What are Common Pet Allergies in Ohio and What Causes Them?

From spring to early fall, allergens abound in various forms in Ohio. Pets often develop allergies, and may be more prone to certain allergies due to playing outdoors and being exposed to grass, pollen, fleas and other allergens. In addition, food allergies are being found to be a big factor in chronic ear infections and digestive disorders. Here is more information about common pet allergies and their causes.

Flea Allergic Dematitis

The climate in Ohio provides an ideal environment for fleas, especially in spring and summer. Even when temperatures start cooling down, flea population can remain fairly steady until the first freeze. If fleas take up residence in the home, the moderate temperature allows them to remain active all through the winter and cause serious problems for pets. Many animals are allergic to fleabites, and it causes intense itching. Other symptoms to look for include red, inflamed areas of skin, hair loss and hot spots.  Hot spots are areas on the skin that are pink or red and moist. Some hot spots produce pus or become bloody from the pet scratching.  All or none of these visible symptoms may be present and some pets, especially cats, my have fleas but not demonstrate any signs at all.  There are many options available to treat these pesky parasites, unfortunately, most of the products at the big box stores are not effective and some can be dangerous to your pet.  Retail outlets are typically the last resort for companies to try to sell ineffective and poorly effective products because they are trying to reach the segment of the public that is solely price conscious.  Most of these retail products are pesticides that are outdated in their usefulness and can have serious side effects.

Grain and Plant Allergies

Corn, wheat, oats and even clover are among the grains and plants that pets can be allergic to. Pets are exposed to these through from eating foods containing the substances, medications, playing in fields, or inhaling allergen-filled air. A variety of symptoms can appear from these allergies, including digestive disturbance, respiratory symptoms and skin allergies. Unfortunately, there is no test for food allergies but there are characteristic symptoms. If your pet has issues with chronic ear infections, digestive disorders or hair loss around the face; consult your veterinarian for advice on your options. Food allergies, have little to do with the quality of the food used but more to do with the types of protein sources in the food. If you choose to pursue a food trial, know that ANY amount of the protein your pet is susceptible to can trigger these reactions. Protein sources most likely to trigger an allergic response are beef, pork, chicken, and corn but your pet can be allergic to any protein source and may eventually develop allergies to new protein sources.

Grass Allergies

Grass allergies are naturally most common in pets that play outdoors. Some experience contact dermatitis, which may show up as hot spots in areas of skin that touch grass, such as the legs and underbelly. Other pets can develop more serious respiratory symptoms, although this is not as common as hot spots. These are allergies which can be tested for and can utilized desensitization therapies if needed.

Pollen Allergies

Like humans, pets can develop allergies to certain pollens and these can be tested for too. When things start blooming in Ohio, veterinary visits can rise due to these pet allergies. Unlike humans, however, pet allergy symptoms more often show up as dermatitis than respiratory ailments. However, either dermatitis or classical respiratory symptoms can develop.

Treatment for pet allergies depends partly on the symptoms, but antihistamines and steroids are commonly used. These may be given orally or injected. Pets with hot spots are often given antibiotics as well to prevent infection. Once the cause of the allergic response is determined, pet owners should try to reduce their pet’s exposure to the allergens. This may mean bathing the pet more frequently to remove pollen or grass from the pet’s coat or changing the pet’s diet. There are currently newer medications (apoquel) which are safe and very effective, that are available for severely affected animals.  These medications are affordable but currently have been in short supply.