What Are Pet Allergies and How Can I Tell If My Pet Has Them?

November 15th, 2016 by Daniel Mudrick

Is your pet licking their feet, has irritated ears, or scratching a lot? It could be a sign your dog or cat has allergies! Just like people, pets can be allergic to a variety of things in their environment or diet.

“Pets actually have very sensitive skin. At only half the thickness of human skin, they are incredibly sensitive to environmental allergens.” – Dr. Eloise Bright

Pets can’t talk to you about what they’re feeling, but just like people they get itchy. No matter what they’re allergic to, the main sign of allergies in pets is inflammation and itchiness. You can tell if your pet is feeling itchy if they’re demonstrating excessive licking and scratching behaviours. 

Here are the signs and symptoms owners need to watch out for:

1. Contact Allergies

  • Contact allergies mean your pet has touched something that has irritated their skin, such as grasses and other vegetation, or some fabrics like upholstery.
  • What to look for: Your pet may lick their feet and develop redness on their stomach, chest, muzzle, ears, or between their toes.

2. Flea Allergies

  • All pets itch when they have fleas, but some are allergic to flea bites. It’s one of the most common skin diseases in pets.
  • What to look for: Pets with flea allergies don’t always have visible fleas. What you may notice is more frequent or severe scratching – even if they only have only little flea, they tend to gnaw at one spot until they get rid of it!

3. Food Allergies

  • Food allergies can be difficult to diagnose in pets, because the symptoms are often similar to environmental allergies. However, food allergies are non-seasonal, so they can happen all year round. Pets with food allergies do not necessarily develop a stomach upset or diarrhea.
  • What to look for: Food allergies in your pet will likely show up as skin problems, so watch your pet to see if they are itchy and licking their paws.

4. Atopic Dermatitis

  • Atopic Dermatitis is a term that includes all other allergens that may affect your pet, such as dust mites, pollens, molds, and other environmental allergens.
  • The worst months are May and September, but can extend longer for some pets.
  • What to look for: The symptoms your pet will display can include itching, scratching, rubbing, or licking. There are new, extremely effective treatments for itch from atopy.

We encourage pet owners to check out this additional article, “Can Pets Have Allergies?”

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your pet and suspect allergies, visit your veterinarian. Pets can suffer from allergies throughout their lives and symptoms often get worse as they get older. With the right diagnosis and treatment, you can relieve your pet’s symptoms and help them avoid being exposed to their allergen in the future!


If you suspect your pet has allergies, book an appointment with us! We offer diagnosis and treatment for pet dermatology and skin problems, including skin scrapings for signs of fleas, food elimination trials for potential sensitivities and allergens and referral for allergy testing with a board certified dermatologist.

Is your cat really anxious and stressed about vet visits? Get our free tip sheet for transporting your nervous cat to the vet!

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About Daniel Mudrick

I'm the owner and founder of Clarkson Village Animal Hospital, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Clarkson Village Animal Hospital has always been a dream of mine, and by caring for one patient at a time, the hospital has continued to grow. During those rare times when I'm not at the hospital, I'm at yoga, hiking, gardening, and spending time with my family. I also enjoy reading to stay current on the most recent advances in veterinary medicine.

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