How can I spot the signs of allergies?
What are the symptoms?
Where do allergies come from?
How can I recognize allergens and treat them? – these are the questions that guardians of cats and dogs often ask.
In this article, we will provide answers to questions about allergies in animals and help you solve this problem in your pet.
Allergies occur more often in dogs than in cats. Although it’s a common problem, it’s not an easy one to treat, mainly because it is difficult to figure out what causes it.
- What is an allergy?
The definition of the word “allergy” is well established – it’s a “state of hypersensitivity of a living organism to a given substance or substances (allergens), which develops with repeated exposure to these substances”.
- What causes allergies in animals?
Allergies in animals may be caused by very common objects in their surroundings.
Allergic reactions may also be caused by bites of fleas, parasites and insects, pollen, mold, cigarette smoke and airborne substances, vaccines and medicines, cosmetics, some types of food products, hair and dander of other animals.
There are several types of allergies in animals:
- Environmental. This type of allergy is subdivided into respiratory allergy and contact dermatitis. Respiratory reaction occurs when the animal inhales pollen, dust mites, chemical vapors. Contact dermatitis is caused by skin contact with certain plants, fabrics, household chemicals, and cosmetic products.
- Reactions to epidermal allergies. In this case, dogs and cats react to hair and dander of other animals, and might even react to their own hair during moulting.
- Allergy to insects. These are allergies to insect bites, insects themselves, and to their by-products. Most common cases in this type of allergy are reactions to fleas, ticks, wasps, bees, mosquitoes and spiders. Cats and dogs may be also allergic to viruses, fungi, bacteria, parasites and worms.
- Allergies to medications. This group includes allergic reactions to vaccines, as well as to anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal medications.
- Food allergies — reaction to substances in food products. These are mostly allergies to proteins, with symptoms such as indigestion, dermatitis, redness of the skin, difficulty breathing and swelling.
- What are the symptoms of allergies?
Food allergy is one of the five most common allergies in dogs and cats. Immune systems of allergic animals produce antibodies to substances, which normally should cause no harm. This response is called an allergic reaction, or a hypersensitive reaction.
Symptoms of food allergies in dogs
Signs of allergies in dogs are usually itching or indigestion (diarrhea or vomiting). We may also observe hyperactivity, weight loss, loss of energy and even aggression.
- What kind of food causes allergies?
The most common cause of food allergies are proteins found in milk products, beef, veal, chicken, eggs, soy and wheat gluten. Each time an animal consumes food that he or she is allergic to, his or her antibodies interact with antigens (proteins, in this case) – a process that leads to the development of symptoms.
- How is food allergy diagnosed in animals?
Consumption of hypoallergenic food is the best method of diagnosing a food allergy, which involves feeding the food to the animal for 8–12 weeks. In order to find out the cause of the allergy, it is important not to feed the animal any food that he or she ate before the treatment. No other food, treats, supplements, vitamins, medicine of liquids are allowed during this diagnostic period!
It is also useful to do a blood test, which might uncover the cause of an allergy in a dog. This test involves measuring immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) in blood serum. Consult your veterinarian to determine whether this test is necessary in your case.
- How is food allergy treated and is it possible to recover from it?
After a substance that causes food allergy is determined, a diet that does not contain this allergen is prescribed. Nowadays, there are many delicious, plant-based, hypoallergenic and non-GMO products available for cats and dogs.
In most cases, animals easily adopt their new diet and enjoy it.
Sometimes, a dog might refuse to eat the new diet that was prescribed to him or her. In such cases, you can cook home meals from ingredients that do not cause allergic reaction in your pet. It is important to ensure that these meals are properly balanced and contain all the nutrients the animal requires. Supplements specifically designed for home-based vegan pet diet will add all the required nutrients, minerals and vitamins to the food, as well as add delicious flavor to it.
- The vegan diet.
Many guardians of allergic pets are already practicing a vegan diet themselves.
Why is it a good idea to switch your pet to a vegan diet?
Plant-based food contains all the necessary ingredients for the health of your dog and cat. It does not contain GMO ingredients, lactose or gluten.
Plant-based food allows better absorption of essential nutrients and minerals, while meat-based diet requires more energy from the animal to properly digest it.
Plant-based food products do not contain allergens.
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