There are many types of allergies that can affect your pet, but most allergies can be broken down into 3 distinct groups.
Environmental allergens that are inhaled can cause allergies known as atopy. Common sources are pollens, molds, and dust mites.
Contact allergies are caused by direct contact of the skin with allergens, such as carpet fibers, shampoos, plastics and other things. These allergies are referred to as allergic dermatitis.
The third type is food allergies. Food allergies result from ingestion of the allergen.
Atopy is often seasonal. If a dog is allergic to ragweed, symptoms occur in the fall. Dogs who are allergic to spring tree pollen will show signs in April and May. If a dog is allergic to dust mites, the symptoms may be most dramatic in the winter, when more time is spent inside with closed windows and doors.
Signs of atopy include:
- Chewing at the feet
- Constant licking of the flank (side) and groin area
- Rubbing of the face
- Inflamed ears or recurrent ear infections
- Recurrent hot spots in dogs and pinpoint facial scabbing in cats
Less common allergies include contact dermatitis, which include allergies to carpets, cleaners, or plastic.
These allergies may cause:
- Red itchy bumps or blisters on sparsely-haired areas of the skin and those exposed to the allergen such as the belly, feet, or muzzle
- Intense scratching
- Hair loss (in chronic conditions)
Food allergies account for about 10-15% of all allergies in dogs and cats. Food allergies may show up concurrently with allergies to pollen, dust, etc. Symptoms include:
- Itching, especially face, feet, trunk, limbs and anal area
- Ear problems, often yeast-related
- Skin infections that respond to antibiotics, but then recur as soon as the antibiotic therapy ceases
Occasionally, dogs with true food allergies may have increased bowel movements and soft stool. Food allergies should not be confused with food intolerances which are not true allergies, and generally, cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Watching your pet go through the misery of allergy symptoms can be miserable in itself. If you suspect your pet has allergies, visit your veterinarian. The type of allergy and severity of the symptoms will determine how your veterinarian decides to treat them.