Allergy Series – Overview


It’s mid-September, and humans aren’t the only ones suffering from allergies. From licking, scratching, and chewing to sneezing, watery eyes and cough, perhaps you have noticed your dog or cat also seems more uncomfortable lately. It’s probably no surprise to you that dogs and cats can have allergies to things in the environment. But did you know that we have lots of options to help those allergic pets feel better? We are getting ready to start a blog series to get you up to speed on pet allergies! This week, we will focus on an overview of allergies and all the ways we can see allergies present. 

When a patient has allergies, it means the immune system is over-responding to an allergen. Often it takes time for allergies to develop. Through multiple exposures to an allergen, the immune system becomes sensitized. Ultimately, an allergic response ensues. Allergies can be diagnosed in animals as young as 6 months old, but more commonly we start to see symptoms after about 2 years of age.

Allergies in pets can range from mild to severe. Some pets require nothing more than an occasional medicated bath or a few doses of an antihistamine. Other pets are miserable without regular, multi-modal and targeted interventions. 

Allergy symptoms can vary in how they manifest. Most commonly, dogs and cats who come to Lawndale with allergies are displaying skin symptoms such as scratching, licking, chewing, and skin infections. Ear infections can also be a component of the problem. Less commonly, but also possible, pets can present with sneezing, reverse sneezing, coughing and/or ocular signs. Vomiting and diarrhea can even be a component of allergies, particularly with food intolerances.

Allergic signs can be seasonal, or they can be year-round. The historical information you provide can actually be invaluable in helping us to make an allergy diagnosis. For example, if you know that your cat develops the same symptoms at the same time each year, then we are more likely to think there is an environmental component to the allergies. If, however, your cat displays the same symptoms all year long (and we have been able to rule out other causes), then we may lean towards considering a food allergy as the cause.

Diagnosing a dog or cat with allergies is not always straightforward. Importantly, we must rule out other treatable (and potentially contagious) causes for the symptoms. Be sure to check back next week for the next segment – how we make the diagnosis!

Additional Allergy Resources:

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS