Just like humans, cats and dogs are affected by asthma and allergies–which are really just a hypersensitivity of the immune system. It’s common enough for pets to be talked about with May as Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Dogs and cats are mostly affected by inhalants, food allergies, and flea allergies. Asthma is different than allergies. It’s a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult, but it can be exacerbated by allergies. [photo via flickr]
Of those three most common allergens, fleas are the most prevalent. Pets will get a reaction to the flea bites on their skin. The best way to avoid flea allergies is to use a good flea prevention method. If fleas are detected, they should be effectively removed from the pet and the household immediately to prevent further discomfort to the pet and the humans in the home.
Like some people are allergic to dust, mold, and/or pollen, pets can be allergic to common particles that float through the air. This kind of allergy presents itself in a dog much the same as in a human–itchy skin, eyes, tail base, and ears, sneezing, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. A vet will need to diagnose the allergy, possibly with the help of an allergist using a skin test. The best way to relieve allergy symptoms is to keep away from what causes them, in the case of pollen and dust, however, this is a nearly impossible task. Dogs can take allergy medication to help relieve their symptoms.
Food allergies are less common in dogs than humans. A food allergy will present itself as gastronomical distress. If after trying different brands of food without favorable results, a vet will need to diagnose which food or chemical used in the food processing is causing the allergy. Once the offending food or chemical is found, a diet without it should clear up any problems.
Finally, a pet’s airways are always inflamed when they have asthma. It’s more likely for a cat to develop this than a dog. The most common symptom of asthma in cats is a frequent cough. This can often be misdiagnosed as just hairball problems. In fact, asthma is often initially thought to be another disease such as heart failure or pneumonia. Chest x-rays and other tests are needed to properly diagnose asthma, which can be treated with medication and even inhalers. That’s exactly the reason why we need things like an Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month–and May is a good choice, as fleas and pollen and other irritants start flying around. So watch the skies and, more importantly, watch your pets!