Skin allergies are one of the most common conditions we encounter in our pets. They can drive both the pet and their owners crazy with the ongoing itching and can really impact on their quality of life.
Allergies can happen at any time of the year but are more prevalent over the spring and summer months. People often think that their pet has fleas or that the flea treatment they have hasn’t worked when in actual fact the animal has an allergy. Allergies are more common in dogs, especially in certain breeds such as the Labrador and German Shepherd but they can be seen in any breed of dog or cat.
Signs your pet may have an allergy
- Itchy ears or recurrent ear infections
- Persistent chewing on their paws
- Scratching or chewing in their armpits, groin, around the muzzle and around their bottom
- Red, thickened skin
- Excessive dandruff or a dry coat
- Hair loss, especially around the tummy/groin/back legs in cats
- Recurrent “hot spots” (superficial skin infections)
- A “yeasty” odour
- Flea allergies generally cause patches of hair loss, red and infected areas particularly on the back above the base of the tail.
It is important to note that not all symptoms will occur in all animals – some dogs may only chew their feet, others may just have recurrent ear infections while some dogs or cats will show a range of signs.
Causes of allergies
Aside from fleas, allergies tend to fall in to one of two categories – those due to something in the diet (the most common being chicken, beef or wheat) or those due to environmental allergens (e.g. tree and grass pollens, dust mites, moulds etc).
So what can we do for allergies?
There are a number of things that can be done to help manage allergies and prevent the symptoms that can be really uncomfortable or irritating. Unfortunately allergies are generally a life-long condition meaning that it is not just a matter of giving tablets for a week or so.
Management strategies depend on what is causing the allergy so the first step is to try to identify the underlying cause. Once we have identified the cause we can either manage it by avoiding it (which can work well for food allergens) or by using a number of tools including oral medication, medicated shampoos, special diets and allergy desensitisation.
If you think your pet may have an allergy it is worth talking to a vet about what can be done to make them happier and more comfortable.