Allergies and Skin Problems in Dogs and Cats
Allergies are common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. They are often due to fleas, but can also result from food, inhaled irritants such as dust or pollen, and contact allergens such as grasses, weeds and plans. With our green and various plant and tree life here in the Northwest, there are many allergens in our environment. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age, with the majority affected dogs being over two years. The most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin – either localized or generalized. Other symptoms include respiratory distress (coughing, sneezing and wheezing) or digestive problems causing vomiting, flatulence or diarrhea.
Flea allergies are the most common allergy in cats—an ordinary cat experiences only minor skin irritation at the site of the flea bite. The allergic flea cat, on the other hand, has a severe itch-producing reaction when the flea’s saliva is deposited on the skin. Just one bite causes such intense itching that the cat may severely scratch or chew itself, leading to hair loss and open sores or scabs on the skin. The area most commonly involved is over the rump or base of the tail. Cats can also develop allergies to food, cat litter, inhaled substances and environmental substances.
It is crucial to be able to identify the first signs and symptoms of allergies and dermatological conditions. These include:
- Scratching, licking, chewing or biting the skin, feet and ears
- Red, raised, scaly areas on the skin
- Bumps, crusts or pus-filled blisters on the skin
- Increased skin pigmentation
- Thickened skin
- Loss of hair
- Salivary staining (brown color)
- Head shaking
If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, please make an appointment to have him or her seen by one of our veterinarians. We will evaluate your pet, determine the most effective method of treatment, and explain how you can prevent future problems. If left untreated, allergic reactions and skin conditions can become serious medical concerns. It is important to note that even if you do not see fleas on your pet, these symptoms may still be due to a flea allergy. Many pets with sensitive skin immediately groom and remove fleas before we see them.