Which are the most common allergies in pets, and what are their causes?
Skin and gastrointestinal allergies are the most common in pets. Causes of allergies are multifactorial, with a hypersensitive immune system being the primary cause. This reacts with various allergens to result in signs of allergies. Food allergens are common causes of both skin and gastrointestinal allergies, while environmental allergens such as dust mites, fleas and plant pollen can also contribute towards skin allergies.
What are common symptoms of allergies in pets?
Common clinical signs of skin-related allergies include itching, inflamed/red skin, sometimes with pimples or dry flakes and odour, and ear infections which manifest as increased ear wax or discharge, scratching around the ears, head shaking, redness around the ear canals and in severe cases, pain when touching the head or a head tilt.
Signs of gastrointestinal allergies include diarrhoea or soft stools, blood or mucous in the stools, vomiting, change in appetite and weight loss.
What can be done to treat the allergies? Are they curable?
Allergies can be managed but are not usually curable, as the primary problems lies with the hypersensitive immune system which is partly genetic. Nonetheless, these pets can be managed to reduce the frequency and severity of the signs. This involves reducing the hypersensitivity of the immune system with various oral medications, and determining the pet’s allergens and avoiding them. For food allergens, this involves feeding a hypoallergenic diet designed specifically with a veterinarian, and in the case of environmental allergens, immunotherapy can be instituted to desensitise a pet to its allergens. For skin-related allergies, treating the secondary skin infections with a combination of oral and/or topical therapies can help relieve the itching and rash, and certain supplements such as omega 3 fatty acids can also help improve the immune function of the skin. For gastrointestinal allergies, probiotics and digestive enzymes may also aid in restoring a balance to the digestive tract.
Acupuncture can also be very beneficial as a complementary treatment in managing pets with skin and gastrointestinal allergies.