Though we frequently hear about humans who are allergic to cats and dogs, it is not common knowledge that our dogs and cats can have allergies to a wide variety of things. Since spring is finally here and many of us humans with allergies are grabbing our tissues, eye drops, and allergy pills, we decided it was a perfect time to talk about pets with allergies!
Merriam Webster has several definitions for the term “allergy” but they may be hard to understand if you don’t speak biological or medical terminology. Essentially, an allergy (or an allergic reaction) is when our immune system misreads something and reacts inappropriately. Normally, your immune system fights off infectious diseases; however, someone with an allergy to, let’s say, peanuts has an immune system that sees the harmless peanut as a dangerous, infectious disease. Something that triggers an allergy, like peanuts and pollen, is called an allergen. In the presence of the allergen, your immune system starts to fight off the harmless allergen and triggers all of the pesky allergy symptoms (like itchy eyes and nasal congestion) and in some cases, more threatening ones (like hives and anaphylaxis). Allergies in cats and dogs are caused by the same inappropriate immune response.
Dogs and cats display their allergy symptoms differently than humans though. Rather than the sneezing, coughing, congestion, and runny nose like us, they typically experience the following symptoms:
• Chewing at the feet
• Rubbing/itching of the face
• Reoccurring ear infections
• Reoccurring hot spots in dogs
• Pinpoint facial scabbing in cats
• Wheezing and respiratory problems (more likely in cats)
• Reoccurring anal gland problems
• Constant licking of the flank (side) and groin area
Other symptoms beyond the above include:
• Red itchy blisters or bumps on the skin
• Intense scratching and/or hair loss
While the most severe (though very uncommon) symptoms (meaning you should seek immediate veterinary attention) include:
• Hives and facial swelling
• On rare occassions, anaphylaxis
• These symptoms will usually occur within 20 minutes of the initial exposure to the allergen, which can vary just like humans’ allergens can.
Have you seen any of these symptoms in your pet? We recommend talking to your veterinarian to determine not only the cause (the allergen) but the best treatment plan for your pet!