Does your pet scratch, chew and bite him/herself more than usual? These symptoms may mean that your pet is having an allergic reaction to something in your home. That's right: Pets can have allergies, just like people. The only difference is that while human allergy sufferers tend to get red eyes and runny noses, pet symptoms are usually skin and ear infections.
The 3 most common allergy sources for pets are fleas, airborne allergens (inhalants) and food. Pets can also be allergic to pollen, dust, and mold growth. These allergens can cling to porous hard floor surfaces and carpet, so installing hypoallergenic pet-friendly flooring is recommended. Hypoallergenic floors to consider are cork, laminate, concrete, linoleum, and bamboo. Hypoallergenic products are designed to contain the fewest possible allergens to minimize the chance of an allergic reaction
Veterinarians can generally verify the source of pet allergies by conducting an allergy skin test. During this process, different substances are injected into your pet to see whether or not they cause a reaction. Once the source of your pet's allergies is determined, a series of injections are given to your pet to help control their symptoms.
Pet Allergies - Airborne Allergens (Inhalants)
If your pet has been scratching, biting, chewing his/her feet and/or tail, and licking more than usual, there is a good possibility that airborne allergens could be the culprit. Harmful inhalants include chemicals found in flooring (volatile organic compounds), flooring adhesives (such as formaldehyde), carpet fresheners and household cleaners.
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are high-pressure chemicals that turn into gas and eventually enter the air. They can be found in carpet backing, some wood preservatives, and paint thinners.
Inhalant allergy symptoms:
- Ear flaps turn red and become hot
- Pet rubs his/her face on the floor
While cool baths and medicated shampoos won't cure your pet's allergies, they can help relieve their symptoms. For more urgent allergy situations, professional veterinarians suggest allergy shots, antihistamines, and omega-3 and omega-6 (fatty acids such as fish oil). Corticosteroids (a type of steroid) can help reduce inflammation and pet itchiness; however, they can also lead to diabetes, seizures, and behavioral changes. Most veterinarians recommend using steroid-based drugs only when a pet is in extreme discomfort and needs immediate relief.
The treatments above are only temporary. Rather than solve the problem with a short-term solution, figure out the exact source of your pet's allergies. Once you know what's causing your pet's distress, you can remove all traces to help reduce allergy attacks.
Pet Allergies - Food
Food sensitivity accounts for about 10% of dogs who suffer from allergies. Most pet owners tend to overlook food as the allergy cause because they've been feeding their pets the same food all their lives. But just as with people, animals can develop allergies to certain foods over time.
Food allergy symptoms:
Foods that are commonly the cause of animal allergies include milk, whey, eggs, pork, beef, chicken, soy, corn, and wheat. Many of these ingredients can be found in most dog foods. Speak to your veterinarian about steps you can take to determine the source of your pet's allergies.
Pet Allergies - Flea
Flea allergy treatment is different than treatments for food and inhalant sensitivity, as symptoms from flea bites tend to be more severe. A bite from a single flea can cause an allergic reaction for up to 7 days, and results in skin abrasions (cuts), hair loss, and sores. While chemical ointments can help rid your pet of fleas, most types are very strong and can further irritate skin as well as cause seizures.
When fleas are present in your home, only about 5% of the population is actually on your pet. The other 95% is on your floor. For this reason it's important that you routinely vacuum, sweep and mop all of your floor surfaces. You can also reduce the risk of fleas by installing a hypoallergenic, pet-friendly floor. Check out our pet-friendly FAQ section to find answers to all of your flooring questions.