From sniffles to skin sores

Allergies in Dogs and Cats

These can be major or minor, and almost all are treatable in some way.

Dogs and cats can suffer from many different types of allergies, from ‘hay fever’ type allergies (called atopy in animals), to food intolerances or even reactions to plants in the garden.

Below is a quick rundown of the most common allergies that occur in dogs and cats, how to recognise a problem, and what we can do to help.

Any itchiness in your dog or cat should be taken seriously, it is NOT normal for your pet to be scratching constantly. Book in a skin check with one of our vets today!

Fleas and flea allergy dermatitis

Fleas are a year-round problem in Australia but can be worse during the summer months. Many dogs and cats have an allergy to flea saliva and just one flea bite can cause extreme itchiness, hair loss and irritation. Often the problem is localised around the base of the tail, but in severe cases it can cause break-outs anywhere on the body. For dogs, we recommend BRAVECTO, a safe and effective tasty chew that protects against fleas and paralysis ticks for 3 months. For cats, we recommend ACTIVYL, a monthly spot-on product for flea control, or FRONTLINE spray if your cat is also at risk of paralysis ticks.

Other skin allergies in dogs and cats can be broadly divided into three types: atopy (airborne allergy), contact allergy and food allergy.

Atopy in Dogs and Cats

Atopy in dogs and cats is like hay fever in people. Your pet can be allergic to almost anything – pollens, dust mites, tobacco smoke, fungal spores…the list goes on. Symptoms include hair loss, itching, red and irritated skin and secondary skin and/or ear infections.

If atopy is suspected in your pet, we can perform a HESKA blood test to work out exactly what your pet is allergic to and then treat them with ‘desensitisation’, where tiny amounts of the allergens are given via injections to gradually build up resistance. A medication can also help to give relief from itching and other allergy symptoms and doesn’t have the side effects associated with steroid (cortisone) treatment.

Contact allergy

Contact allergies, as the name suggests, happen when the animal comes into direct contact with the allergic substance which is often a grass or plant. Typically, the feet, muzzle and under the belly are affected. Medicated washes and creams can often help with contact allergy, as well as prescription medications.

Food allergy

Food allergies can occur in dogs and cats of any age. Despite the recent popularity of ‘grain-free’ diets for pets, true food allergies are more commonly caused by proteins or dairy, with beef, chicken, lamb and fish being the most common offenders in dogs. Dogs and cats are often allergic to more than one thing. We will often recommend a diet trial with a hypoallergenic food for 8-12 weeks after which the pet is ‘challenged’ with one particular food at a time to discover what sets off the allergic reaction.

Chocolate toxicity in dogs

It’s important to remember that all that delicious chocolate is extremely toxic for our pooches. Dogs love the taste of chocolate as much as we do, so keep chocolate out of reach at all times. Be wary of low lying chocolate, or during Easter, make sure you find ALL the eggs during any egg hunts around the house!

How are Dogs Allergic to chocolate?

The compounds in chocolate that are poisonous to dogs are theobromine and to a lesser extent caffeine, found in chocolate as well as coffee and energy drinks. The concentration of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate. Cocoa powder, cooking chocolate and dark chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate.

Symptoms if your Dog eats Chocolate

The early symptoms of chocolate poisoning are usually vomiting and diarrhoea, which can occur 2-4 hours after ingestion. Restlessness, hyperactivity and excessive urination can be other early signs. Advanced symptoms can include muscle stiffness, high heart rate and temperature, panting, seizures, coma and eventually death, as soon as 12-36 hours after ingestion if a lethal dose is consumed.

If you suspect your dog has eaten ANY type of chocolate or food containing chocolate contact a vet immediately, no matter the time of day or night. It is helpful to know how much chocolate and of what type was ingested, so keep any wrappers or packaging if possible.

Treatment for Dogs that eat chocolate

Treatment for chocolate toxicity will involve making your dog vomit if the chocolate was ingested recently. We will also give activated charcoal to soak up any remaining chocolate in the intestines before it is absorbed. If enough time has passed that some chocolate has already been digested we will also recommend intravenous fluids and monitoring in hospital, as well as any symptomatic treatment for vomiting, diarrhoea or any other symptoms if they are occurring.

Your dog has the best chance of recovery if chocolate ingestion is caught and treated early, so be vigilant, especially around Easter!