Like people, cats and dogs can suffer from allergies, and may develop acute or chronic conditions that can affect their health and wellbeing. By learning how to recognize an allergic reaction in your pet, you can take immediate action to reduce their discomfort. Then, once you can identify a pattern in your pet’s allergies, you can formulate a plan to minimize their exposure to prevent future problems. Read through our Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team’s in-depth guide on managing your pet’s allergic reactions.

How to identify allergic reactions in your pet

Allergies in pets often appear differently than they do in people, and the triggering allergen also can define your pet’s clinical signs. Most commonly, your pet will display the following signs, based on whether they have an acute or chronic allergic reaction:

  • Skin problems — Skin issues, like inflammation, irritation, and infections, are the most common problems seen with allergies. For example, if a bee stings your pet, an inflamed swelling will erupt. Environmental allergies to such things as grasses, pollens, or molds can cause generalized itchiness, inflammation, and hives. Affected pets may scratch, lick, and chew so much that they damage the skin enough to cause a bacterial or yeast infection.
  • Gastrointestinal issues — Vomiting and diarrhea can develop in pets with food sensitivities, or if they experience a severe acute allergic reaction, also known as an anaphylactic reaction. Food allergies typically are caused by a protein source, like chicken, lamb, beef, fish, dairy, eggs, or soy. Anaphylactic reactions can develop in response to any allergen, provided the pet has a severe enough hypersensitivity. 
  • Respiratory conditions — While people generally develop respiratory symptoms, allergic pets are less likely to exhibit coughing and sneezing. Severe allergic reactions also may result in difficulty breathing, especially if the pet’s face or muzzle swells.

How to immediately manage your pet’s allergic reaction

In many cases, you can administer at-home care to manage your pet’s allergic reaction. Sometimes, first aid is needed to stabilize your pet’s condition before you seek veterinary care.

If you suspect your pet is having an allergic reaction, follow these steps:

  • Remove the allergen — If you know what triggered your pet’s allergic reaction, remove the culprit (e.g., bee stinger, food), then move your pet from the area. If your pet came in contact with an allergen, they may need a bath to strip the offending substance from their skin. 
  • Contact your veterinarian — Call your Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital veterinarian for advice on what care your pet needs. Based on your pet’s clinical signs and previous history of allergen exposure, we can provide the best guidance on whether you can manage their reaction at home or if they need veterinary treatment.
  • Administer prescribed medication — If your pet previously has been diagnosed with allergies and prescribed medication to combat a reaction, administer it as directed. Avoid giving over-the-counter (OTC) products without veterinary direction.
  • Monitor vital signs — Allergic reactions can progress quickly. Keep a close eye on your pet and evaluate their:
    • Heart rate
    • Respiratory rate and effort
    • Level of awareness
    • Skin condition

Pets developing an anaphylactic reaction also may vomit or have diarrhea. 

When to head to your veterinarian for your pet’s allergic reaction

Not all allergic reactions require veterinary treatment, but if your pet’s signs are severe, or if they continue to worsen or do not improve, they need additional care. Allergic reactions can escalate rapidly, so if you suspect your pet’s condition is worsening, do not wait. Head to our hospital immediately.

To help us provide your pet with the most effective, efficient care, come prepared with the following information:

  • Exposure details — Share any information you can think of regarding recent changes in your pet’s environment, diet, or potential allergen exposure. For example, switching foods, spending more time outside, or camping over the weekend are concerns to note.
  • Medical history — Describe any other allergic reactions you have noticed in your pet and when they occurred. Seasonal allergies typically follow a pattern, while acute reactions can occur immediately after exposure. 
  • Current medications — Let us know if your pet is on any current medications and when they took their last dose. For example, if your pet takes Apoquel for allergies, tell us how much you have been giving them and how frequently.

How to prevent future allergic reactions in your pet

The keys to preventing or minimizing the severity of future allergic reactions in your pet include:

  • Allergen identification — To learn what substances trigger allergies in your pet, intradermal (skin) or serum (blood) allergy testing may be recommended. If a food allergy is suspected, a food trial lasting 8 to 12 weeks can identify allergenic ingredients.
  • Allergen avoidance — Once you know what your pet is allergic to, take steps to limit their exposure. This may mean keeping your pet out of the grass as much as possible, changing their diet and treats, purchasing an air purifier, or switching medications.
  • Allergy management — Chronic allergies can be managed successfully through a combination of therapies that may include medication, immunotherapy, prescription diets, shampoos, supplements, and topical products.

Whether your pet develops a sudden allergic reaction in response to a bee sting or other trigger, or suffers from chronic allergies, our Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team is here to help. Give us a call to schedule your furry pal’s allergy management appointment.