Allergies and Pets: The Pet Side

Allergies and Pets: The Pet Side

People can have allergies to many different things. Pets, ragweed, pollen, dust, food can all trigger allergic reactions for some people. However, people are not the only ones that suffer. Pets can also have allergies to ragweed, pollen, dust, and food. Often the symptoms are so subtle they are overlooked, and pets may be suffering their whole lives without relief. Instead of the sneezing, congestion, and watery eyes that humans deal with, pets often have scratching and ear infections. The owners may never even notice the symptoms in some pets. Just like in humans, there are different types of allergies and different kinds of symptoms.


Atopy is the most common type of allergies in pets and are often seasonal. This category includes things like ragweed, tree pollen, dust mites, molds, and many other things that can bring about an allergic reaction in humans. These allergens, or things that trigger an allergic reaction, are typically inhaled or come into casual contact with the skin. Depending on what the allergen is, it may be easy to avoid or it may not be. Perhaps the allergen can be avoided by not being outside at certain times of the day or by dusting the house more often. Just like people, pets cannot always avoid the pollen in the air or the dust in the home. But unlike people, symptoms are generally not sneezing and itchy eyes. Instead, pets chew their feet, lick their groin or flank constantly, rub their face, have inflamed ears or ear infections, get hot spots (dogs), get pinpoint scabbing on their faces (cats), and may also exhibit wheezing. Your vet will be able to help you understand your pet’s problems and decide the best action to take.


While food allergies are highly publicized, they represent only about 10-15% of all allergies pets have. However, this figure does not represent other food intolerances, typically characterized by vomiting and diarrhea, only the true food allergies.

Food allergies for pets are most often dealing with the protein source. Beef, eggs, poultry, dairy, lamb, pork, fish, corn, wheat, soybeans, preservatives, and dyes are just some of the ingredients that may trigger an allergic reaction in some dogs. Symptoms include itching, ear problems, and skin infections. These allergies may show up alongside seasonal allergies, making everything harder to diagnose and treat. The best way to treat food allergies is to try a different food, specifically a different protein source. If you currently feed a poultry-based food, try switching to a food made with lamb, beef, or fish. Choose a food with an ingredient list as basic as possible to limit the number of ingredients that could be triggering the reaction. If the issue has not resolved itself, switch again. And don’t forget about the treats. These could trigger a reaction, too. There are blood tests that your vet can try, but generally they are not sensitive enough to be very accurate. If you have switched a couple of times and still don’t see a difference, consult with your veterinarian for help.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis results from contact with a particular item. Where atopy may result from casual contact, like pollen spores in the air, contact dermatitis is from direct contact. This may include things like carpet fibers, plastics, or cleaners. The symptoms are more unique than the other types of allergens. Bumps or blisters that are red and itchy, intense scratching, and potentially hair loss in certain areas are the symptoms of contact dermatitis.

Dermatitis can also be caused by fleas, called flea dermatitis. This is a reaction to flea bites and similar symptoms can be seen.

Allergies in pets is a common problem and can usually be treated. Watch your pet closely for symptoms. These may be hard to spot and may take some digging on your part to uncover. Talk to your vet about possible medications they can take and what are the best ways to avoid the allergen. Some allergic reactions can be severe, like anaphylaxis and swelling of the face, and may require the use of a epi-pen or similar emergency medication. With the right tools, you can help your pet avoid the items that trigger their allergic reactions and help manage their symptoms. Even with allergies, your pet does not have to suffer.