Allergies are a confusing topic in the pet world, and many pet owners are uncertain whether their cat or dog truly suffers from allergies, what actually causes them, and how to best manage the problem. Unfortunately, many myths abound about pet allergies, and our team has heard some interesting, albeit untrue, tidbits concerning this condition. In some cases, suggestions garnered online can be downright harmful for pets, so always stick with a trusted source for all your pet-care information. To help you sort facts from fiction, we’ve dispelled some of the most common myths concerning allergies in pets.
Myth: Corn is the biggest culprit in pet allergies
Truth: Corn has long been bullied as a subpar pet-food ingredient, but it’s actually an excellent source of energy and valuable nutrients. A pet’s food allergy is rarely triggered by corn, but rather by proteins, such as chicken, lamb, beef, eggs, and dairy products. Rest assured, the corn in your pet’s diet is highly unlikely to be causing their allergies.
Myth: Itchy skin has nothing to do with pet allergies
Truth: When your allergies flare up, you’re likely to sneeze, become congested, and have itchy, watery eyes. On the other hand, your pet’s allergies are much more likely to manifest in their skin. If your pet has allergies, you may notice any combination of the following signs:
- Red, inflamed, irritated skin
- Licking at the paws
- Rubbing at the face
- Small red bumps on the skin
- Chronic ear infections
- Scooting along the floor
- Skin infections and hot spots
- Gastrointestinal problems
Some pets may sneeze and have eye drainage, but upper respiratory allergy signs are much less common than skin issues.
Myth: Benadryl is highly effective for pet allergies
Truth: When we suffer from seasonal allergies, we pop some Benadryl, but this popular antihistamine is less likely to be effective for your pet. Antihistamines work well for the upper respiratory signs associated with allergies, but tend to have little effect on itchy skin. If anything, they’re more likely to cause mild sedation in your pet, making them sleep more and become less focused on scratching and chewing. Fortunately for your uncomfortable pet, numerous effective options are available.
Myth: My pet will grow out of their allergies
Truth: While you may have outgrown your childhood allergies, that is unlikely in your furry pal, since allergies tend to worsen with age as the cat or dog is repeatedly exposed to an unavoidable allergen. This progression requires changes in their treatment protocol for maximum efficacy.
Myth: Allergies in pets are most likely caused by their food
Truth: One of the most common myths we hear is that food—grain, in particular—causes pet allergies. Truthfully, food causes few pet allergies, and grain is an extremely rare allergen. Your pet is more likely to have an allergy—or allergies—to any of the following allergens:
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Cleaning products
- Aerosol sprays
Choosing to feed your pet grain-free food because of a potential allergy will probably not help, and may harm them. The FDA is currently investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), which is a heart condition in dogs that cropped up soon after the grain-free marketing fad, and appears to affect dog breeds that are not known to have this disease normally.
Myth: Allergies are simple to diagnose and treat in pets
Truth: Pinpointing the exact cause of your pet’s allergies can be difficult, because they often have more than one trigger. The gold standard for diagnosing pet allergies is intradermal testing, which requires sedation and injecting allergens right under your pet’s skin. Your pet’s reactions are noted, and your pet’s allergen profile is completed, so you’ll know the substances in your environment that cause an allergy flare. Blood testing can also be effective at diagnosing your pet’s allergies, but neither method is useful for food allergies. Instead, a food trial must be performed over about eight weeks, during which your pet eats only a hypoallergenic diet. And, since a pet’s allergies are always evolving, their treatment plan must, as well. What worked well last spring at staving off ear infections and itchy paws may not work as well this year, and a new protocol must be developed. Managing your pet’s allergies to keep them comfortable is a lifelong battle.
Allergies can make your furry pal miserable, as they lick, chew, and scratch their skin raw. Get your pet prompt relief from itchy allergies by scheduling an appointment with their primary care veterinarian, or contact our team at AIMSS for urgent care for a hot spot or other allergy flare.