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asthma and allergy awareness month

Posted By SLCo Animal Services
May 03, 2019

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May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

While the awareness campaign is aimed at humans, pet owners should be able to recognize signs of asthma or allergies in their pets also. At Salt Lake County Animal Services, we often see pets come in with allergies not diagnosed. 

Have you ever wondered if your pet may be experiencing an allergic reaction to something in the environment, or the food it’s eating?

When we think about allergies, we are usually thinking about watery, itchy eyes or a runny nose but in a dog or a cat, allergies look different.

Most allergies we see in our pets show up in the form of skin issues, itching, red skin, hair loss, ear infections and even GI issues. This can be frustrating because they can be difficult to control and treat.

Allergies in pets can be classified as either environmental or food.

Food usually accounts for approximately 10% of pet allergies and may show up at any age.

When dealing with food allergies the allergen is usually a protein in the food such as chicken, beef, a carbohydrate preservative or food dye. These allergies are usually treated by a food trial with a limited ingredient diet that contains a novel protein your animal has not eaten before and one other carbohydrate source, such as green pea. It is important to note that it can take up to six weeks to see any results of the skin issues resolving after changing the diet.

Environmental allergies are often the same things that trigger hay fever in us, things like pollens, molds, dust mites, cleaning products, and so on. When a dog or a cat has an allergy to these things it is an exaggerated response by the immune system to something in the environment that shouldn’t cause an immune response.

In dogs you will often see chronic ear infections and their feet, armpits, lower belly and face tend to be very itchy causing them to scratch and lick these areas.

Dog Allergy Symptoms

  • Increased Scratching
  • Red, moist or scabbed skin
  • Runny eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Chewing or constant licking
  • Swollen paws
  • Snoring due to an inflamed throat
  • chronic ear infections

Cats will also become very itchy and may develop ear infections or even pull out their fur. In some cases, they will develop lip ulcers.

Cat Allergy Symptoms

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Urinating issues
  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lethargic

In both pets, the itching can cause trauma to the skin and cause a secondary infection, so it is very important to seek treatment when you first notice your animal may have food or environmental allergies.

Asthma is an allergic reaction to an environmental stimulant, it can also affect dogs and cats at this time of the year.

How do I know my pet has asthma?

  1. Coughing and sneezing
  2. Difficulty breathing
  3. Poor appetite
  4. Weakness or fatigue
  5. Pale or blue gums (see a vet immediately)

What can you do to prevent asthma?

  1. Do not smoke in your house or around your pet
  2. Refrain from using hair sprays, perfumes and air fresheners
  3. Consider using baking soda in shallow dishes for absorbing odors
  4. Clean your cats litter box regularly
  5. Bathe your pet regularly

If you think your pet is suffering from allergies or asthma consult with your veterinarian to ensure what you are seeing is allergy related. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication depending on the severity of the allergy and just like people pets can be given an allergy shot. In some cases, you may just need to switch your pet’s food and your veterinarian can help you with a food trail to help you know what certain food ingredients the culprit may be.

Make sure to act quickly, ignoring the signs and symptoms of allergies and asthma can lead to a more acute problem in the future.