Signs Your Pet is Having an Allergic Reaction

So you think your dog, cat, or other pet might be having an allergic reaction?

How can you tell? There are different types of allergies but very similar reactions. While this article focuses on dogs and cats, ferrets, rabbits and many others have similar allergic reactions.

Seasonal Allergies

As it turns out, dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies just like many humans. What are some of the common triggers? Pollens, mites, fleas, molds, flowers, trees, and even grasses are to blame. But our canine friends have it worse than the kitties on this front.

Reactions for Dogs:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Ear infections
  • Constant licking, especially feet
  • Biting or chewing fur
  • Irritation around the anal area
  • Runny nose or eyes

Most cats don’t suffer from seasonal allergies. However, if pollen is heavy, they may sneeze more frequently, have a runny nose, or eyes. You can help by keeping your cat in the house and taking off your shoes at the door to stop tracking pollen inside. [1]

Food Allergies

There are many flavorings, colorings, food proteins, etc. in the food we buy our pets that can cause allergic reactions. The most common cause of food allergies is the protein in the food. Beef, fish,  pork, chicken, are some common food allergens.

Reactions for Dogs:

  • Facial itching
  • Foot chewing
  • Irritation around the anal area
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Reactions for Cats:

  • Facial itching
  • Scabs on neck or face
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

“But I’ve been feeding Mr. Whiskers the same food for years! How could that be the problem?”

That’s a good question, what do the pros say? According to Veterinarian Partner: “Food allergy requires time to develop; most animals have been eating the offending food for years with no trouble.” [2]

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions typically manifest in either a hypersensitivity reaction or an anaphylactic reaction. Hypersensitivity reactions may cause facial swelling, hives, and itching. This type of reaction is not life threatening, but does need to be addressed in a timely fashion. On the other hand, anaphylactic reactions, though not common,  need to be addressed right away.  Anaphylactic reactions are very severe and time is critical. If your pet is having trouble breathing, uncontrollable vomiting, uncontrolled bowel movements, collapsing episodes, or lethargy, they could be in anaphylactic shock. Their blood pressure has plummeted due to an allergic reaction. Thirty minutes to one hour is the critical window to get your pet treatment.  Either one of these types of reactions can be due to an insect bite, medication, or a vaccine just to name a few. [3] If you’re in the Watertown, MA area, our pet urgent care is here to help.

Allergy treatment

Allergies can sometimes be frustrating to diagnose and treat. Your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist may recommend performing allergy skin testing along with an elimination diet to help diagnose underlying allergies. Treatment will depend on the type and severity of the allergies. Most animals that are diagnosed with allergies will likely need some type of treatment throughout their lives.

It’s important to understand whether an allergic reaction is mild or severe and how quickly your pet needs treatment. Generally, many seasonal allergens can be treated by your family veterinarian, but any time you need more urgent care, that’s where we come in. Only you know your furry family members best!


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Angelika Demers, CVT

Clinical Supervisor

Angelika started her animal health career in 2014 when she attended the University of Maine Augusta, Bangor campus, for Veterinary Technology. She graduated in early 2018 and became a Certified Veterinary Technician later that year. Her internship, and first veterinary field job, was at the MSPCA Angell in Boston, where she discovered her interest in emergency medicine. Throughout the years, she has continued to advance her knowledge in the field of emergency medicine, but also in cultivating relationships with patients and clients alike to offer the best quality care. Outside of work she likes hanging out with her cat, Mew, spending time outdoors, watching game shows, and photography.