If your cat or dog has been scratching more than usual these days, you may wonder whether they have allergies. Your furry friend is susceptible to some of the same allergens that bother you every year when spring’s warmer weather makes flowers and trees bloom, sending lots of pollen floating through the air.

Don’t expect nature’s allergens to take a break until winter. The Greenfield-Milwaukee area hosts spring allergens like hickory, oak, ash, willow, mulberry, and walnut. Next come summer allergens such as ryegrass as well as bent, timothy, and fescue grass. Finally, fall plants that trigger allergies include ragweed, wormwood, amaranth, orache, and sagebrush. 

Although dogs and cats can be sensitive to environmental allergens, flea bites are their leading allergy cause. Since flea season in Wisconsin lasts from May through November, you must provide your pet with year-round protection against these tiny, pesky parasites’ infestations. If your cat or dog isn’t already on medication to make the fleas flee, our Greenfield Veterinary Clinic team is ready to start them on an effective preventive medication as soon as possible. 

Food allergies are the least common of the three allergy types that most commonly affect pets. However, the ingredient to which your pet is allergic can be quite a puzzle to figure out, sometimes requiring them to be on a special diet for months before our team can pinpoint their allergen. 

Signs that your pet may have an allergy

Pets’ allergies usually show up in their skin, ears, eyes, and anal glands. Look for signs such as:

  • Intense itching that causes scratching, licking, chewing, biting, or rubbing 
  • Red bumps 
  • Hair loss
  • Hot spots—moist red spots under the fur 
  • Reddened, dark, or thickened skin patches
  • Skin infections and rashes
  • Skin sores and crusting
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Recurrent anal gland issues that cause pets to scoot along the floor
  • Vomiting or chronic diarrhea

Additional signs in cats may include conjunctivitis and respiratory signs such as nasal discharge.

3 allergy types common in pets

Pet allergens are everywhere. However, pets are commonly allergic to parasites, environmental allergens, or a food ingredient. Consider the three allergy types that are common in dogs and cats:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) — This is the first condition our team tests for when you think your pet might have an allergy because FAD is the most common. The saliva that fleas inject as they bite your cat or dog can cause an immune system reaction that leads to itching, fur loss, and inflamed skin. 

In addition to treating any infection the fleas may have caused, we can prescribe an anti-itching product as well as a year-round preventive to help your pet avoid future allergic reactions. You need to control fleas in your house and yard with the most effective products that are safe to use around dogs and cats. You also need to launder your pet’s bedding and other furnishings on which they like to lie, such as throw rugs and bed linens.

  • Environmental allergens — Among outdoor environmental allergens, pollen is the most likely to affect your dog or cat. After we test your pet’s blood or skin for allergies to tree, weed, and grass pollens, dust, and mold spores, we can pinpoint the allergen and prescribe the most effective way to treat it.

While the outdoor environment may give you and your pet a break during the winter, indoor allergens, such as mold spores and dust mites, are always present. No amount of laundering, cleaning, and vacuuming can completely eliminate dust mites. However, using special bed covers and vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can minimize the population. Simple solutions, such as soap and water, bleach and water, and white vinegar and baking soda, are effective against mold.

  • Food allergies — Pets rarely have food allergies, but when they do, the condition can be troublesome. Beef, dairy products, chicken, wheat, and lamb are the leading food allergies in dogs. Some dogs may also be sensitive to soy, corn, egg, pork, fish, or rice. Allergic cats are most sensitive to beef, fish, and chicken. Other allergens that affect cats are wheat, corn, dairy products, lamb, eggs, pork, rabbit, whale meat, and barley. Cats can be allergic to more than one food ingredient at a time. Proteins are more likely than carbohydrates to trigger allergies in dogs and cats. 

The most effective way to diagnose a pet’s food allergy is through an elimination diet trial. You’ll need to feed your dog or cat a commercial hydrolyzed protein diet or a homemade novel protein diet for at least 8 to 12 weeks if your pet has skin issues, or three to four weeks if they have digestive issues. If their skin or gastrointestinal (GI) signs improve, a food allergy is likely. The next step is to provide your pet with different proteins to identify the one that’s causing the problem.

If you think your dog or cat has an allergy, our team can identify the culprit and devise an appropriate treatment plan. Schedule your pet’s appointment with our Greenfield Veterinary Clinic team.