Just like in people, allergies are a common occurrence in pets

Allergic dogs are common visitors to veterinarian Brian Jenkins’ office, making up an estimated 20% of his clientele, and he can relate to their plight because he also suffers from allergies. The three categories of allergies in pets are flea allergy, food allergy and atopic dermatitis. While there is no definitive cure for allergic conditions, Dr. Jenkins says that with time and consistent treatment, many animals can experience relief from their symptoms.



Nan Sterner could not figure out what was wrong with Sadie.

Since she was a puppy, the 4-year-old golden retriever and poodle mix – a goldendoodle – was constantly scratching.

“She was itching and scratching all the time,” Sterner said. “I thought it was fleas.”

But Sadie was found to be flea-free. She was still scratching, though, to the point where she had red and irritated patches of skin all over her body, and even had some scratched-open sores.

So Sterner brought Sadie to Aloha Animal Hospital in Hanover to find out what was wrong, and she was relieved to discover that her condition is treatable.

“Sadie has a huge amount of allergies,” said Dr. Brian Jenkins, veterinarian and co-owner of the animal hospital.

Some cats and dogs suffer from allergies, and often are allergic to the same things as people, like trees, grasses, weeds, and pollen, Jenkins said. While people usually suffer the effects of allergies through their respiratory systems, cats and dogs feel it in their skin.

And over the last year, with continuous warm and often wet weather, those allergies seem to be worse, and Jenkins is seeing more and more cases coming into his office all the time.

The good thing is while allergies are no fun, they are treatable.

Treating pet allergies

Even pets who have not shown signs of allergies before might be scratching their coats and looking for relief from the itching this year.

Jenkins said allergies have a threshold. An allergen might have no effect on a dog or cat in a normal year may flare up with more exposure.

Pets typically have three different kinds of allergies. One is a flea allergy, in which they have a reaction to flea saliva.

Along with common allergens, fleas have been thriving with weather conditions over the last year.

A second allergy is one that’s often difficult to diagnose, which is a food allergy. Most allergies start in the first few years, but food allergies can start at any time. Dogs are usually allergic to beef, followed by dairy and wheat. Cats are also allergic most to beef and dairy, as well as fish.

But the third and more common allergy, and the one Jenkins likes to study, is atopic dermatitis – or the skin allergy.

These allergies typically hit pets that are between 6 months and 3 years old. And they can be seasonal, caused by things like weeds, grass, mold or pollen, or they can be caused by things like dust that are present throughout the year. Tree pollens are particularly bad in Hanover this time of year, Jenkins said. And he said he is seeing lot of allergies to ragweed now, too, as well as sagebrush and a whole host of molds and spores.

“You won’t cure an allergy, but you can treat it,” Jenkins said.

One way to treat these is through the use of steroids, which is quick and cheap, but it can have negative side effects, such as ulcers, vomiting, diabetes and skin and coat problems.

Jenkins treats Sadie, and many of the pets he sees, with topical treatments for the skin, as well as allergy shots. It can be time consuming, and a financial commitment, but it’s often the best way to keep allergies under control, he said.

Every pet and each allergy is different, and Sadie is a pretty extreme case, too, suffering from a whole list of allergies, he said. But even with an extreme case like Sadie, and with the help of an owner who constantly monitors and applies medication, treatment can been successful, he said.

A doctor who understands

Allergies are not fun for pets. Or people. Jenkins takes a special interest in treating allergies because he has suffered from them since he was a little kid.

And as an allergy sufferer, he’s empathetic with what pets are going through when they come in his office with allergies.

He’s allergic to many of the same things as Sadie – particularly ragweed, which he said is vicious this time of year.

Like Sadie, he goes to his doctor for treatment, and is able to keep it under control.

Though he’s a general practitioner of veterinary medicine, and does not specialize in allergies, he takes a special interest in it. And with the hundreds of dogs and cats that come through his doors, he said he could open an allergy clinic if he wanted to. About 20 percent of the dogs he sees have some form of skin allergies.

Any breed is susceptible, he said, but allergies are particularly common among golden retrievers, labs, Boston terriers and shih tzus.

But there’s hope for all allergy sufferers.

“Dogs and cats are allergic to many of the same things as people,” Jenkins said. “And they can be treated in some of the same ways.”

While there is no silver bullet to treat all allergies, he said with time, patience, and constant treatment, allergies can be brought under control.

And dogs like Sadie can continue to live happy, itch-free lives

3 Responses to “Just like in people, allergies are a common occurrence in pets”

  1. It breaks your heart to know that animals can suffer the same allergies as humans but can’t voice their discomfort. An allergy can easily be misdiagnosed as a skin irritation and the animal can continue to suffer. Find a vet that is familiar with your breed and who is trained in diagnosing and treating animal allergies. Keep your furry friend safe and happy.

  2. Peggy says:

    I’ve had a ferell (sp) cat for a couple of years. He’s an indoor cat and scratches like crazy lately. I was using Revolution on him every month, but didn’t this month to see if that was causing it, but it didn’t help. He eats indoor Purina dry cat food and I started putting a teaspoon of olive oil on it, that doesn’t help. Do you think if I mix a little canned food in his dry food it would help or what do you suggest. I can’t afford to take him to the vets.

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