Virbac USA

Pet Allergies

Pets, just like people, can be allergic to many things!  Have you ever noticed your pet scratching, licking or rubbing on the carpet or other items in your house?

These are all signs that they may be allergic to something.  According to a report from Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), skin allergies in dogs are the number one most common reason for a veterinary insurance claim and in cats, the ninth most common.  An allergy is defined as an overreaction of the body’s immune system to a substance to which it has become hypersensitive.

The top three skin allergies that pets may suffer from are:

1. Flea Bite Allergy:  This allergy develops when your pet has a hypersensitivity to a flea’s saliva. It is the most common skin allergy of dogs and cats.  A single flea bite can result in weeks of itching and scratching for an allergic pet. It is important to keep your pets on a comprehensive flea prevention plan including an insect growth regulator to target the immature stages of the flea as well as an adulticide for the adult flea population.  Did you know that only 5% of the flea population are adult fleas? The remainder are the immature stages that like to live where your pet spends time (your bed, carpets, couches, back yard, etc.). Yikes! For an allergic pet, year round flea prevention is imperative!

2. Environmental Allergies:  An environmental allergy develops to allergens present in the dog’s environment.  These allergies tend to be seasonal in nature, but depending on your pet’s allergy, they may also persist year round.  Common environmental allergens include grass, tree pollens, molds, dust mites, and yes, your dog may even be allergic to the cat!  Your pet may develop a clinical condition called atopic dermatitis, which is the skin condition that is the result of an environmental allergy.  Your veterinarian may recommend allergy testing and subsequent desensitization therapy as part of your pet’s management plan.

3. Food Allergies: Food allergies are a lot more common than you would think!  Dogs with food allergies most often have dermatologic signs (itching, irritated skin, hair loss) and less commonly, gastrointestinal signs like diarrhea and vomiting. Pets with food allergies may not develop signs until years after eating a particular food.   If your veterinarian suspects that your pet may have a food allergy, they may recommend a trial that will require strict feeding recommendations for a period of time with a prescription hypoallergenic diet or a specially designed elimination diet to determine if your pet is truly food allergic.  Most dogs or cats diagnosed with a food allergy are allergic to the protein source in their food such as chicken, pork or beef. In theory, pets could be allergic to any ingredient in their food, but most commonly it is the protein source.

Pet allergies can negatively affect the quality of life for pets and their owners.  Skin allergies can be successfully managed but sadly not cured. Frequently, pets with skin allergies develop a skin infection that results in even more itching!

If you suspect your pet may have an allergy, it is important to consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and an effective life-long management plan.