Do some pets suffer from allergies?
Just as they are for people, allergies in pets are an exaggerated immune response to something that wouldn’t normally trigger one.
Allergies may take different shapes, such as food allergies, contact allergies to a specific product/substance (e.g washing powder, grass type) or atopic dermatitis.
Signs of skin allergies are commonly seen in areas such as the face, paws, axilla (armpits) and belly.
Unfortunately, because pets tend to scratch and chew on their itchy spots, they can get secondary infections when bacteria or yeast come into contact with irritated skin as the normal skin barrier is compromised.
Animals are also prone to recurrent ear infections, as the ear canals are an extension of the skin and a compromised skin barrier predisposes to these infections.
Did you know that cats can suffer from asthma?
Feline asthma is also often triggered by allergies, which cause an excessive immune response (inflammation) in the lower airways.
Causes of pet allergies
Environmental allergens tend to either happen at a specific times of year or in a certain place and can include:
Although food allergies account for about 10% of allergies in pets, the most frequent allergy culprits are certain proteins (different for different patients).
Proteins are essential components of a balanced diet, just as in humans.
Common sources of protein in pet foods include beef, chicken and mutton. The compromise is therefore to find a source of protein that the body does not identify as foreign and react to. Allergy-specific diets are usually made from types of proteins that animals are historically less likely to mount allergic reactions to, or proteins broken down so small that the body cannot identify them.
Treating other dermatological issues
Besides allergies, there are a number of other issues that can cause skin problems for pets, including infections, fleas, ringworm, mites, and dry skin amongst others.
Our doctors at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA Animal Hospital can diagnose and treat all skin conditions, and help you to make lifestyle changes to help prevent the skin condition from recurring in your pet.
Visit us at the Corner of First Road and 1st Avenue, Grassy Park or call our hospital on 021 700 4145.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can my pet’s allergies be cured?
While allergies cannot be cured, they can usually be managed well with medication and/or lifestyle changes. Treatment may include consulting your veterinarian to assist in identifying and preventing exposure to allergens; prescribing a special diet, and treating secondary skin and ear infections.
Can my pet develop allergies later in life?
Yes, pets can develop allergies at any stage in life. Sometimes, you may find that your pet suddenly becomes allergic to a stimulus that never caused issues before. This may occur as they become progressively more sensitised over time, such as humans with repeated bee stings. If you notice any symptoms of skin problems, itchiness or gastrointestinal issues, you should discuss them with your veterinarian.
Are some breeds more prone to allergies and skin conditions than others?
Yes. French bulldogs, Westhighland White Terriers, Pitbulls, Boston Terriers, German Shepherds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are more predisposed to allergies and skin conditions.
Can an allergic reaction be fatal?
Yes, although they tend to occur rarely. If you see symptoms such as facial swelling, or swelling around the eyes, wheezing sounds when breathing, discoloured gums, patches of skin swelling and in some cases sudden diarrhoea or vomiting after exposure to some insects, please visit your nearest vet as soon as possible.
Should I cook for my pet, rather than buy their food?
Many people value home-cooked diets for their pets, as they know exactly what is going into their food. However, it’s unfortunately very difficult to create a properly balanced diet with all the nutrients your pet needs to thrive, and in many cases, this may cause or contribute to food-related skin allergies.