Pet allergies are the pits!
Pet allergies (mostly seen in dogs and cats) are diagnosed far more frequently these days than in the past. This
is probably due to a combination of factors - more pets being
taken to vets, better diagnostic tools, an increased allergen load in the environment, and
probably indiscriminate breeding.
Any animal can be allergic to any substance or product but generally pet allergies fit into
one of several broad categories. These are:
Inhaled allergies (atopy)
is responsible for the allergic reaction, which in many cases is seen as an intense itchy
skin which makes the animal scratch a lot.However, a food allergy can also lead to vomiting
Unfortunately, once an animal is allergic to one factor, the chances are that
it is more likely to become allergic to other things in its environment. Likewise,
the older the animal gets, the more severe the allergy is likely to become.
As a result, one of the methods used to control pet allergies is to minimise the allergen
"load" on allergy prone individuals. This involves measures like using hypo-allergenic
shampoos to wash the pet, minimising the flea and tick load on the animal, feeding
hypo allergenic diets etc.
The first and most important step in treating an allergic reaction in a pet is
trying to identify the allergen i.e. what caused the allergic reaction. This is often
easier said than done, especially if the condition has been present for some time
before professional help is sought.
In most allergy cases the veterinarian (and the suffering pet!) are relying on you
to give an accurate account of events leading up to when the symptoms were first
observed. An accurate history can eliminate many possible causes straight away
and allows the veterinarian to narrow the search down quickly to the most likely
set of possibilities. This saves time and money and can speed up the diagnostic
process. The faster an accurate diagosis is made, the faster the relief for your pet.
A few warnings are in order though. From a veterinary point of view, allergies
can be extremely frustrating! It is not uncommon for weeks and months of
diagnostic effort to come up with nothing conclusive in terms of identifying
the allergen. This is because many cases are multifactorial in origin, with
many allergens possibly playing a roll.
In any event, it is unlikely (although not impossible) that you will be able to "cure" an allergy.
Mostly the best you can hope for is to manage the condition by limiting your
pets exposure to the offending allergen(s) - the aforementioned allergen load.
There is little or nothing the animal can do to avoid allergens
in the food you feed it or the surrounds you keep it in.Your task then, as your
pets minder, is to enure that this allergen load is
kept to a minimum which in turn will minimise the need for ongoing
treatment and will ensure a happier, healthier pet.
Be warned however that
do present a major challenge to any pet owner as they are often frustrating, time consuming and cost money!