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Dermatology 101

Allergies in Cats and Dogs

Mary Sakai


Spring is here, and with it comes increased pollen counts and the start of another allergy season!  To start off the allergy season, we’d like to give you a general overview of allergic skin and ear disease syndromes in dogs and cats.

There are three major allergic skin and ear disease syndromes seen in dogs and cats: flea allergy dermatitis, environmental allergies (aka atopic dermatitis), and food allergies.  The primary symptom of allergies in dogs and cats is itching.  Itching manifests as excessive scratching, licking, biting, rubbing, and chewing.  Skin rashes, greasy skin and coat, bad odor, bacterial or yeast skin and ear infections are also commonly seen in allergic pets.  Since all of the allergic syndromes have similar or even identical symptoms, determining which type(s) of allergies your pet has can be a complicated process. 

Flea allergy dermatitis is probably the overall most common type of allergic skin disease seen in dogs and cats.  See our previous blog entry for detailed information on this type of allergy.

The second most common type of allergic skin disease in dogs and cats is atopic dermatitis.  In animals with atopic dermatitis, allergic skin/ear symptoms are triggered by exposure to allergens in the environment such as tree, grass or weed pollens, dust, dust mites, some insects, and molds.  Atopic dermatitis can be active year-round, or only part of the year during an individual pet’s specific allergy season.

Of the three major allergy syndromes we have mentioned, food allergy is the least common.  Twenty to thirty percent of dogs and cats with food allergy dermatitis may also have concurrent gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, soft stool, diarrhea, or excessive gas.

Check our website monthly for future blog entries with more information about diagnosis and treatment options for atopic dermatitis and food allergies.