Thursday, February 7, 2008

Signs Your Pet May Have Allergies

Depending on the type of allergy, your pet may exhibit different symptoms. Although pets occasionally exhibit watery eyes and some sneezing, the most common reaction is scratching. Constant scratching may lead to raised infected welts, open sores, and loss of hair. Ear infections are also common in dogs with allergies.

Pets who are affected by allergies may suffer their entire lives; typically symptoms worsen as they get older. We can help alleviate some of that suffering by knowing the signs of allergies and finding the right type of product relief for the symptoms.

Types of Allergies That Affect Pets

There are four types of allergies that can affect your pet. Allergies caused by things your pet inhales are termed airborne allergies. Common sources are pollens, molds, and dust mites. Allergies that result from flea-bites are referred to as flea allergies or flea-bite dermatitis. Certain allergies occur from items your pet ingests, and are typically called food allergies. Contact allergies are caused by something your pet comes in direct contact with, such as carpet fibers, plastics, and other things. Contact allergies (plastics, carpet fibers, detergents) are far less common than inhalant allergy and flea allergy dermatitis in pets.

Common Allergy Symptoms:

FACE - Appearance: muzzle, chine and areas around the eyes reddened with hair loss. Behavior: scratching or rubbing face with paws or against furniture.

EARS - Appearance: waxy discharge; redness, odor. Behavior: scratching or rubbing ears with paws or against furniture.

SKIN - Appearance: reddened; possibly with crusts or scales; odor with secondary infections. Behavior: scratching and licking sides/belly, elbows, groin.

HAIRCOAT - Appearance: bald spots; brown discoloration where licking has occurred. Behavior: scratching sides/belly; rubbing face against furniture or carpet, licking.

FEET - Appearance: inflammation, redness, odor, brown discoloration where licking has occurred. Behavior: licking and chewing of feet/pads.

Contact Dermatitis

Less common allergies include contact dermatitis, which include allergy to carpets, cleaners, or plastic. These allergies may cause:

* Red itchy bumps or blisters on sparsely-haired areas of the skin and those exposed to the allergen such as the belly, feet, or muzzle

* Intense scratching

* Hair loss (in chronic conditions)

Food Allergies

Food allergies account for about 10% of all allergies in dogs and cats. Food allergies may show up concurrently with allergies to pollen, dust, etc. Symptoms include:

* Itching, especially face, feet, trunk, limbs and anal area

* Ear problems, often yeast-related

* Skin infections that respond to antibiotics, but then recur as soon as the antibiotic therapy ceases.

Occasionally, dogs with true food allergies may have increased bowel movements and soft stool. Food allergies should not be confused with food intolerances, which are not true allergies, and generally cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Watching your pet go through the misery of allergy symptoms can be miserable in itself. If you suspect your pet has allergies, visit your veterinarian. The type of allergy and severity of the symptoms will determine how your veterinarian decides to treat them.

Less common, but more severe allergic reactions include:

* Urticaria (hives)
* Angioedema (facial swelling)
* Anaphylaxis is a rare, life-threatening, immediate allergic reaction to something ingested or injected. If untreated, it can in some cases, result in shock, respiratory and cardiac failure, and death.

These symptoms usually appear within 20 minutes of being exposed to the allergen, which can include drugs, chemicals, insect bites, or something eaten.

About the Author

Brent Goodman holds degrees in English from Ripon College, a Masters of Fine Arts from Purdue University, and has extensive experience in research communications and educational publishing across various fields of study. He is currently the Senior Copywriter at Drs. Foster & Smith Pet Supplies, the nation's leading online and catalog pet supplier.

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