Allergies in Pets: A Primer

Photo: Adrian Jack Bunsby

Photo: Adrian Jack Bunsby

Does your cat or dog lick themselves excessively, have watery eyes or digestive upset? If so, this could be a sign of allergies.

Just like humans, cats and dogs can suffer from allergies (when the immune system overreacts to proteins in food or the environment). Common environmental allergies include: reactions to flea bites, grasses/trees/weeds, dust mites, and mold. Common food allergies include: beef, pork (mainly in cats), chicken, turkey, wheat gluten, dairy, eggs, and soy. Many cats and dogs experience both types of allergies.


Diagnosing an allergy often involves ruling out other conditions (e.g. mange or infections) as well as testing either through the systematic elimination of possible allergens or skin testing (just like in humans). Some vets recommend blood tests however these are limited to environmental allergens as they are not a reliable test for food allergens.


Depending on the cause of the allergy, treatment could include bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo (to remove allergens such as pollen from the fur), a flea control program, drugs (antihistamines, steroids, etc), using omega fatty acid supplements, or eliminating specific food ingredients.

If you believe your furry friend could be suffering from a allergy, it’s important to visit your vet before starting any treatments since there are other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.