Photo by Daan Franken
As well as people, cats and dogs can develop allergies to various substances they face in daily life. Common allergy symptoms in cats and dogs include:

- sneezing and watery eyes,
- itchy skin and, as a result, excessive scratching,
- inflamed skin and hot spots,
- itchy ears,
- digestive disorders such as vomiting and diarrhea,
- chewing on feet and legs.

While steroids and antihistamines may help alleviate the symptoms, they won't have a long term effect if the allergy source isn't eliminated and the pet's immune system isn't supported. You pet will have to take those medications over and over again, and medication dependence is hardly what a pet owner wants. Treating symptoms without treating the cause can't be called an efficient approach. If your pet suffers from an allergy, one of the first things you should do is to identify the allergen(s) and reduce your pets exposure to them.

The most common types of allergies that are found in cats and dogs are listed below.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis, also known as Atopy and Inhalant Dermatitis, is a reaction to a substance that is inhaled, for example dust or pollen. The symptoms of atopy in cats and dogs include excessive licking and scratching, red, scaly skin with or without raised areas, head shaking, saliva stains on the skin and hair, thickened skin, increased skin pigmentation. Treatment of atopic dermatitis should be based on the following actions.

• Identify the allergen(s) and reduce your pet's exposure to them. The most common allergy sources are dust, mold, pollen, floor and other house cleaners (chemicals), air fresheners, dish detergents, plastic food bowls, etc.
• Bathe your pet with an anti-itch moisturising shampoo or lotion every week. Reduce bathing frequency if you've managed to spot the allergy source, and the allergy symptoms gradually go away.
• Provide your pet with Omega 3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids have been known to help create a protective barrier in the skin to block out irritants and infections.
• Support your pet's immune system by switching it to a high protein, low carb, moderate fat diet. Avoid commercial pet food with corn and other grains.

Flea Bite Dermatitis

Flea Bite Dermatitis is a reaction to substances in flea saliva. Dogs and cats with flea bite dermatitis will intensively bite, scratch and rub their skin, especially near the base of the tail. A closer examination will reveal red, swollen skin. Treatment of flea bite dermatitis should be based on the following actions.

• Flea control by means of flea collars, sprays, powders and shampoos. Products with herbal ingredients such as Rosemary should be preferred to those with chemicals because natural ingredients are less likely to cause adverse side effects or another allergy.
• Use natural herbal creams to alleviate the symptoms, reduce the inflammation, relieve pain and swelling.
• Support your pet's immune system by switching it to a high protein, low carb, moderate fat diet. Avoid commercial pet food with corn and other grains.

Food Allergies

Food Allergy is a reaction to certain foods or food ingredients. Dogs and cats that suffer from food allergies will exhibit the following symptoms: diarrhea, enteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, vomiting and malabsorption. Food allergies can also result in chronic ear infections, skin disorders and respiratory problems.

If you think your pet suffers from a food allergy, try to identify the problematic food. Withdraw the suspect foods from the pet's diet one by one. If the symptoms have reduced, you have probably found the culprit. Additionally, IGE blood testing can be done to diagnose a food allergy.

Please note that sometimes more than one food can cause allergies in sensitive pets. In addition, the allergenic ingredient(s) may be included in several foods in your pet's diet. For example, pet foods with corn and grains are often blamed for causing lots of reactions in cats and dogs. Obviously, if your pet is corn-allergic and you switch it from one corn-based brand to another corn-based brand, it won't help much. Instead, switch your pet to a high protein, low carb, moderate fat diet, such as a raw, home-made, or grain-free diet.

Since identifying food allergies can take a lot of time, food supplements may help alleviate the allergy symptoms while you work on determining the cause. Supplements with glutamine, probiotics, or enyzymes can be used when the allergy results in digestive system disorders (vomiting, diarrhea). Supplements with Omega-3 fatty acids can be used when the allergy results in skin disorders.

After the problematic food (ingredient) has been found and eliminated, the allergy symptoms should gradually reduce. If the damage was severe, your veterinarian should advise further treatment directed at the organs or systems that have been affected.