Is your dog or cat constantly scratching, rolling around on the floor, or whimpering in discomfort? They’re most likely suffering from a common pet allergy: a skin condition known as atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is an allergic reaction to environmental conditions or caused by something your pet has consumed. Most pet owners never think animals are prone to allergies, which can be caused by a variety of factors — pollen, plants, insects, food and medication – but it’s common in young pets. Here’s how you can treat your pet’s skin allergy without breaking the bank.

Symptoms of Pet Skin Allergies

In order to determine whether or not your pet is suffering from allergies, it’s important to know what the symptoms of allergies like atopic dermatitis are. Atopic dermatitis is the second most common allergic skin disease among dogs, PetMD reports, but it’s also possible for felines to experience an allergic skin reaction as well.

Allergies like this can be activated by outdoor environmental factors such as grass, pollen, plants, and insects. However, indoor factors such as household mold spores and dust mites can also cause a reaction. The most common signs associated with the skin allergy include scratching, itching, rubbing and licking. The constant itching and scratching can lead to redness, and you may start to notice your pet starting to lose hair in patches. The most common areas affected include:

  • Around the eyes
  • Underarms
  • Paws
  • Groin
  • Muzzle
  • Ankles
  • Wrists
  • Ears

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can worsen over time, so it’s important to take your pet to their vet if you notice these signs and symptoms.

Pet Allergies Can Harm Humans

You may think your pet’s allergy only affects them – but in reality it can cause a ripple effect. You could quickly find both you and your pet suffering from allergies together. This is because the allergen spreads when your dog or cat scratches its fur. Every scratch releases dead flakes of skin (or dander) into the air, according to the Mayo Clinic, which can cause you to have a reaction as you breathe in that dander or get it on your skin. Some pet owners experience signs of asthma, while milder symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and a frequent cough.

Diagnosing Pet Allergies

If you suspect your pet has developed a skin disorder or allergy, it’s best to take them to your veterinarian right away. The vet will be able to complete a variety of tests to determine what’s causing the skin allergy. The vet may also perform intradermal testing where small amounts of allergens are injected in your pet’s skin and observed for any kind of reaction.
Once this testing is complete, you’ll know exactly what it is that’s sparking your pet’s allergy – and that’s the very first step in figuring out how to treat their discomfort.

How to Treat Pet Allergies

There are a number of affordable solutions to help your four-legged friend feel as comfortable as possible when experiencing a skin allergy. A temporary solution for pain relief is giving your companion a bath with hypoallergenic shampoos. These shampoos are designed to remove any allergy-causing dander on their skin. Changing your pet’s diet to include Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can also give them some relief. Limiting your pet’s exposure to certain allergens can also be effective, but not always practical.

Again, if your pet develops signs of atopic dermatitis, it’s best they be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will be able to determine what treatment will work for your pet. Treatment options include:

Immunotherapy (Hypersensitization): This method is a series of injections made from allergens to help your pet build up a tolerance to these substances. Owners can usually give these injections at home and can alternatively be administered by mouth.

Anti-inflammatory medications: Medications such as Apoquel®, Atopica®, fatty acid supplements, prednisone, may be prescribed to help provide your pet itching relief, without the use of steroids.

Antibacterial and anti-fungal medications: Pets with atopic dermatitis can develop recurrent bacterial and yeast infections of the skin and ears. Treatment may include antibiotics like Convenia®, Simplicef®, cephalexin, fluconazole, or ketoconazole.

Once the right treatment has begun, your pet will need to see your veterinarian every two to eight weeks to observe the effectiveness of the treatment. If your veterinarian does happen to find a possible cause for the skin allergy, it’s best to keep your pet away from the allergen, if possible. That’s ultimately the best – and most affordable – way to ensure your cat or dog is free from allergies and skin conditions for the long haul.

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