Updated: Oct 12, 2020
Cat and Dog Allergies
Allergy and Signs of Allergy:
Cats and dogs can be allergic to one or more different things and to help describe their allergies, there are three main groups of allergies. Within each group, your pet may be allergic to something very specific but generally the groups overlap; allergy is like a Venn diagram. This means, your pet may be allergic to things from one or all of the three main groups. The main groups are:
Cats and dogs can be allergic to the saliva of fleas which is injected into the skin when they bite. This is the most common type of allergy and in cats it typically causes over grooming and in dogs, scratching and nibbling. The skin develops little red spots (papules) and in cats, they are felt as widespread crusts (this is called miliary dermatitis).
Food allergies can arise even when cats and dogs have been eating the same food for months to years. A food allergy is a reaction to a particular protein or food chemical and the reaction manifests in the skin. Common proteins that cats and dogs are allergic to include chicken, fish, gluten and egg. Cats that have a food allergy generally scratch around the head and neck but in dogs, any dog that is considered to be itchier than “normal” could have a food allergy.
Atopic dermatitis is basically a reaction to an environmental allergen, comparable to hay fever or asthma in humans. The environmental allergen may be seasonal, for example pollen, or be present all year round, for example house dust mites. For seasonal atopic dermatitis, cats and dogs only itch when the allergen is in abundance thus at certain times of the year. Cats and dogs with atopic dermatitis appear to scratch their body, lick and chew their paws and rub their face.
It is possible for your pet to have more than one type of allergy and in these cases, treatment is holistic. Furthermore, it is very common for your pet to have a dermatological flare up: it will start itching more and the skin will appear red. It is important for you to contact the dermatologist during a flare to regain balance and control of skin. Management of skin allergies is life-long and owner understanding, and compliance is essential for success.
Work together with your veterinarian to gather clues about your pet's needs.