Chewing, Biting, Licking, Scratching: Your Allergy Season Survival Guide

How Do I Know If My Pet Is Having an Allergic Reaction?

When people get allergies, they generally experience symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, running nose, and watery eyes. Dogs and cats can sometimes get these as well—more typically, however, they exhibit behavior which includes excessive chewing, biting, licking, and scratching. Additionally, cats often exhibit overgrooming behavior, which can result in noticeable hair loss. Other common symptoms for dogs and cats include ear infections, crusty skin, and redness—so be sure to keep a close eye on your pet, especially in spring when seasonal allergies are prevalent. Most dogs or cats start to show their first symptoms of allergies around the ages of 1-3, and they generally carry those allergies with them for their whole life.

What Should I Do If My Pet Is Experiencing Symptoms of Allergies?

No pet owner wants to see their animal suffer discomfort as a result of allergies. If your pet is demonstrating one or more of the symptoms described above, your first step should be to reach out to your primary care vet to schedule an appointment. They may recommend or prescribe an antihistamine or other medication to address the symptoms, which will help your pet feel better in the short term—however, if the symptoms persist or return, it may be worthwhile to take your pet to a dermatologist to determine the root cause of the issue.

How Can a Dermatologist Help with Addressing My Pet’s Allergies?

At HOPE, our dermatologists perform what’s called an intradermal test to determine exactly what is causing the allergic reaction. To do this, our doctors sedate the animal and administer a series of injections, which contain everything from grasses, trees, and weeds to mold and other indoor allergens to see which elements are provoking the symptoms. The test generally lasts around three hours, including recovery time. Consulting your pet’s history, symptoms, and test results, we then develop a customized allergy vaccine recipe for them. While the recommended dose and frequency of administering that vaccine may change depending on your pet’s progress, generally these shots should be continued throughout your pet’s lifetime.

Is There Any Way to Stop My Pet from Getting Allergies?

Allergies are an unfortunate fact of life for pets of all shapes, sizes, and breeds, but there are some steps you can take at home to minimize your pet’s exposure to allergens. Some pets have an allergic reaction to flea bites, with incidence increasing in the warmer months. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinary doctor to select the best treatment. Because pets absorb pollen through their skin and track it in on their feet while outside, frequent ear cleaning and regular bathing (as often as once or twice a week) with a gentle, moisturizing shampoo (or medicated shampoo prescribed by your vet) are two good ways to help treat a potential infection and wash off foreign irritants. This also helps prevent further ingestion of the allergen, as many dogs lick their feet after they’ve been outside. Another option is to use baby wipes to wash off the pollen on your pet’s feet after walking or bathroom breaks.