Many pets are troubled with seasonal allergies. In animals this is called atopy. As with people, most allergic reactions are caused by things in the environment that change with the time of year. Common allergens are pollens, dust mites and molds. Food allergy is frequently talked about, but is actually rare in occurrence.
Allergic problems in cats and dogs mostly affect their eyes, ears and skin.
Eyes may become red and irritated, may have more discharge than usual, and your pet may rub at them with his/her paws. Sometimes the pet will be secretive about it’s eye rubbing, and you may only notice fur loss around the eyes.
Ears may become infected, you may notice your pet shaking his/her head or scratching at their ears. While many people think that swimming causes ear infections, this is not true. Ear infections are caused by an overgrowth of the normal yeast and bacteria on the dog’s skin, as a result of inflammation from the allergic reaction. Many people also assume that any irritation in their pet’s ears is ear mites. Ear mites tend to be a cat parasite. Dogs rarely get ear mites, even if they are in close contact with cats infested with mites.
Your pet’s skin may be red, irritated and itchy. You may notice fur loss in a scaly circular pattern or little red dots (like pimples). Many animals will develop “hot spots”, which are painful raw areas that are made by scratching excessively. These can become quite large quickly, and can cause your pet to feel ill from fever and infection.
Toe licking is another sign of atopy. If your pet licks his/her toes to the point of discoloration, he/she is most likely allergic.
While most allergies and their symptoms are fairly simple to treat and resolve with the allergens changing seasonally, some animals are bothered by these symptoms year round. Long-term management may be necessary to keep these pets comfortable. These treatments involve allergy testing, allergy vaccination, omega 3 fatty acid supplements, antihistamines and/or the use of immunomodulatory medications such as cyclosporine.
Although food allergy is rare, diet is important for atopic animals. High quality diets with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, both in appropriate levels and ratios, are of great assistance in promoting good skin and coat health and reducing allergic inflammation. Because of this, the best over the counter diet for skin health is Iams. If your pet is severely allergic, a prescription diet may be recommended.