Didn’t think pets suffered from allergies? Well, surprise! They sure do! Dog allergies and cat allergies are one of the most common problems we see in pets from Dallas, McKinney, Frisco, Plano, Richardson and Allen and Carrolton. In truth the problem is probably much larger than that – it is often said that Dallas is the “Allergy Capital of Texas.”

Pet allergies (also known as atopy) vary greatly in both their severity and age of onset. Dog allergies can start as early as 3 months and progress through to old age. Symptoms of pet allergies may be so mild at first that they are barely noticeable but allergy symptoms are almost always progressive and usually become clinically apparent before 3 years of age. Among humans, the nose is the primary target of allergies, and hay fever symptoms predominate. Among dogs and cats, the skin is the major allergy target organ, so itching and scratching are the main symptoms. How often have you seen your dog or itching or scratching for no obvious reason? It could be allergies.

Depending on what they are allergic to, some dogs and cats have seasonal allergies while others are itchy and scratchy all year long. The biggest offenders in our area are tree pollens, grass and weed pollens, mold spores and the house dust mites. Food allergies are also a common offender. WebMD also has a decent write up on dog allergies that might be worth a look.

Allergies in dogs and cats tend to run in certain breeds and along family lines, somewhat like they do in people. If an individual’s parents have allergies, then there’s a good chance that that individual will develop them eventually as well.

Certain dog breeds, such as the Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever seem to be especially allergy prone. Fortunately, there are now many options for diagnosing and treating allergies.

Board certified veterinary dermatologists, like those at the Animal Dermatology Referral Clinic and certain general practice veterinarians – such as ourselves at the Chastain Veterinary Medical Group – can perform intra-dermal allergy testing. This is similar to the intra-dermal “skin tests” done to detect allergies in people. Blood tests can also be used to diagnose allergies in pets, sometimes alone and sometimes in combination with intra-dermal allergy tests.

Is it important to treat allergies? Mild allergies in a pet can sometimes be safely ignored, especially in the early stages. However, in time, most animals will need some form of treatment. This treatment is generally lifelong.

Dog allergies and cat allergies are rarely cured. Instead, a more realistic goal is control. Allergy treatment generally takes the form of some combination of the following:

Medicated baths
Soothing cream rinses
Anti-itch sprays
Allergy shots (hyposensitization injection, based on the results of an allergy test)
Antihistamines and special fatty acid formulations
Corticosteroids injections or pills (sometimes called ‘cortisone’), with careful monitoring.

In some cases, a change in lifestyle or lifelong treatment is necessary. As always, prevention of flea and tick infestations, good grooming and a healthy diet should strengthen your dog or cat’s resistance to allergies.

Remember! Pet allergies can be serious, so contact us today if your pet is itching or scratching a lot!

Article reviewed for accuracy by Sue Chastain, DVM January 20, 2015.