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My Pet has Allergies... Now What?

Published by Ellie Phipps on April 10, 2024

My Pet has Allergies... Now What?

It is becoming more and more common that pets are diagnosed with allergies. This doesn't always become apparent early in life and may be triggered by a sudden change.

So how do you know if your pet might have allergies?

The first signs of an allergic reaction in pets is skin irritation. You may notice this in a number of different ways:

  • Scratching
  • Licking
  • Rubbing against other items
  • Red/sore patches
  • Flaky skin
  • Hair loss
  • Itchy ears
  • Repeated skin or ear infections


How can I stop them itching?

The first and most important step is a vet visit. They may require anti inflammatory treatment to break the itch-scratch cycle, which ultimately makes the condition much worse if left. 

A full exam for any other causes and an exam of the ears (if involved) is important to rule out any other problems. 


But what about long term?

Next, it's vital to consider the bigger more long term picture. There are many options for diagnosing allergies including:

  • Referral skin patch testing
  • Blood test
  • Trial and error with management changes

These options come with different costs and time commitments so it's important to discuss with your vet to decide which method suits you and your pet the best. 

Allergic flare ups may be caused by a number of different allergens that affect different pets to differing degrees, including:


  • Fleas - many pets (especially cats) can be allergic to flea saliva from bites.
  • Mites and other skin parasites can also cause irritation and reactions.
    • Ensure your pet is up to date with appropriate parasite prevention. 
  • Diets often cause issues for pets, a change may be noticed when the diet is changed or a gradual deterioration may be seen over time. 
  • Pets are usually allergic to one of the meat proteins within the diet (i.e. lamb, beef, chicken etc).
    • Hypoallergenic diets have the meat protein already broken down, meaning the pet can't react to it. These diets are especially helpful when trying to determine whether diet is a factor.
    • Feeding a novel protein is where the pet is fed on a diet based on a meat protein that they haven't come across before. In most cases this requires a home cooked diet using meats such as crocodile or kangroo etc. Some pets may be able to swap solely onto a fish or chicken diet if their diet has always been very specific. 
    • It is important to be aware that when waiting to see if a diet is beneficial it can take 3 months to see an improvement.
    • You may notice your pet only flares up at certain times of year.
    • Common seasonal allergens include: pollen, grasses, grass seed, tree sap/leaves, grit etc.
    • These allergens are commonly only present at certain times of year meaning a pattern may be noticed.
      • Often these allergens can't be avoided but the aim should be to minimise contact.
      • Avoiding areas where these allergens are present if possible will help.
      • Washing off paws, legs and belly after contact (i.e. walks) will help by minimising contact time of the allergens with the skin.
      Environmental (Home)
      • A number of products used within the home can cause a flare up, these are usually perfumed products.
      • Products include: air fresheners, washing powders, disinfectants, shampoos etc.
      • Perfumed products used by groomers may also cause issues such as shampoos and body sprays.
      • House dust mites are present in all houses, especially soft furnishings. 
        • Using non-perfumed/non-bio products usually helps to prevent a flare up to these types of products.
        • House dust mites can be minimised by vacuuming, but it is important to shut the pet out of the room for 2 hours after vacuuming due to aerosolised mites.

        It is important to be aware that most pets will be allergic to a number of different things and not just one allergen. They will usually require a number of these allergens to be present before having a flare up, which may vary in severity depending on the type and number of allergens present.



        If the pet has had allergy tests the option of a vaccine used to give micro-doses of their allergens can be beneficial. This usually helps to reduce the pet's reaction to these items in future.

        Avoiding contact with the allergens will help to keep the pet below the 'flare threshold', meaning they are less likely to flare up and should have improved tolerance for allergens.

        Medication can be used in cases where the allergens are unavoidable or the condition cannot be managed by other means. There are a number of different medications now on the market for managing allergies in pets so it is important to work with your vet to find the right one for you and your pet if required. 


        Ellie Phipps BVSc MRCVS