Wait, My Pet Has Allergies?

Here's how to find out—and get some relief for your dog or cat.

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Just like people, some animals have immune systems that overreact when exposed to certain triggers, such as pollen, mold spores, dust, smoke and perfume.

Although any dog can suffer from allergies, they tend to be more common in purebreds, such as terriers and retrievers, says Lori Bierbrier, DVM, a staff veterinarian for the ASPCA. Cats, however, are equal-opportunity sneezers.

Time to call in the relief options out there for pets with allergies.

Red Alert

Allergy sufferers can display several unpleasant symptoms, including itchy red skin and increased scratching, regular ear infections and constant licking. If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs, a trip to the vet should be your next step.

Professional Aid

Your vet will try to determine the cause through a standard exam or blood work, or order a skin test at a specialist's office. She may then prescribe medicated shampoos or oral medicines before trying allergy shots, depending on your pet's needs, says Bierbrier.

Squeaky-Clean

Vacuum at least once a week to eliminate dust, pollen and other allergens that are tracked indoors, and wash your pet's bedding often. Bathing with a prescription shampoo can also help soothe itching and remove irritants from your pet's coat. Cats may prefer a waterless bath product, which is like a dry shampoo that's brushed into the fur—sparing you the potent rage of a wet feline.

Natural Remedies

Some supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may relieve itching and skin inflammation. Ask your vet about adding them to your pet's diet to fight symptoms. Never give an animal products made for humans without consulting your vet, says Bierbrier.

Flea-Bitten

Pets can also be allergic to fleas—just one bite may cause severe, long-lasting itching. Topical prescription meds are your best bet to combat the pests, along with regular vacuuming to prevent an infestation.

Photo Credit: Cameron Palanjian Sadeghpour

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