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Allergies in Pets - Cat and Dog Allergies

People can have allergies to pollens, grasses, dust, and other allergens. We call this atopy or atopic dermatitis. Cats and dogs can get it too! Atopy can be seasonal or year round depending on the cause. 

Diagnosing An Allergy in Your Pet

While people get runny noses and watery eyes, dogs get itchy, which can manifest as scratching, licking or chewing at the skin and/or paws.  Cats and dogs also get ear infections associated with atopy. Since the skin is part of the host defenses, once it is inflamed, secondary infections can occur.

Pets can also have allergies to food and items they contact. In addition, there are also infectious causes of itching such as fleas, ringworm, and mites.


We may want run some tests, such as a skin scrape, impression smear, or a ringworm culture, to test for a cat or dog allergy. A food trial may be part of the diagnostic plan as well.

Cat and Dog Allergy Treatment Options

There are a wide variety of treatment options for your pets. Which cat or dog allergy treatment is right for your pet will depend on what they're allergic to, how the allergy expresses itself, and what your pet best responds to. Similar to humans, sometimes you need to try a few options before finding the right one. 

Fog getting an allergy bath treatment

Topical Shampoos, Conditioners, and Sprays

These topical items used for allergies contain ingredients such as oatmeal, topical anesthetics, antihistamines, phytosphingosine, and steroids to reduce the itch and help repair the skin barrier. They may also contain antiseptics to reduce the surface bacteria.


Do not use human products on your pet, as they can be irritating.


Regular bathing helps reduce pollens and allergens on the skin and reduce surface bacteria. Generally, if your pet is prescribed a shampoo/conditioner, it will be used 2-3 times per week, and left on the pet for 10-20 minutes before rinsing.  

Pills on Spoons

Over The Counter Solutions for Cat and Dog Allergies

Antihistamines can be helpful to reduce the itch in 30-40% of pets. They are not as potent as other medications but are generally safe and many are available over the counter. Examples include Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec.  

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, such as fish oils, can help with skin dryness and have mild anti-inflammatory effects. They have to be given routinely for 1-3 months before the full effects are seen. These products come in multiple forms. Fatty acids can also work synergistically with antihistamines.  

Image by Anastacia Dvi

Flea-Triggered Allergies

If we find fleas or flea debris on your pet or are suspicious that fleas may be playing a role in your cat or dog allergy, we may recommend a monthly (or longer) flea control product. These come in many different forms including spot-on, oral tablets or chews. Some of these products may be harmful to cats, which we will take into consideration when evaluating your dog's allergy. Examples include Nexgard, Revolution, Simparica and Bravecto. 

Dog Collar

Prescription Cat or Dog Allergy Medicine

Apoquel controls inflammation of the skin more specifically than steroids and it does not have the side effects of steroids. It can also be given with arthritis drugs and other drugs. It can start working within 4 hours of administration and can be given daily long term. 

CYTOPOINT™ mimics the dog’s natural immune function. It targets the IL-31 pathway, which is involved in the cycle of itch and inflammation. This targeting means that it can more specifically control skin inflammation without systemic side effects. Cytopoint is a dog allergy injection that has to be given by a medical professional. Vets Off Leash mobile veterinarians makes that easy by coming to you!

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Dog in Cone

Secondary Infections

In some cases, your pet may need additional medications to treat yeast (fungal) or bacterial infections secondary to the allergy. Antibiotics and antifungals should be given for the entire length of the prescription, even if your pet appears to be improved. Some medications may need to be given with a meal. Long term use of these medications may require blood testing, skin cultures or other testing.  

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