Just like us, our animals can be hypersensitive to specific substances. Sometimes, this hypersensitivity triggers an allergic reaction. Allergies present in a variety of ways, but some of the most common effects include those which affect the skin. As a result, they are often better known as skin allergies.
A skin allergy, also often referred to as allergic dermatitis or atopy, is a predisposition to developing allergy symptoms as a result of coming into contact with a substance that is harmless to non-allergic animals. This substance, called an allergen, can be pretty much anything, although some allergens are definitely more common than others.
When an animal with an allergy comes into contact with the allergen that affects them, it triggers their body to produce histamines that are part of your pet’s natural immune response. However, these histamines also cause a number of other reactions, including increasing circulation which in turn causes inflammation, swelling, and redness that are key characteristics of a skin-based allergic reaction.
If your pet has a skin allergy, they will usually start to develop this between one and three years of age, although it is possible for an allergic reaction to occur at any time.
It may surprise you to learn that our pet’s skin is not all that dissimilar to our own. This means that the triggers for skin allergies in pets are also like those which cause skin-based allergies in humans. Some of the most common allergens responsible for skin allergies in animals include:
Foods; such as dairy, soy, corn, poultry, and wheat. Pets can also consume non-food items and have an allergic reaction to them, such as human medications, trees, or plants.
Environmental; think grass pollen, tree pollen, nicotine smoke, dust, and dander. Animals can also brush up against trees and flowers or be allergic to fabric softener that you use to wash their bedding.
Bites; from ticks, mites, and other parasites, including fleas. Many animals are also allergic to fleas. In fact, flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common skin conditions seen in all animals, wild and domestic. While fleas cause irritation in all animals, for those that are allergic, the effect of a bite and flea saliva causes severe irritation and unbearable itching.
There is a wide range of symptoms that can be associated with skin disorders, including skin allergies. Some of the signs that you should be aware of include the following:
- A visible rash on the skin
- Chewing and biting the skin
- Dry, flaking skin and what can look like dandruff in your pet’s coat
- Excessive, persistent itching/scratching
- Excessively grooming the same area repeatedly
- Hair loss/bald spots appearing
- Hives, which look like red, raised bumps on the skin
- Not wanting to be touched
- Pus or other obvious signs of infection
- Red, inflames skin that may be hot to the touch
- Rubbing their body along the floor or against furniture
- Scabs and open wounds
- Scooting along the floor
- Scratching that is severe enough to break the skin
If your pet exhibits any of these signs, they could have an allergy and it is worth speaking to your vet to establish the cause of their symptoms. Only be identifying the allergy can your pet achieve adequate relief from the effects that they are experiencing.
For more advice on pet allergies, don’t hesitate to speak to our compassionate and knowledgeable veterinary team.