Can Dogs and Cats Have Allergies?
Did you know that dogs and cats, just like humans, can suffer from allergies? If you notice your cat or dog itching or chewing their skin, developing little red spots on their skin or sneezing, they could be experiencing an allergic response to an environmental factor, their food or flea bites.
However, it’s not always easy to detect the source of your pet’s discomfort. That’s why learning the causes, signs and symptoms of allergies in your cat or dog can help you decide what to do next.
Causes of Allergies in Dogs and Cats
Pets can experience different allergies, including environmental allergies, food allergies and flea-related allergies.
Skin Allergies in Dogs and Cats
It’s common for the skin to be affected in a pet with an allergic condition. They can be triggered by:
- The environment: Your pet may be allergic to pollen, grass, mold spores or house dust mites. Dogs and cats can even suffer from seasonal allergies.
- Fleas: When fleas bite your pet, the saliva in the bite can cause a skin allergy known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Learn more about FAD in cats and dogs.
Opinions differ as to how common food allergies are in cats and dogs. Many pets have food sensitivities or tolerance issues with certain ingredients, e.g., eggs, grains or chicken. However, true food allergies that trigger an immune response are less common.
Acute Allergic Reactions
Although much less common, dogs and cats can have extreme — and potentially fatal — allergic reactions also known as anaphylaxis. If your pet encounters a trigger like insect bites, medications or exposure to a vaccine that causes swelling and breathing difficulty, seek emergency veterinary care.
Signs and Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs and Cats
When your pet comes into contact with an allergic substance, their immune system can trigger a reaction. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of allergies in cats and dogs:
- Body scratching or itching
- Chewing or licking their paws
- Red, inflamed skin, also known as “hot spots”
- Frequent ear infections
- Itchy ears
- Swollen ears, face, lips or eyes
- Discharge from the nose or eyes
- Breathing issues (call your vet immediately)
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
How to Treat Allergies in Dogs and Cats
Your vet is your first and best line of defense in helping support your pet’s health. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above (especially respiratory issues or rapid swelling of the face), contact your vet. Allergy symptoms are often similar to signs of other health issues, so it’s best to consult with your vet to know the true source of the problem.
Diagnose a Potential Food Allergy
The only way to determine whether your dog or cat is allergic to a specific food or ingredient is to eliminate it from their diet and instead give a food they’ve never had before. Work with your vet and ask for suggestions on what to feed during this process. If your pet’s condition improves after feeding the new food, ask your vet whether or not to reintroduce the previous food you suspect may be causing the allergy. If your pet has a reaction to the reintroduced food, they’re most likely allergic to it.
Treat and Prevent Flea Infestations
Allergies can be uncomfortable for animals and humans alike. By recognizing the signs of allergies in your dog or cat — and seeking a vet’s advice about how to deal with it — you’ll ensure your pet gets the best possible care.
- Barnette, C. (n.d.). Allergies in Dogs. Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/allergy-general-in-dogs
- Burke, A. (2019, October 4). Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-allergies-symptoms-treatment/
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (2018, May 22). Food Allergies. Retrieved from https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/food-allergies
- Eckstein, S. (2012, April 27). Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies. Retrieved from https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/caring-for-a-dog-that-has-food-allergies#1
- Fetch by WebMD. (n.d.). Allergies: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Diagnosis. Retrieved from https://pets.webmd.com/cats/cat-allergy-symptoms-triggers#1
- Hunter, T. (n.d.). Allergies in Cats. Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/allergies-in-cats