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Allergies in pets...

17 July 2015

With July now upon us, and following the recent warm weather, allergy sufferers all over the UK are feeling the effects.

It is estimated that 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from hay fever and July onwards sees the grass and weed pollens at their highest levels. However, non-seasonal allergies are also common in people. As an example, studies have reported that 5% of the adult population have a food allergy, with this rising to 8% in children.

Allergies are very common in animals too and it is estimated that somewhere between 10 – 15% of the canine population are affected. With 1 in 4 UK households having a dog, that’s a lot of dogs with allergies! The signs in cats and dogs usually manifest as itchy skin problems rather than the hay fever signs seen so commonly in people. In fact, the most common allergic skin disease in dogs and cats, called atopic dermatitis, it is similar to eczema in people.

 

Severe inflammation (redness) of the skin in a dog with an allergy

Severe inflammation (redness) of the skin in a dog with an allergy

 

Despite the high prevalence of allergies in people, there is concern that many people ‘self diagnose’ their conditions, one possible reason for this is the purchase of ‘over-the-counter’ tests for allergies. Many of these can be freely bought online and worryingly, many have no scientific basis to support their use.

In some cases, doctors are seeing children with malnutrition following an incorrect diagnosis of food allergy and the removal of essential components of their diets. As a result, the prevalence of allergy in studies where healthcare professionals have reached the diagnosis tends to be lower. Some tests claiming to diagnose allergies in animals have also shown rather dubious results in studies and their use is not recommended.

It is therefore vital to seek the advice of your veterinary surgeon if you think your pet has an allergy. They will be able to diagnose the condition based on a full review of the animals’ history and symptoms and then advise on the most appropriate management plan.

For further information on allergies in dogs and cats, see our Dermatology Pet health information sheets:

See also the BBC News article 'Warning over 'dodgy' allergy tests' By Stuart Jones