Knowing the difference between environmental and food allergies.
Many people don't think about their pets suffering from allergies, but the truth is that our beloved animals are just as likely to experience allergic reactions as we are. These occur when their immune system over-reacts to coming into contact with a certain substance - known as an allergen. In some instances, allergic reactions are quite mild, but some pets can experience severe discomfort as a result of hypersensitivity to an allergen that they have been exposed to.
Knowing what type of allergy your pet has is essential if you are to help manage his symptoms so that life is easier and more pleasant for him. Here is what you need to know about environmental and food allergies so that you, along with your veterinarian, can determine which is affecting your furbaby.
What Are Environmental Allergies?
Environmental allergies are by far the most common type of allergy to affect our pets. They occur when our animal is hypersensitive to an allergen that is present in the environment around them - something which is often very difficult to avoid. In many instances, these allergens are not present all year round but occur at certain times. For example, pollen is prevalent in the spring and so pets with a pollen allergy may only start to suffer from symptoms during this season and may seem completely well the rest of the year-round.
Environmental allergies are sometimes referred to as atrophy or atopic dermatitis, or if they are seasonal, like seasonal allergies.
Types of Environmental Allergies
There are many different environmental allergens that can affect our pets. Some of the most common include:
- Pollen (grass, tree, and flower)
- Dust and dust mites
- Animal Dander
- Cigarette smoke
Some animals may only be affected by one environmental allergen while others will experience hypersensitivity to several or all of them.
Symptoms of Environmental Allergies
Exactly how a pet will react to an environmental allergy can vary between animals. However, some of the most common symptoms include the following:
- Extensive itching
- Red, irritated skin
- Broken, infected skin
- A skin rash/hives
- Obsessive grooming
- Hair loss
- Hot spots which are red, inflamed patches of skin
In some rare cases, animals might also experience respiratory symptoms associated with their allergy. If this happens, you can expect them to show signs similar to that of a cold including a runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing, coughing, and sneezing.
What Are Food Allergies?
Food allergies in pets are identical to the type of food intolerances we experience as humans. As their name suggests, food allergies occur when your pet is hypersensitive to a type of food or a specific ingredient found within a food item - for example, gluten. Hypersensitivity to food can occur at any age, even to something that your pet has previously eaten for years.
Common Food Allergens in Pets
While it is possible for pets to develop an allergic response to any food item, some types of food allergen are more common than others. These include:
Identifying what is causing your pet's food allergy can be difficult and is often a process of elimination. Your Hendersonville veterinarian will almost certainly recommend that you keep a food diary for your furbaby for a while to see if you can identify what is causing the problem.
Symptoms of Food Allergies in Pets
Again, how a pet will react to a food allergy can vary significantly. However, in most instances you can expect to see some of the following symptoms:
- Persistently itchy skin
- Hair loss
- Obvious abdominal pain
Treating Allergies in Your Pet
Although there is no cure for allergies in pets, there are steps that you can take to minimize their effect on your furbaby. One of the most obvious is to try and avoid contact with the allergen causing the reaction, but to do this you need to identify what the allergen is. This is where the support and assistance of an experienced vet are invaluable. They will be able to use a process of elimination to determine what is triggering your pet's symptoms and recommend a series of treatments that will be able to control them. This tends to include a combination of medications such as antihistamines, steroids, antibiotics where needed, and topical gels and lotions. In the case of food allergies, it may be necessary to place your pet on an elimination diet to determine the cause of your pet's allergy - something which can be a lengthy but worthwhile process.
If you would like more information about either environmental or food allergies in pets, or if you would like to arrange an appointment to have your furbaby assessed, please get in touch with our experienced veterinary team at The Animal Clinic in Hendersonville, TN. Call today at (615) 824-0580!