Webvet

Webvet

Social Media Icons

Follow Us:

Main Content

Allergies

Twitter Stumbleupon Mixx it! Print Email icon
Pin It
If you enjoy this article,
Go here to sign up for the mailing list to receive more articles like this.
2320090301183231vetspecialist_feature

Pets can develop allergies, just like people.  Allergies are especially common in certain breeds of dogs, including several types of terriers and retrievers.

An allergic response develops when the immune system "overreacts" to a particular foreign material, which is called an allergen.  Common allergens are pollens, molds, food proteins, and flea saliva.  In animals, allergens often enter the body through breathing or eating, or via flea bites.  Allergens can also enter directly through the skin; a common example in people is a reaction to poison ivy, but such contact allergies are unusual in pets.

When an allergen enters the bloodstream, the body produces specific antibodies that "target" the foreign material.  This causes specialized white blood cells to release many substances that result in an allergic response.  One of the most common of these substances is histamine, which is why antihistamines (eg, diphenhydramine) are sometimes used for treatment.

When people breathe in allergens such as pollen, they typically get hay fever.  When pets breathe in these allergens, instead of a stuffy nose or runny eyes, they get a condition called atopy, which results in skin irritation and itching.  Many allergic pets begin to show signs when they are as young as 6-7 months, and almost all show signs by the time they are 3-5 years old.  Typically, the skin irritation and itching begins as a seasonal problem in the spring or summer, but many pets eventually become allergic year round.  The location of the irritation and itching tends to vary depending on the cause.  Inhaled allergens usually cause problems around the face, feet, and "arm pits," although other areas of the body can be affected.  Food allergies usually cause skin irritation around the head and neck.  Flea allergy often develops first in areas where fleas are commonly found, especially the rump, tail, and groin areas.

Allergies can cause your pet to lick and scratch incessantly, leading to skin rashes and serious infections.  You can help your veterinarian identify the cause of the problem by keeping track of when the problem started and how (if) it changes over time.  Once your veterinarian establishes the cause of the allergy, he or she can determine the best treatment for the allergy.  Antihistamines and corticosteroids are often used to combat itching and inflammation.  Your pet may need a restricted or special diet to avoid exposure to food allergens.  In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend a series of shots meant to gradually desensitize your pet to the offending allergen(s).

 

Q&A

What causes allergies?

An allergic response develops when the immune system “overreacts” to foreign materials (called allergens) such as pollens, molds, food proteins, and flea saliva.  


Do pets get hay fever?

Hay fever is a type of seasonal allergy caused by inhaling allergens such as pollens and molds.  Pets are often allergic to these same allergens, but signs of illness usually show up as skin irritation and itching, rather than runny eyes and nose.  


When do allergies usually start?

Many pets begin to show signs when they are as young as 6-7 months, and almost all allergic pets develop problems by 3-5 years of age.  Inhaled allergies usually begin as seasonal itching during spring or summer, but eventually may become a year-round problem.  


How is allergy treated?

Antihistamines and corticosteroids are often used to combat itching and inflammation.  Longer-term treatment involves eliminating the offending allergens via things like flea control or hypoallergenic diet.  If the allergen cannot be eliminated, your veterinarian may recommend a series of shots meant to gradually desensitize your pet to the offending allergen(s).  

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
Did you like this article?
Go here to sign up for the mailing list to receive more articles like this.

Related content

All medical-related content on WebVet has been veterinarian approved to ensure its timeliness and accuracy.
Schmoozies
Introducing Pet-Pods...

Veterinarian with small dog FREE downloadable PDF files providing a comprehensive review of some of the most timely pet health topics: Allergies, Fleas, Summer Safety Hazards, and Vomiting and Diarrhea.

Newsletter Signup

  
Get FREE Pet Insurance Quotes Now!

Search For A Vet

Crosby