Pet Allergies: Getting Down to the Itch

woman holding cat in hand


Owners and pets have some type of allergy due to the weather, pollen or fleas. There are steps to be taken to relieve you both from suffering. While it may be a runny nose or watery eyes for us, excessive scratching, itching and or licking could all be signs of allergies. Many pet owners are unaware both cats and dogs can have allergies. The following are some factors you should consider if you think your pet may have allergies.


When it comes to pets there are three main types of allergies: food, environmental and seasonal allergies. If your pet is itchy throughout the winter, spring, summer and fall, your pet may have seasonal or environmental allergies. However, many owners do not realize certain types of foods may be responsible for the incessant itching and licking.


Allergens such as certain types of grass, ragweed and pollen are to blame for your pet’s maladies. Indoor irritants such as like mold, dust mites, cleaning chemicals, certain fabrics, and potentially other animals in the household have been known to stimulate allergic behaviors.


If your pet is reacting to something year-round, your pet may be reacting to something in their daily environment. Contrary to popular belief, the skin and sinuses of your pet are very sensitive and can become irritated and cause severe discomfort everyday. This may require you to rethink your cleaning routine, cleaning supplies and home decor. Furthermore, in certain geographic areas, there are known-allergens such as “Cedar Fever” in the southern states like Texas and Louisiana. Seasonal allergens can be hard to narrow down, it is important to pay attention to various factors that may impact your pet daily.


If your pet’s reaction is to something outdoors, it could very well be a seasonal problem. Seasonal allergies will make your pet’s skin become very itchy and begin to scratch excessively as well as chew and bite in certain places on their body. Pets may also start to rub themselves against furniture and or the carpet. This may be sign of common pet allergen called dermatitis. Dermatitis can also cause your pet’s skin to be inflamed and tender to the touch. Other signs of allergic dermatitis can also include areas of hair loss, open sores on the skin, and scabbing.

Keep in mind that pets can also have allergies to common external parasites such as fleas. Fleas are responsible for a condition known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). FAD occurs when the saliva and waste products of fleas cause a hypersensitivity reaction commonly manifested as incessant itching and licking. Just because your pet isn’t infested with fleas does not mean the itching can’t be caused by fleas. It may take only one or two fleas to make them miserably itchy and uncomfortable !

It may not be immediately apparent to suspect an animal has a food allergy, since it may take years for a pet to develop a food allergy. This food hypersensitivity can occur at any age in a pet’s life. Common symptoms of a food hypersensitivity may include vomiting, chronic ear infections, itchiness and diarrhea. If left untreated, food allergies can also lead to excessive hair loss, as well as areas on the skin which become infected and inflamed, commonly referred to as “Hot Spots”. Potential consequences of ongoing food hypersensitivity may ultimately include weight-loss, dull hair coat, and even digestive or gastrointestinal problems.


Veterinary Dermatologists may recommend some small changes in your pet’s daily routine to help alleviate some of the common manifestations of allergies. Below you will find some of the more common recommendations made by veterinarians:

Non-irritating paw soaks are also a great way to reduce the amount of allergens your pet may bring into your home

Regular bathing can offer immediate relief to an itchy pet as well. Certain types of shampoos may contain active ingredients to help cleanse the skin or contain hydrating emollients particularly for pets with dry, flaky skin.

Keeping areas of your home where your pet spends most of their time as allergen-free as possible. This often requires fastidious vacuuming, cleaning ans changing of pet bedding/litter. Using non-toxic or non-irritating cleaning agents may also be helpful.

Consider using an air purifier or HEPA filter to decrease the amount of allergens or particulate matter in your household.

Staying current on topical or oral flea prevention. Your veterinarian can recommend which one is best for your pet or your lifestyle.

Certain over the counter products may also be safe for your pet such as Benadryl. These products are anti-histamines and offer temporary relief. Please consult with your veterinarian for dosages and how often to use these products.

Anti-inflammatory or Hypoallergenic Diets are often recommended by your veterinarian and may consist of novel or new protein types or even medically necessary diets which are devoid of certain common allergens.

Lastly, certain medically necessary products or medications may ultimately be required to offer long-term relief for your pet. Your veterinarian will require an in-depth evaluation of your pet as well as pertinent medical history

In the end, if you pet is showing symptoms of any type of allergies, finding the root cause is extremely important. If you suspect that you pet has allergies your local veterinarian may perform blood work or testing to arrive at a specific diagnosis and treatment plan.