Dogs and cats have more and more allergies associated with the habitat in which they live. “In the last 20 years, the progression in the increase in allergies in these animals has been verified, something that has to do with their human environment and is characterized by an increasingly artificial diet and a contaminated environment,” explains Cesar Yotti. . Director of the Skinpet specialized dermatology center in Madrid, Yotti estimates between 10% and 15% of the canine population with atopic dermatitis, the most common skin allergy.
The most common allergies in dogs and cats are atopic dermatitis, food allergy dermatitis, and flea bite dermatitis (DAPP), which is more common in cats than in dogs. “There may also be contact reactions, although the fur of the animals protects them and is less frequent, and more specific allergies, such as to drugs or chemical products,” clarifies Yotti.
Dogs usually show allergy symptoms between the first and third year of age. “They start with itching, itching and redness and worsen due to scratching,” warns the expert, who mentions the skin folds among the most affected areas of the body. “Like the armpits, groin, neck area, the interdigital area and the auricles, although there can also be conjunctivitis,” he explains.
As for cats, they have specific allergic symptoms, which are included in the definition of Feline Cutaneous Atopic Syndrome. “They usually have respiratory complications, such as asthma, which is unusual in dogs, and also an atopic digestive or food syndrome, which has to do with intolerance to different foods,” Yotti continues.
How to treat an allergic dog or cat
The first step to take once the allergy has been detected in the animal is, of course, to eliminate the cause that causes it. “If it is due to food, you have to look for a hypoallergenic diet for about 10 weeks to find out if it is the cause,” recommends the dermatologist, who also advises doing external parasite control to rule out bite reactions. “In the event that it is not due to these causes, it would be atopic dermatitis, which is a chronic disease, so it is advisable to see a specialist to prevent the symptoms from worsening and determine the appropriate treatment, which may consist of a vaccine”.
Allergies in dogs and cats have a genetic component. “At the moment, no specific factors have been discovered that can trigger them, although there are breeds that are more predisposed to suffering from them, such as the French bulldog, the West Highland white terrier, the German shepherd or the golden retriever,” adds the expert.
Can it be prevented?
Dog and cat allergies cannot be prevented. “The genetic component is very important and some animals are genetically programmed to present these reactions,” explains Lluís Ferrer, a veterinary specialist in dermatology and professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. “A lot of research has been done on the genetic basis of cat and dog allergies, but there is still no genetic test available to identify the animals most predisposed to developing them,” he says.
Not only dogs and cats can have allergies. “All animals with the capacity to have an immune response due to their evolution and adaptation can develop allergies, as in the case of all mammals and birds,” adds Ferrer. And he adds a nuance: although it is thought that cats suffer from fewer allergies, that is an unrealistic perception. “Less is known about allergies in cats than in dogs and we don’t have as much data about it. In addition, cats go to the vet less often and some allergies go undiagnosed.”