If something is wrong with your cat or dog and you just can't pinpoint the problem, it may be allergies.
Signs and symptoms. Common clues that your pet has an allergy include sneezing, runny eyes and excessive scratching. Look for itchy or red skin, scratching at the base of the tail or ears, ear infections, constant licking, paw chewing or swollen paws. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea, sneezing and snoring caused by an inflamed throat. Secondary infections caused by allergies can cause hair loss, scabs or crust on the skin.
Causes. Pet WebMD lists common causes of pet allergies. These include pollens, dust, mold spores, feathers, cigarette smoke, prescription drugs, fleas, perfumes, cleaning products, fabrics, rubber and plastic materials. Pets can be allergic to food ingredients too. A dog with food allergies often will be plagued by itchy skin, breathing difficulties or gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. It may be difficult to pinpoint which ingredient is causing the allergy. Talk to your vet about trying a process-of-elimination diet to identify the culprit.
Treatment. The most effective way of treating pet allergies is to provide an allergen-free environment. Prevention is the best remedy for pet allergies caused by fleas. Have a plan in place before fleas become a problem. Flea control products include monthly spot treatments, collars and powders. If dust is the cause, clean the pet's sleeping area once a week and vacuum all rugs and carpets in the house at least twice per week. Itching can sometimes be cured by weekly bathing.
Medications. Not all allergens can be removed from the dog's environment. If that's the case, your vet may be able to prescribe allergy medication. Allergy injections can build your pet's resistance to airborne allergens. A small percentage of dogs may find relief with antihistamines such as Benadryl. Never administer antihistamines, however, without consulting your vet. Sprays and shampoos may work for animals with itchy skin. If the problem becomes severe, your vet may administer cortisone shots.
The good news about pet allergies is that most can be controlled without resorting to drugs or injections. Consult your vet for an allergy control plan.