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Don't ignore your pet's allergies

An early diagnosis of an allergy will help your pet live a better life

If your pet is always itchy, has inflamed skin or watery eyes, it could be an allergy.(Unsplash/ Ayla Verschueren )

By Dr Nameeta Nadkarni

LAST PUBLISHED 07.09.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

Prince, a five-year-old Siberian husky, visited the clinic last week because he couldn’t stop scratching. He couldn’t sleep, was biting his fur, and had re, inflamed skin. Turned out he had fleas, the cause of his allergic reaction. Many pet owners are unaware that fleas, besides biting and causing irritation, can also trigger an allergic reaction in some pets.

Animal allergies, especially in dogs and cats, are more frequent than you may think and can significantly impact their quality of life.

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Allergies can stem from different root causes and come with a wide range of symptoms. My dog, for instance, has a chicken allergy and experiences diarrhoea and vomiting after eating any poultry product. Even though dogs are primarily carnivores, it’s interesting to note that chicken is one of the most prevalent dietary allergies. Beef, dairy, wheat, and soy are some of the other offenders. Pets can develop food allergies at any age. Even if your dog or cat has been eating the same food for months or years, they may stop tolerating it all of a sudden.

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Environmental allergens come next. Seasonal allergies in some pets can be brought on by pollen, dust, dust mites, mould, and other airborne contaminants. These pets frequently have itchy, irritated skin and sneeze. Your pet might go for a very long time without experiencing an episode, and episodes might only happen during particular seasons or when the weather changes.

Some allergies are instantly observable and may be lethal. A bee sting allergy causes rapid swelling of the face and, if untreated, can result in breathing difficulties and even death. After a walk in the garden, if you see your pet’s face suddenly swollen, you should immediately take them to the vet. If it is a bee sting, the stinger needs to be taken out.

Regular vomiting, loose stools, sneezing, coughing, continual watering of the eyes, recurrent ear infections, itching, and restlessness are indications that your pet may be allergic. Constant scratching can lead to secondary bacterial and fungal skin infections, further negatively impacting your pet’s quality of life. Consult a veterinarian if you think your pet may be allergic. When itching becomes unbearable, it should not be ignored.

To find out what your pet is allergic to, a skin test can be performed. However, these tests are not readily available in India. You can determine the allergens with the aid of a blood test, which is accessible. It may not always be completely precise, but it does provide a useful clue as to what might possibly be setting off a reaction. Since some pets’ immune systems can be overly active, it can be challenging to identify the precise sources of their allergies, as they can be allergic to multiple things.

What can you do, then, if you discover that your pet has allergies? Determine whether it is seasonal. Keep an eye out for potential allergens during that time of year. If you can, determine the allergy that is causing the issue and limit your pet’s exposure to it. This may call for dietary alterations, better home hygiene, or seasonal adaptations. Pets with environmental sensitivities benefit from regular sponge cleaning. A specially formulated hypoallergenic diet containing hydrolysed proteins or a novel protein diet that contains proteins that your pet may never have consumed before, such as duck or fish, can provide relief.

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Flea allergies can be decreased by preventing fleas through routine brushing, flea medications, and maintaining a clean living environment. Veterinarians may prescribe antihistamines, steroids, and other drugs to treat allergic symptoms. These should only be used as directed by medical personnel. A pet with a severe allergy requires lifelong management.

The well-being of our pets depends on our ability to recognise the different forms of allergies, identify their symptoms, and take the necessary actions to treat and avoid them. Your dog can have a happy, itch-free life with an early diagnosis and the proper treatment.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.