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Allergic Reactions in Pets: A Comprehensive Guide

Pets are not immune to uncomfortable and, in some cases, life-threatening allergic reaction signs. Numerous allergens can trigger a pet’s allergies, and their reaction can vary in severity. The best way to prevent your pet from experiencing a severe allergic reaction is to understand common allergens, know the signs, and provide treatment for your pet at home or by ensuring they receive professional veterinary care. Our Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital team explains pet allergies and reactions, so you can help your pet remain comfortable and prevent them from experiencing a life-threatening emergency. 

Common pet allergens

Allergies arise when a pet’s immune system overreacts to foreign substances (i.e., allergens), triggering a hypersensitive reaction. These allergen types can trigger a pet’s allergic response:

  • Environmental allergens – Pets can react to substances in their environment. Pollen from grasses, trees, or flowers, mold spores, dust mites, and dander from other animals can all cause allergic reactions.
  • Insect bites — An insect bite can lead to a localized bite site reaction. However, for a pet who is allergic to the offending insect’s saliva, the reaction can be severe. Potential insect allergens include:
    • Fleas — The most common insect allergy in pets is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). When a flea bites a pet, the bug injects saliva into their host’s skin. Some pets are allergic to flea saliva, which can lead to an intense allergic reaction resulting in severe itching, redness, inflammation, and secondary skin infections that occur because of excessive scratching.
    • Bees, wasps, and hornets — A bee, wasp, or hornet sting can cause a pet’s allergic reaction. Some pets experience a mild localized reaction that results in swelling, redness, and pain at the sting site. However, other pets can experience anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can cause rapid swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or throat, leading to breathing difficulties, vomiting, and collapse. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention.
    • Spiders — While not all spiders are harmful to pets, a bite from certain species, such as the brown recluse or black widow, can cause a severe reaction that is beyond typical allergy signs such as muscle pain and cramping, and fever. 

Allergic reaction signs in pets

By being able to identify your pet’s allergic reaction signs quickly, you can help your pet get relief as soon as possible and prevent their reaction from worsening. If your pet is having a severe allergic reaction, early detection may save their life. Keep an eye out for one or more of these signs:

  • Respiratory distress (e.g., wheezing, gasping)
  • Collapse
  • Facial swelling (e.g., cheeks, muzzle, lips, eyelids)
  • Hives, welts, or rash
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchiness

Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction and can cause the body to go into shock. Typically, anaphylactic reactions develop only minutes after contact with an allergen. Anaphylactic reaction signs include typical allergic reaction signs, such as itchiness, facial swelling, and hives, but this life-threatening condition can also lead to difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, severe vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Left untreated, anaphylaxis can progress to collapse, convulsions, and potentially death. If your pet develops an anaphylactic reaction, seek immediate emergency veterinary treatment.

What do to do if your pet has an allergic reaction

Unless your pet is experiencing anaphylaxis, you can treat most of your pet’s allergic reaction signs at home. To prevent your pet’s allergic reaction signs from worsening, you can help manage their discomfort by following these tips: 

  • Remove the allergen — If you know the cause of your pet’s allergic reaction, remove the allergen immediately. If your pet has been stung, remove the stinger. If your four-legged friend came in contact with a chemical, wash their skin thoroughly with soap and water. 
  • Maintain calm — Stress can exacerbate an allergic reaction, so try to keep your pet as calm and comfortable as possible. A quiet, familiar environment can help reduce their stress level.
  • Monitor your pet — After your pet has been exposed to an allergen, keep a close eye on them. If your four-legged friend begins having breathing difficulties, seek immediate emergency veterinary care.
  • Contact your veterinarian before giving medication — Antihistamines can help diminish your pet’s allergic reaction. However, always contact your veterinarian before administering a medication to your pet.

A pet’s allergic reaction, whether mild or severe, is concerning because your furry pal can experience life-threatening signs. If you suspect your pet is having an allergic reaction, contact our Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital team to ensure your pet gets the care they need.

By |2023-08-22T00:03:46+00:00August 22nd, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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