Allergies are a common misery and frustration source for people and pets—and a condition our Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County team frequently diagnoses. People express allergies through their upper respiratory tract, but many dogs and cats express allergies through their skin, and owners are often surprised to learn that allergies are causing their pet’s itching and irritation.
Pet Allergy Causes
Similar to their owners, pets can experience an allergic reaction to a range of substances—from insect bites to medication—and some allergic reactions can be acute and life-threatening. Pets’ most common everyday allergies are categorized as three types:
- Environmental — Environmental allergies (i.e., airborne or inhalant allergies, or atopy) are naturally occuring substances indoors (e.g., mold, mildew, dust) and outdoors (e.g., tree pollen, weeds, grasses). Household products, such as cleaners and chemically treated fabrics, can also spark a pet’s reaction.
- Food — Pets can be allergic to food ingredients, especially proteins and, to a lesser extent, carbohydrates.
- Fleas — Dogs and cats can be allergic to a protein found in flea saliva. One flea bite can trigger intense itching, discomfort, and irritation in allergic pets.
Although seasonal allergies—grass and tree pollen—tend to ease during the fall and winter, many pets’ allergies persist year-round, making veterinary treatment their only option for relief. Left untreated, pets scratch or bite their skin until they cause self-trauma, which can result in secondary bacterial or fungal infections, hot spots, hair loss, painful inflammation, and behavior changes. Food-allergic pets may experience gastrointestinal signs that include vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.