What are allergies?
An allergy is when the body’s defence system has been sensitised to reacting to certain substances. Problems caused by allergies most commonly cause skin problems in cats and dogs, however can be more severe causing breathing difficulties and digestive issues. Substances which cause allergies in pets can be very varied and range from foods, parasites and environmental allergens.
What can my pet be allergic to?
Allergy inducing substances are termed ‘allergens’. In cats and dogs the culprits can be a large number of things. Some are explained below, however it is important to appreciate that it can be very difficult to establish all substances which your pet may be allergic to. When diagnosis allergies a process of elimination is often required.
Allergies to the saliva and excrement of fleas are the most common cause of skin allergies. It is important to maintain flea protection and consult your vet for treatments against fleas. Ticks and harvest mites can also induce allergic skin issues and should be prevented.
Around one third of skin and ear irritations are caused by allergies to foods. Allergies to food can also cause recurrent digestive issues which may result in on and off diarrhoea or vomiting. Common allergies include specific proteins such as chicken or beef, dairy products and gluten amongst many other ingredients commonly used in pet food and treats.
In order to investigate and rule out food as a cause of allergies we would recommend placing pets on a diet that contains nothing that your pets may react to. Ideally this should be in the form of a prescription diet alongside nothing other than water (no treats) for up to 3 months to trial, most allergies to food will settle within 3-6 weeks. It is important that your pet has no access to treats when receiving a trial diet as even a small amount of exposure to an allergen may keep an allergy going. For further instruction on how to perform a diet trial and the options available, get in contact.
The second most common area of allergens are those in the environment. These can be very difficult to diagnose and control. Allergies can manifest from reactions to dust mites, human dander (particles of skin that we shed), pollens outdoors, washing detergent residues on clothing/bedding…the list goes on!
How can I reduce the number of allergens in the environment?
- 1) Wash pet bedding and soft furnishings in non-biological washing powders at least twice weekly.
- 2) Treat your home for fleas and flea eggs/larvae which may be hiding in carpet fibres/furnishings. An environmental flea spray such as Indorex/R.I.P Fleas would be appropriate. Contact for more information on how to use these.
- 3) Consider using a vacuum cleaner which is designed for people with asthma to ensure more effective removal of fine particles and allergens.
- 4) Limit your pet’s access to bedrooms, as these can be full of allergens (eg. human dander).
- 5) Encourage your pet to lie on surfaces that are easy to clean such as cotton sheets or Vetbeds. Ideally wash these twice weekly.
- 6) If pollen allergies are not suspected, spending more time outdoors may be encouraged in summer.
What do I do if I think my pet has allergies?
Have a chat with us, diagnosis of pet allergies may entail testing including examination of the skin and sample collection, blood tests and a process of elimination. Some allergies may be easy to treat and manage whilst others may require long-term medication and management strategies. Your vet can advise you on the most appropriate ways to manage allergies in the short and longterm.
Give us a call to book a consultation today