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Apr 19, 2022

6 min. read

You and your pet have a lot in common. You both love long walks and unscheduled naps. And just like you, your animal companion can suffer from allergies and allergic reactions.

“Many dogs and cats suffer from allergies,” says Dr. Jennifer Sperry, the veterinary advisor at Pets Plus Us. “Allergy symptoms in dogs and cats appear differently than they do in humans, so it’s not always obvious to pet owners what the source of the problem is.”

How to spot allergy symptoms in your pet

A pollen allergy may cause sneezing and itchy, watery eyes in humans, while a pet’s allergy to the same substance may manifest as red, itchy skin, lesions, hair loss and recurrent skin and ear infections. If your pet shows any of these symptoms—or is scratching, chewing, rubbing or scooting—make an appointment with your vet, who will first rule out the possibility of external parasites, which can cause similar symptoms. Once an allergy is confirmed, the vet will narrow down whether it’s an environmental or food allergy.

In dogs, the most prevalent food irritants are dairy products, beef, chicken and wheat, while for cats it’s usually beef, fish and chicken.

Pets can develop allergies to features of their environments too, like grasses, pollens, wool, and dust. These can cause reactions on contact, usually on the feet or belly, or through inhalation.

Treatment options for your pet

Many environmental allergies are seasonal, while food allergy symptoms are usually present year-round. Tests can help to determine what your pet is allergic to, so your vet can prescribe the ideal treatment.

A wide variety of treatment options are available for allergies, Sperry says, including shampoos and topicals, immunotherapy and oral medication to alleviate symptoms. Severe and sudden allergic reactions, called acute hypersensitivity reactions, require immediate medical attention from a veterinarian. These include sudden reactions to bee stings, insect or spider bites and drugs or vaccines.

According to Dr. Sperry, symptoms of acute reactions include sudden swelling (especially of the face), hives, vomiting and/or diarrhea, drooling and even difficulty breathing. If you see any of these symptoms in your dog or cat, you should contact your family veterinarian, or a local emergency veterinarian immediately.

Keep in touch

If your pet has had an allergic reaction before, keep an open dialogue with your veterinarian. Ask if there are any prescription or over-the-counter medications that you should keep on hand in case symptoms appear. Consider keeping a journal listing what signs your pet was exhibiting, when they appeared and resolved and when you had to use medication. This will help your veterinarian give you advice for how to manage symptoms. Always consult your vet before giving any over-the-counter or natural remedies, and avoid formulations with decongestants and/or artificial sweeteners.

The good news is that most chronic allergies in pets are very manageable. Patience, of course, may be required while trying to figure out what works best for your dog or cat.

Get the Right Coverage

Pet insurance can help offset the cost of visits to the vet and treatments. CAA's Pet Insurance provider, Pets Plus Us, offers two plans that can be customized to best fit your needs and budget and can help protect you against significant veterinary costs. Learn more or get a quote.

Image credit: Olga Novikova/iStock

Terms and Conditions

The information herein is summarized. All Pet Insurance plans have limitations and exclusions. Specific products, features, rates, and discounts may vary by province, eligibility, and are subject to change. For the terms and conditions, click here.

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