Is your pet biting at his or her skin and scratching? Excessively licking his or her paws? Rubbing on furniture more than usual? Shaking his or head? Experiencing hair loss and redness of the skin? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, your pet more than likely has an allergy and the behaviors and symptoms you are observing are a reaction to the allergen.
But what allergens cause pet allergies? The most common allergens are fleas, the environment (outdoor and indoor), food, and contact. Pets with flea allergy dermatitis are hypersensitive to flea saliva, and even the bite of a single flea can cause a reaction in some pets. It is especially important for these pets to be on flea and tick preventive year-round. Environmental allergens such as pollen, dust mites, and mold can all cause allergic reactions just like with humans. If you have recently moved to the Charlotte area, you may notice your pet experiencing seasonal allergies, which your pet may never have had prior to the move. This is due to the areas’ overabundance of trees and grass producing an excessive amount of pollen in the air. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Charlotte consistently ranks in the top 50 cities nationally for worst allergies reported. Food allergies are typically caused by the primary animal protein (chicken, beef, pork) in your pet’s diet. Contact allergens such as carpet, deodorant, shampoo, topical flea preventives, fertilizers, plants, and metal can all cause your pet to elicit an allergic reaction when any of these potential allergens comes in direct contact with the skin. I recently diagnosed a dog with a contact allergy caused by the metal in his collar.
The above allergens can affect both cats and dogs and vary in how they present themselves in your pet. Should you suspect your pet has an allergy, please visit your vet in order to have them tested and treated.
Dr. Susan Bonilla is the owner of Passionate Paws Animal Hospital in Waxhaw, offering traditional and complementary treatment options such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and physical therapy. Full-service grooming is also available. You can reach her at 704-256-7576 or e-mail at Hello@PassionatePaws.Vet
Grooming Tip of the Week
If your pet is suffering from allergies, your instinct may be to bathe them in order to wash off the the allergens. Your instinct would be correct, but it is important to identify the cause of the allergy in order to know which type of shampoo is appropriate for treatment. Your veterinarian should be able to guide you in your selection of an over-the-counter shampoo or in some cases may need to prescribe a medicated shampoo. Never use a human shampoo as it is too harsh for your pet, causing dry skin and coat, which in an allergy-pet will result in more itching and scratching.