But first, how can you tell if allergies are getting to your pet? “Itching is the main symptom,” says Dr. Lam. “However, pets show they are itchy in a variety of ways. Dogs and cats will scratch, rub against furniture, shake their heads or overgroom.”
If you notice your pet is doing these things, you should talk to your your vet. She can help diagnose what’s causing the signs and potentially run some basic lab tests to check for secondary yeast or bacterial infections (a common problem for allergic pets) as well as prescribe the appropriate treatments to help relieve itching and/or treat the infection, says Dr. Lam.
Below, take a look at a handful of things you might not have realized your cat or dog could be allergic to.
It may not come as a surprise that those pesky fleas are the biggest concern. “Flea-bite allergies are the number one allergy in pets globally,” says Dr. Lam. Pets with flea allergy dermatitis are hypersensitive to flea saliva, and even the bite of a single flea can cause a reaction in some pets. This means that remaining on flea and tick preventives year round is particularly important for these pets.
House Dust Mites
Do you sneeze when your home is dusty? House dust mites are another common allergen for our pets. Avoidance, long-term medications or desensitization through allergy shots are possible solutions, says Dr. Lam.
Your pet could also have an allergy to certain foods. “Should a food allergy be suspected, [vets] can give proper guidelines on how to best perform a diet trial, which is a lot more strict and difficult than simply shopping around for different types of food found at the pet store,” Dr. Lam says. “If appropriate, vets can also perform allergy testing to help you get to the bottom of things.” In other words, allergy testing can help determine if your pet is allergic to other things than food. Pets with food allergies may require lifelong special prescription diets.
Pollens, molds and other environmental allergens can bother your cat or dog, too. “Pets with seasonal allergies can be treated both with long-term medications, or they can be desensitized to their allergens through allergen-specific immunotherapy (allergy shots), just like in people,” Dr. Lam explains.
Other Pets and People
Much like we can be allergic to cat or dog dander, humans have dander that our pets can be allergic to as well. And cats and dogs can even be allergic to each other’s dander. There is a different allergen in felines, known as the fel D1 protein. It is often found in saliva and oil gland secretions and likely plays a role in canine allergies to cats, too, Dr. Lam says. If allergy tests show your dog or cat is allergic to you, allergy shots are a long-term medical option.