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Here's What to Do When Your Pet Has Allergies


While no one in my family is allergic to our dogs, our dogs have had allergies of their own. I'm convinced my dog Buffy had hay fever. Like clockwork each year when hay fever was high, he would end up with ear infections.

I'm also convinced that my current dog Sadie was allergic to the grass in New Jersey. When we adopted her, we lived in Pennsylvania. No itching and scratching, despite the hours she would spend lounging on the lawn. When we moved to New Jersey? Scratch, scratch, scratch. We recently moved back to Pennsylvania and guess what? The scratching has stopped.

Most people think about pets and allergies as having to do with food—and those are legitimate allergies, to be sure. With food allergies in humans being reported at an all-time high, veterinarians are seeing pet owners become increasingly concerned about food allergies in their pets.

But pets can also develop environmental and seasonal allergies, just like their humans. In fact, according to the Banfield 2018 State of Pet Health Report, food allergies affect just 0.2 percent of dogs and 0.1 percent of cats—meaning other causes should be explored if food allergies are suspected.

One pest pet parents often forget about is fleas. Pets can be allergic to them. This allergy has been on the rise over the past 10 years, including a 12 percent increase in dogs and a 67 percent increase in cats. My Sadie has never had fleas during her itchy-scratchy phases. Plus, I treat her and her brother, Oscar, for fleas and ticks with a monthly dose of K9 Advantix II.

Environmental allergies are also on an upward trend, according to Banfield, with a more than 30 percent increase in dogs and 11 percent increase in cats over the last decade.

Here are key findings from Banfield’s 2018 State of Pet Health Report on these three common kinds of pet allergies.

1. Flea allergies

Fleas are the most common external parasite Banfield sees on its patients. According to Banfield data, cats are twice as likely as dogs to be found with fleas. However, fleas exist in all types of weather, on outdoor and indoor pets in all 50 states, all year long. Therefore, year-round prevention with veterinarian-approved medication is key.

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2. Environmental allergies

Environmental allergens for pets vary by region and climate. That's probably why the grass in Pennsylvania is fine for Sadie,  the grass in New Jersey isn't. Many other potential environmental allergens are found in a typical pet owner’s home: pollen, dander, molds and cleaning solutions.

Related: Why Swiffer Wet Cleaning Products Are Safe for Pets.

Additionally, research has found evidence that links genetics to the development of environmental allergies in dogs. Some commonly affected breeds include:

  • Golden retrievers
  • Labrador retrievers
  • German shepherds
  • Cocker spaniels
  • Boxers
  • French bulldogs
  • West highland white terriers

Funny thing—Buffy, the dog that suffered from ear infections during hay fever season, was a cocker spaniel, golden retriever mix. So, mystery solved?

3. Food Allergies

Even though it's only a tiny percent of pets that are allergic to food, of those food-allergic dogs and cats, 30 percent are found to have another allergic skin condition. Food-allergic pets are also more prone to skin infections: Dogs are six times more likely to develop a bacterial skin infection, whereas cats are 15 times more likely. So in this instance you're dealing with a double whammy.

Keep in mind that allergic symptoms aren't just scratching. Sometimes a pet that is licking her paws excessively may be suffering from allergies.

So what's a pet parent to do? Work with your veterinarian to diagnose and treat your pet's allergies. Then, when you find a treatment or a plan that works, stick with it. It's what we ended up doing with our vet and Sadie's grass allergies. We simply had to wipe her paws after she went outside, and bathe her if she spent a lot of time in the New Jersey grass.

Scroll down to see an infographic from Banfield that provides additional information on pets and allergies, including the top five states where allergies seems to happen more often than not. Surprising to me, New Jersey did not make the top five!


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