Photo courtesy of WellPetClinic.co.uk
As humans we are able to recognize allergies almost immediately. From a sneeze to a scratchy throat to watery eyes, our symptoms manifest themselves in very obvious ways. However, that is not the case for our four-legged friends.
Dogs and cats have seasonal allergies similar to us, yet most of their caretakers are not even aware that their playful pooch or frisky feline is suffering. The problem lies with the human assumption of how an allergen affects a human.
“It’s because of a lack of information,” Says Dr. Kate Ball, DVM. “[Our pets] just do not exhibit what most of us think of when we hear ‘seasonal allergies.’ Some [caretakers] think it’s fleas or dry skin when they see constant itching, but allergies are not always the first to come to mind.”
With dogs and cats, allergens are absorbed through the skin, usually the exposed areas like the paws and belly, and stimulate histamine production, which in turn causes inflammation.
According to Veterinary Pet Insurance statistics, one in seven dogs suffers reactions to these allergens, up from less than 10 percent in recent years. Of course some breeds are more susceptible, so guardians with Retrievers, Terriers, and Dalmatians should be mindful and pay closer attention to their dog. Most cats, however, suffer from food allergies and are less affected by airborne allergens such as pollen, mold, or dust mites.
The most common reaction to look for when determining if your dog or cat has allergies is the amount of scratching. Some dogs scratch just because they like it, others because they are bored, nervous, or stressed. However, as a guardian, if you should notice your dog is scratching more often throughout the day, for longer amounts of time and more intensely, he or she may be having an allergic reaction.
“There are varying degrees, of course,” says Dr. Ball. “[The effects] can range from constant and debilitating to a minor annoyance.”
Some of those effects involve pets chewing at and licking parts of their body, especially the paws, which may lead to raw skin, raised welts, hair loss, open sores, and infections. Guardians should check their pets’ ears for redness, inflammation, or a distinct odor—all of which are signs of an allergic reaction.
Watch for sleeplessness, too. Most dogs sleep anywhere between 14 and 16 hours a day, and if they are constantly uncomfortable from itching, that lack of sleep may result in lethargy and a decrease in immune response.
Luckily, there are a wide variety of ways to alleviate and avoid these allergies.
First, speak with your veterinarian—the most important step before you begin any medical regimen. Your vet may have a particular medicine or may recommend over-the-counter anti-histamines such as Benadryl.
You can also try anti-itch shampoos, topical treatments, and diet changes and supplements.
Little things like turning the air conditioning on during hot days, closing off the basement, and keeping your pet indoors when the lawn is being mowed will likely make a noticeable difference. Avoiding fields and using dehumidifiers will help, too. –Brendan Quealy