Owners often think allergies are an issue for animals in spring and summer. However, allergies can be an all year problem and fall and winter can be even more of an issue for some animals. As it gets cooler outside, animals will likely be spending more time indoors. This results in increased exposure to allergens (substances in the environment that can cause allergic reactions) such as dust mites, human and animal danders, fleas and moulds.
There are two different types of allergy issues we see in animals. Environmental allergies are often referred to as a condition called atopy. This can be a significant issue and is becoming very common in our pets. We can also see sensitivities to different foods. Environmental allergies often present as very itchy and red skin, with possible hair loss and skin discharge. The areas affected normally are the legs, face and belly but every animal can be different and the parts of the body affected can vary between cats and dogs. Often animals will develop these issues at a young age and typically have a lifelong problem. To determine if your animal has an environmental allergy, blood testing and other allergy testing such as intradermal allergy testing is available. Ideally, avoidance of identified allergens would be best but it is not always possible. Allergy testing can ultimately lead to development of an ‘allergy vaccine’ that may be useful in desensitizing your animal to the problem allergens. There are also medications available to help with atopy. Topical treatments such as shampoos can be useful to remove allergens and help with skin irritation. A consult with a veterinary dermatologist can also be very helpful.