Allergy season is here, and not only people are sniffing and sneezing—allergies plague pets, too. The team at Guam Pet Hospital is here to share the signs that could indicate your pet is suffering from an allergy. Learn what to look for and how to treat your pet’s allergies.

What causes allergies in pets?

Like people, pets can suffer from seasonal, environmental, and food allergies, as well as flea bite allergic reactions. All pets can suffer from allergies, but they can also be genetic (e.g., atopy), with certain breeds more susceptible, including: 

  • Bulldogs
  • Shar-peis
  • Retrievers
  • Terriers
  • Shih tzus
  • Lhasa apsos
  • All “bully” breeds

Pet allergies most often appear around 9 months to 3 years of age, and tend to worsen as pets get older. 

What do pet allergies look like?

Some allergic pets experience respiratory signs, such as watery eyes, sneezing, and coughing, like people, but more commonly, pet allergies manifest as skin issues. Signs that a pet is experiencing allergy-related skin issues include:

  • Itching and scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Licking or chewing at the paws
  • Secondary skin infections
  • Anal gland issues

Chronic ear infections are another common allergy sign. Pets with seasonal allergies tend to get ear infections during the same season each year, while those with food allergies may have recurring ear infections throughout the year. 

What are pet allergy types?

Each allergy type—environmental, flea bite, and food—that pets suffer is caused by different allergens that produce slightly different signs. 

  • Environmental allergies Environmental allergens can trigger an allergic reaction in pets most commonly by direct skin contact and sometimes inhalation. These allergies tend to be seasonal, but can worsen over time and become year-round. Common environmental allergens that affect pets include:
    • Pollen — Avocado, mango, plumeria, flame trees, etc
    • Grass
    • Weeds
    • Molds

  • Flea bite allergies — Pets with flea allergies are allergic to a protein in the flea’s saliva, and only a single bite can cause a severe reaction (i.e., flea allergy dermatitis [FAD]). Flea allergies can be difficult to detect, because pets may groom off all the fleas, and fleas need to be visible to make a diagnosis. However, tiny black flecks (i.e., flea dirt) can often be seen on the pet, their bedding, or other resting areas. When a flea bites a pet, its saliva causes an allergic reaction with intense itching, hair loss, and scabbing, and secondary bacterial or yeast infection development if the FAD is not treated.

  • Food allergies — True food allergies, which occur when the pet’s immune system identifies an invasive substance that must be attacked, are not common in pets, but an immune response that does occur causes inflammation in the body. Pets typically are allergic to a protein in the food, most often chicken or beef, and an elimination diet is the only way to identify the protein. The problem protein must then be removed from the pet’s diet to resolve their allergic response.

Diagnosing allergies in pets

Because pets may have more than one allergen, determining the exact trigger can be difficult. If you suspect your pet is suffering from allergies, make an appointment with the Guam Pet Hospital team, so we can assess their condition and direct treatment toward the specific group of allergens. We will also address the chronic secondary skin and ear infections commonly caused by skin allergies.

How can I relieve my pet’s allergies?

Allergies in pets cannot be cured, but treatments are available that will keep your pet more comfortable. Because pet allergies can changeand worsenover time, some pets will require multiple treatment methods and adjustments, which may include:

  • Skin or allergy diets 
  • Shampoos and other topical treatments 
  • Flea and tick prevention
  • Antihistamines 
  • Corticosteroids 
  • Immunotherapy
  • Supplements

Allergies can make your pet’s life miserable, yet identifying their triggers can be difficult. If your pet appears to have respiratory issues or itchy skin that they are constantly scratching, chewing, or biting, contact Guam Pet Hospital. We can diagnose and treat their allergy, and make them—and you—more comfortable.