Just like humans, our furry pets can also develop allergies—either in infancy or as grown animals. Allergies are the body’s reaction to an allergen in the environment such as pollen, dust, mold or food proteins. Animals can even be allergic to human dander! Most of the time, the allergens are not harmful. It is the pet’s body that mistakenly reacts as if the allergen can harm it. Because of this, the pet immune system becomes overly sensitive and releases chemicals to fight off the mistaken enemy. These chemicals lead to a host of allergy symptoms in pets.
Allergies in cats manifest through cat atopic dermatitis or atopy (itching and chewing of the skin, swollen paws, paw chewing), sneezing, and feline acne.
Allergies in dogs manifest through dog atopic dermatitis (itching, rash, swollen, red “hot spots,” paw chewing and licking, bald spots, face rubbing), sneezing, and runny eyes.
Allergies in horses also manifest through atopy (hives and itching), head shaking, and respiratory problems including coughing and wheezing.
Protecting Pets from Allergies
Though many pet owners don’t know it, dogs, cats and horses may all be prone to seasonal allergies—just like humans—and need allergy treatment. Watch for changes in your pet’s behavior and appearance during the high allergy seasons of spring and fall. Itching, changes to fur or coat, and respiratory issues are indicators that you may need to see a veterinary allergist.
How to Help Your Pet
Avoiding pollens is tricky since most animals like to be outside. You can help to some degree by bathing your pet to help wash away the allergens present on your pet’s coat and skin. Make sure that your pet’s immune system is at its best by feeding them nutritious food, walking them regularly, and ensuring that they have their necessary vaccinations.
Should allergies persist, bring your pet to an allergy veterinarian as soon as you observe that something is wrong. They can perform an allergy. They may then recommend allergy treatment through medications. Medications may be a good choice for your pet if their allergies are sporadic and short-lived. If you find them cycling back again and again, though, your vet may recommend another treatment known as allergy immunotherapy for your cat, dog or horse which may include allergy shots or allergy drops. Immunotherapy helps “teach” the immune system to ignore allergens in the environment rather than overreacting to them.