Skin allergies are exceedingly common among the human population. However, they are also the reason behind countless visits to veterinary offices across the country every year. It surprises many owners, even those with prior pet experience, to learn that animals are just as prone to suffering from allergies as humans are. In fact, skin allergies are by far one of the most common types of allergy to affect domestic animals in the United States.

Much like us, there can be a range of reasons why your pet may develop an intolerance that causes skin-related symptoms.

Causes of skin allergies in pets

Skin allergies can be caused by a huge range of different things and can be classified depending on their origin.

Contact allergies – also known as contact dermatitis, tend to occur when your pet’s skin comes into direct contact with something that triggers her to have an autoimmune response. All too often this is a substance or item that seems harmless such as a plant, or their bedding. In the case of the latter, allergies typically develop as a response to contact with whatever product you have washed her bedding in. Other common contact allergies include: feathers, food products, perfumes and cleaning materials.

Bite allergies – Insect bites are rife amongst pets, and some types of bite incite an autoimmune response. This is particularly true for parasites such as fleas and ticks. Flea saliva is highly irritating and will cause your pet to scratch relentlessly, while some ticks have a saliva that contains a neurotoxin capable of temporarily paralyzing your furbaby.

Environmental allergies – these are often seasonal, such as a reaction to tree or grass pollen, or dust mites. There are a range of symptoms that occur as a result of an environmental allergy, including problems with the skin. These are not skin allergies per say, but a skin-related response to the autoimmune trigger. Common environmental allergies include: pollen, mold spores, dander, cigarette smoke.

Symptoms of skin allergies in pets

They can manifest in a variety of ways depending on their cause, but in virtually all cases, itching and a visible rash occurs. Rashes can vary widely in their appearance and can be:

– Red

– Swollen

– Raised

– Shiny

– Dry

– Moist

– Scabbed over

In most cases, the rash will be localized to the area which has come into contact with an irritant. If the rash is much more widespread, it could be that your pet is experiencing skin problems as a result of a non-contact allergy such as a food intolerance.

As previously mentioned, itching almost always occurs and is often the first sign that there is something wrong with your pet. While all animals scratch, skin allergies will cause your pet to scratch as if her life depends on it. Unfortunately, persistent scratching can lead to the creation of open wounds, and these can easily become infected. If your pet develops a secondary infection, antibiotic cream or medications will almost certainly be required.

Persistent itching can also cause problems with your pet’s coat, and you may find that her fur is thinner and drier around the site of the allergy. In some instances, bald spots may appear.

If you are concerned that your pet has an allergy, contact us and seek the advice of our veterinarian as soon as possible. She can assess your furbaby and help you to determine what your pet is allergic to, and what steps you can take to help minimize her risk of suffering a reaction.