Pet Allergies

By Kristy Podruchny

Allergies look different in our pets.  Instead of coughing or sneezing, they’ll get itchy skin.  Our furry family members can have food, environmental and contact allergies—or all three!  Itchy, inflamed and odoriferous skin and chronic ear infections are all signs of allergies.  Any smell or oily skin comes from yeast, bacteria or both.  The chronic scratching is uncomfortable and can become painful quickly.  The good news is that your pet’s allergies can be identified and treated by their veterinarian.

If your pet has food allergies, it will react to the protein in the food.  The most accurate way to diagnose food allergies is by doing a food trial.  Your pet can only eat one type of food and not a lick of anything else for 8-12 weeks. A hydrolyzed diet (broken down proteins) or a novel protein diet (like kangaroo, ostrich or alligator) will be on the menu during this trial.  A food challenge will help determine what proteins they’re reacting to.  You slowly introduce one protein, like beef, into their diet and see if they react.  This process is best done with a vet.  After you find a protein that your pet doesn’t react to, you can plan on a diet with that protein and keeping them on it.  While you might choose a grain-free diet for your pet for other reasons, it will likely have no impact on your pet’s allergies.  Think protein!

Our pets can be allergic to some of the same things we’re allergic to: various plant pollens, environmental pollutants, mold and even cockroaches or fleas!  This is tested with intradermal skin testing.  A veterinary dermatologist will inject tiny amounts of the most common allergens under your pet’s skin while they’re under anesthesia.  After they discover what your pet’s environmental allergies are, they’ll formulate allergy injections and teach you how to administer them.

Contact allergies are rare, but it’s worth mentioning them because your pet could potentially have an allergy to synthetic chemicals in bedding, carpet and pesticides in lawns.

Antimicrobial baths with medicated shampoo can help ease the discomfort and itching.  Shampoos with oatmeal are also calming.  If your pet has contact allergies to the pesticides in lawns, be sure to wash their feet and legs after a walk.  Applying fresh aloe vera or coconut oil to inflamed areas can help your pet find temporary relief.

Itchy, inflamed and odoriferous skin and chronic ear infections are all signs of allergies.

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