Dog/Cat Allergies

Allergies in dogs and cats: how to spot and tackle them

With spring now upon us; we’ve noticed a chorus of sneezing and snuffling around the office, a few swollen and red eyes and croaky voices. Nobody is sick however we hear complaints about the amount of pollen in the air; allergies, what an inconvenience.

What is an allergy? Can my dog have an allergy? Glad you asked.

Firstly, an allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance known as an allergen. Most allergens are proteins and may be of an insect, plant or animal. Secondly yes; your dog can have an allergy to these allergens.

What are the symptoms of allergies in dogs and cats?

The most common symptom of an allergy is skin irritation. Itching can be localised, in one area of your pets’ body; or generalised which shows all over the body. Another group of symptoms sits in the respiratory system resulting in coughing, sneezing and or wheezing which may also see a runny discharge from the eyes and nose. Not dissimilar to human reactions.
Over the next few weeks we’re looking at allergies and treatments as none of us like to see our pets in discomfort.

In this post we’re going to look at flea or an insect bite allergy, a brief outline of a food allergy and some tips on how to treat to them.

Flea and insect bite allergies

The classification of a flea or insect bit allergy is known as a Precipitating allergen.

A flea allergy is the exaggerated inflammatory response to a flea bite or other biting insect. A bite is a common allergy of dogs although only a minority of dogs do become allergic. Most dogs will experience minor irritation from a flea bite. When your dog is one of the minority and has an allergy to a flea or insect bite, you’ll see severe local itching where the skin will be exposed through the hair due to aggressive scratching and biting itself, this can result is a secondary bacterial infection in broken skin.

How to treat flea bite allergies in pets

One flea can be a problem for the allergic dog and strict flea control is an essential part of your pet’s welfare. It is difficult to control due to the life cycle of fleas however there are modern medications and home treatment options available to assist in providing a flea bite free environment and your vet is the first port of call.

Healthy dogs with strong immune systems and healthy skin and coats will be less susceptible to flea problems so we would always recommend considering first the overall health of your pet and how diets and supplements can help. Fleas and ticks can also be tackled with natural products.

When strict flea control is not possible or when your dog has severe itching a course of antihistamines or corticosteroids may be used. It is essential that your vet provides the appropriate advice and offers the guidance to provide relief. Your vet can determine if a secondary bacterial infection is present and prescribe an appropriate course of antibiotics.

Treatments with anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids or antihistamines generally provide quick relief; blocking the allergic reaction in most cases. Fatty acid supplementation of the diet can improve the response to steroids and antihistamines in some cases.

Some pet owners also support recovering by bathing with natural hypoallergenic shampoo which can be soothing and help reduce inflammation. Note however that some chemical shampoos can hurt your pet’s natural defenses in their skin and coats and make dogs more susceptible to allergic reactions, particularly for dogs recovering from steroid or antibiotic use.

Food allergies in dogs and cats

Another allergy that effects our pets is a food allergy.

Food allergies are one of the five most common allergies or hypersensitivities known to affect dogs. Most of us know a friend, family member, teammate or work colleague who has an allergy to certain foods. Its only recently that food allergies have become a recognised condition in dogs. The most common signs your dog has an allergy to food is generally itchy skin or an upset stomach. Other more subtle changes can materialise: hyperactivity, weight loss, lack of energy or even aggression.

Keep in mind, most dogs will occasionally react to something they eat. This may represent sensitivity to a particular food which will cause a mild gastrointestinal upset rather that a true allergic reaction. A food allergy is different. Antibodies are produced against some part of the food, normally a protein or carbohydrate. When a dog has a food allergy, the dog’s immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to substances it would normally tolerate. This response is termed an allergic or hypersensitivity reaction. In most cases your dog will show increasing to excessive itching rather than vomiting or diarrhoea.

The most common food allergies affecting dogs are found in proteins, dairy products, beef or gluten (from wheat). Each time the pet eats foods containing these substances, the antibodies react with the antigens and the symptom will occur. Keep in mind that virtually any ingredient can produce an allergic reaction. Proteins are the most common however other substances and additives can be responsible.

Tackling allergic reactions to foods: elimination diets, blood tests and tailored diets

Food allergies in dogs require a similar treatment as those in humans. Feeding the dog an elimination diet was once the only option available and would regularly take between 8 – 12 weeks to get any positive results. Nowadays blood tests can be conducted; providing an indication of whether the dog is allergic to specific foods. Your vet can discuss whether a blood test would benefit in diagnosing your pet’s condition.

Once the offending substance has been identified, a diet can be arranged to exclude the offending substances. There are commercial diets available, these diets are palatable and hypoallergenic and will be suitable for the life of your dog. Your vet will discuss the best options for your pet based on the test results. There is a possibility that a commercial diet option containing the correct ingredient profile for your pet’s needs is not available or your pet will not eat them. If this occurs, you may have to prepare a home cooked diet. There are no current cures for pet food allergies besides avoidance of the offending substance. Some pet will require medication during severe episodes, but most pets can be successfully treated with a hypoallergenic diet.

When you think your pet may have a food allergy, contact you vet who will help your pet resume a healthier and more comfortable life.

Unfortunately, allergies are common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds and as dog lovers we need to ensure we keep a diligent eye on our pets. It is important to note that allergies can be confused with other disorders and may occur concurrently with them. Do not attempt to diagnose your dog without professional assistance. If an allergy is diagnosed and identified, the whole family must follow the veterinarian’s advice very closely if success in controlling the problem is to be achieved.

Using diet to boost the immune system and help fight allergies

Switching to a natural diet that helps support your pet’s immune system can help prevent or reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Our Skin Support Protocol targets the cause of the problem, not the symptoms. The protocol focuses on balancing the immune system and providing the macro and micro nutrients required for optimum health. It ensures the dog or cat has the correct balance of essential fatty acids and antioxidants, and boosts the pro-biotic levels in the gut. This natural and logical approach produces fantastic results. Check it out

We endeavour to deliver the best information possible on natural health and diets for dogs and cats. Our articles involve contributions from senior veterinarians and are researched thoroughly. They remain the opinion of Vets All Natural however and we would always recommend seeking professional advice specific to your pet from a veterinarian. © Copyright 2015 Vets All Natural. All Rights Reserved

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