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What are allergies?
An allergy is a disease in which the immune system (the body’s protection system) reacts abnormally to substances such as fleas, pollens, mold spores, mites, and certain foods. All of these allergic reactions are unpleasant, some are serious, and a few can be fatal. The offensive substances causing allergies are known as allergens. An allergic reaction may be caused by inhaling or ingesting the allergen, but most often results from the allergen directly contacting the pet’s skin. Some pets may be sensitive to several types of allergens.
What are signs of allergies?
Unlike people, pets usually don’t get stuffy or runny noses or watery eyes. The most common clinical sign of allergy in dogs and cats is itchy skin, which can lead to:
- Scratching, biting, and chewing at the skin
- Excessive face rubbing
- Excessive grooming
- Hair loss
- Recurrent ear infections
- Itchy rectal area (sometimes seen as scooting the hind end)
The usual locations of the itching are the belly, feet, base of tail, and face, especially around the eyes, mouth, and ears. These areas are often bright pink due to irritation. Less commonly observed signs include sneezing, coughing, asthma, diarrhea and vomiting.
How will my doctor determine if my pet has allergies?
Not all scratching is due to allergies. The diagnosis of allergies requires that the doctor first eliminate all other possible causes of the itching. Infections with fleas, mites, lice, bacteria or fungi; poor nutrition; or just dry skin may explain the itching. Your vet will want to take a complete history of your pet’s problems along with a complete physical examination. They may also recommend laboratory tests such as blood work and skin scrapes to rule out other diseases and pinpoint what the problem is. A special diet and a food trial (where only one type of food is exclusively fed) may be in order to eliminate food allergy as a cause for the allergic symptoms.
How does my pet get allergies?
Your pet inherited its ability to be allergic from its parents. After continued exposure to the offending allergens for months or years, the signs of allergy become apparent in the pet. The typical allergic pet starts with a short period of biting, chewing and scratching which may be mild or perhaps unnoticeable. With repeated exposure to the offending allergens, the pet gradually experiences prolonged periods of itching and changes in the texture and color of the skin. In most pets, the initial signs of allergy appear during the first 2 to 4 years of life.
Can allergies be treated?
There is no cure for allergies but there are a number of ways to treat and minimize the effects of allergies. If the allergy is mild, avoidance of the offending allergens in conjunction with environmental control may be all that is needed to control the disease. Your pet’s doctor may also prescribe medications such as steroids, antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, medicated shampoos and conditioners, or a special food to control the clinical signs. In pets with more severe allergies, or in pets where allergies occur year-round, specific allergy treatments such as immunotherapy (allergy injections) may be needed.
Here at Noah’s Ark, we help celebrate the life of your cherished friend by offering a loving and compassionate cremation service. We can provide a plaster paw print, hair clipping and memorial DVD upon request at no additional cost.
Noah’s Ark Pet Crematory
2643 Old Bridge Road Manasquan, NJ 08736
732-528-6624 or 732-528-NOAH