Like humans, pets can suffer from allergies caused by a wide variety of substances, both indoors and out. Pets can be allergic to pollens (trees, weeds, grasses), molds, dust mites, flea bites, wool and carpet fibers, foods and even other pets. Pets often show symptoms of allergies between six months and three years of age. Typically, pets are born having allergies, inherited from their parents. However, pets can also develop allergies as they age. It is important to understand the common symptoms of allergic reactions and how to treat pet allergies to best determine if your pet has allergies and needs a veterinary visit.
Common Symptoms of Pet Allergies
The most common symptoms of an allergic reaction for pets are:
- Sneezing, coughing, wheezing
- Itchy skin/increased scratching
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Itchy back or base of tail (most commonly seen in flea allergies)
- Itchy ears and ear infections
- Head shaking
- Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
- Paw chewing/swollen paws
- Face rubbing
Allergies Are Inherited
Pet allergies are an inherited lifelong trait, just like in humans. When one parent has allergies there is an increased likelihood his or her offspring will inherit the same or similar allergies. Allergies can also be breed-specific, and some breeds are more prone to allergies than others. Retrievers, Boxers, Terriers and Shih-Tzus are among the common breeds usually to suffer from allergies.
Treating Pet Allergies
Pets can be tested and treated for allergies in much the same way humans are. Speak with your veterinarian to determine the best procedure for monitoring and controlling your pet’s allergies.
- In the case of airborne pollens, your vet may prescribe cortisone or steroids to help control the allergy. One of the best ways to manage airborne allergies is with allergy injections, also known as immunotherapy, which treats the allergy itself to gradually build you pet’s immunity to specific allergens. Immunotherapy can be formulated and customized by your veterinarian specifically for your pet.
- Antihistamines, such as Benadryl can be used to relieve common symptoms of pet allergies. Benadryl and other over the counter antihistamines work best as preventative treatment, before your pet suffers an allergy attack.
- Fatty acid supplements might help to relieve your pet’s itchy skin caused by allergies. There are many shampoos that may help prevent skin infection, which occurs commonly when pets scratch intensely from an allergic reaction. Sprays containing oatmeal, aloe and other natural products are also soothing to pet’s itchy skin.
- If your pet suffers from food allergies the best treatment is avoidance. Once the ingredient your pet is allergic to is determined through a food trial it is best to eliminate this completely from their diet. Short-term relief may come from fatty acids, steroids, antihistamines and topical solutions but removing allergy-inducing products from your pet’s diet is the only long-term solution.
Monitoring change in behavior and being aware of signs and symptoms to look out for is the best way to understand if your pet has allergies and know when to treat them. Pet insurance can help cover veterinary expenses related to both allergy testing and medications to treat allergies. Keep your pets up to date on the right pet health plan to ensure all their health and wellness needs, including allergies, are covered.
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