In hamsters, dyes, sunflower seeds and peanuts can lead to food reactions.

A rare form of allergy in pets is allergic contact dermatitis. This reaction is triggered by chemicals found in shampoos, detergents, soaps, synthetic fibers, wool, leather, paint, petroleum jelly, rubber, plastics, and insecticides.

These allergens are also common in flea collars, lawns (pesticides), carpets and bedding.


Most commonly, pets with allergies usually experience itching around the head and neck. They may chew on swollen paws. Also, animals can lick the anus. Not every pet has gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.

With contact allergies, pets are itchy. Also, in places of contact with the allergen, their skin is irritated. In this case, the feet and abdomen are most often affected. Noticing a problem in time and buying a pet can eliminate the symptoms.

It is more difficult to deal with other types of allergies.

If he is sensitive to any substances in the air (pollen or household allergens such as fungal spores or house dust mites), the person usually sneezes, suffers from a runny nose or conjunctivitis. In tetrapods, this allergy is most often manifested by itchy skin. Therefore, this condition is also called inhalation allergic dermatitis. The animal can rub its muzzle, lick its paws and scratch “under the armpits”.  

Typical symptoms of pollen allergy can also occur, such as:  

· Swelling of the eyes or watery eyes,       

· Runny or stuffy nose,       

· Sneezing and coughing.       

Inhalation allergy symptoms are most often recorded when the animal is between 1 and 3 years old. Skin or molecular allergy testing can help figure out exactly what the animal is responding to.


But the treatment, as a rule, will be symptomatic, in terms of duration it correlates with a specific pollen season.

In this case, doctors may prescribe antihistamines in combination with corticosteroids. To soften the reaction to the latter, fats are added to the animal’s diet. In particular, OMEGA-3. 

Frequent bathing of animals with hypoallergenic shampoos will help soothe the skin. Some of them also contain anti-inflammatory ingredients.

As a preventive measure, a pet with a tendency to allergies should be bathed with a hypoallergenic shampoo once or twice a week to wash off surface allergens that cling to the coat.

When bathing, use cool water and leave the shampoo on the coat for at least ten minutes before rinsing.

Desensitization is also available for dogs, for example. With this treatment, very small amounts of the allergen are administered weekly by subcutaneous injection. Research has shown that approximately 50% of dogs who receive this therapy experience significant improvement in clinical signs. In others, it becomes possible to reduce the amount of corticosteroids used.

Having inhaled allergies in pets can increase the risk of other types of reactions. For example, food and flea allergens.

Both are potentially dangerous types of allergies, since an anaphylactic reaction may develop with a strong immune system response. It is life-threatening for the pet.

Therefore, carefully examine your pet for the presence of fleas or their eggs on the coat.

Clinical signs of insect bite allergy are allergic dermatitis or allergic bronchitis.

The bites may become red and / or inflamed. With severe irritation, animals, especially dogs, can themselves try to remove the insect by biting off and pulling out a piece of hair with their teeth, especially at the tail. This can lead to infection of the wound with bacteria and the occurrence of an infectious process.

If the animal has severe itching, the veterinarian may prescribe the same antihistamines and / or corticosteroids (steroids) to block the acute allergic reaction. If the animal also has a bacterial infection, then it will also be prescribed an antibiotic.


If all the allergies mentioned tend to occur at a more or less mature age, then a reaction to food can occur at any time.

Typical signs and symptoms of food allergy in pets include:

· Rash,       

· Hives and itching       

especially – on the face, limbs, abdomen and in the anus.

Respiratory symptoms are sometimes also noticeable. Coughs, wheezing, and runny nose and conjunctivitis may occur.

Diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal disturbances are also observed.

The neurological manifestation of allergies can be depression, irritability and, extremely rarely, seizures.

In addition, an animal can have different types of allergies at the same time. For example, such as food allergies and hay fever. Therefore, it can be quite difficult to establish the exact cause of the disease.


But since the cause still needs to be found out, for this, a special diet is usually recommended for 8-12 weeks. At this time, the animal eats hypoallergenic food.

The suspicious foods are then reintroduced, but gradually. And any abnormal reaction to food is recorded. If food is found that is causing symptoms, it is best to exclude it from your pet’s diet.

In any case, if the animal shows this or that reaction, it must be shown to the veterinarian.

Indeed, sometimes itching may not be a sign of an allergy, but of another disease. And antihistamines, if used incorrectly and dosage, can cause side symptoms, such as excessive drowsiness. Also, do not buy antihistamines with decongestants – they irritate your pet’s respiratory system.

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