Allergies in cats and dogs can be a confusing topic for many pet owners, since allergies in pets are an ever-changing condition. To make matters worse, a great deal of misinformation is floating around, so determining what’s true and what’s a myth can be tough. Rather than weeding through false information and potentially harmful advice, turn to your Tidmore Veterinary Hospital veterinarian for answers about your furry pal’s allergy issues. Before your pet’s appointment, however, learn fact versus fiction so you have a solid foundation of pet allergy knowledge. Here are some frequently encountered pet allergy myths, and the truths behind them.

Myth: Corn is one of the most common pet allergens

Truth: Many pet owners who hear that their pet has allergies automatically think the corn in their diet is the cause. However, food allergies are uncommon in pets, and corn allergies are more rare. A pet who develops a food allergy is more likely to become allergic to the diet protein, rather than the carbohydrate. The most common food allergens in pets include:

  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Fish (in cats)

Pets with a hypersensitivity to a certain ingredient often exhibit vomiting and diarrhea, but can also have itchy skin, chronic ear infections, and anal gland problems. If your pet vomits regularly, or has soft stool, they may be allergic to the protein in their diet, but a whole host of medical conditions could be to blame.

Myth: My pet isn’t covered with fleas, so their hair loss and itching can’t be caused by a flea allergy

Truth: A flea allergy is horribly unpleasant for your pet. You may not be able to see fleas on your four-legged friend, but the classic signs of hair loss on the hind end and chewing at the tail base typically indicate your pet is suffering from a flea saliva hypersensitivity. A handful of fleas is enough to cause a flare-up and make your pet miserable, yet you may never see a flea. The best way to ensure your pet doesn’t suffer from flea allergies, in addition to environmental or food allergies, is by administering high quality flea prevention products year-round.

Myth: Antihistamines can treat my pet’s allergies as effectively as mine

Truth: When your sneezing, congestion, and watery eyes irritate you during spring’s growing season, you may stock up on Benadryl, Claritin, or other antihistamine. When your symptoms ease, you may think about using antihistamines for your pet, but these medications are not as helpful for pets, because they mostly display allergy signs through their skin, whereas people have upper respiratory issues. If your pet has allergies, you may notice the following:

  • Excessive licking, scratching, and chewing
  • Red, moist skin (i.e., hot spots)
  • Skin infections
  • Scratching or rubbing the face
  • Licking or chewing the paws
  • Red bumps on the skin
  • Itchy tail base and hind legs
  • Hair loss
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Anal gland issues

Although your allergic pet is most likely to show itchy skin and its associated problems, they may also vomit, have diarrhea and eye discharge, and sneeze.

Myth: Diagnosing my pet’s allergies is a simple process

Truth: Intradermal testing is the gold standard of environmental allergy testing in pets. The testing is performed on pets who are either sedated or fully anesthetized. Their side is shaved, common allergens are injected close under the skin, and any red, swollen allergy responses are noted. If no irritation occurs, your pet is not allergic to that substance. 

However, this method cannot effectively diagnose food allergies. A food allergy diagnosis is a lengthy procedure that requires a strict food trial for at least eight weeks. During the trial, your pet must be fed only a hypoallergenic diet that contains a protein source they’ve never eaten before. At the end of the trial, a common food allergen is reintroduced, and if your pet reacts to the chicken, beef, or other protein, they’ll be diagnosed with that specific food allergy.

Myth: My pet will grow out of their allergies

Truth: Unlike children, who generally grow out of their allergies, pet allergies often get worse with age. Pets usually don’t develop allergies until they’re at least 6 months old, but typically they are closer to 1 or 2 years of age before they show signs. Your pet’s continued exposure to their allergens increases their sensitivity, and they may also become allergic to more substances. Because of this escalation, your pet will need lifelong allergy management, which will likely need changing as they age, to maintain maximum efficacy.

Is your itchy pet miserable from allergies? Don’t wait for seasonal allergies to pass—get your furry pal relief now. Contact our Tidmore Veterinary Hospital team to schedule an appointment to get to the root of your pet’s itching.