Allergies in pets

Spotting allergies in pets is sometimes easy. However, it can be more difficult to notice the less obvious signs. It’s critical that you pay attention to your pet’s lumps and bumps and normal behaviour, so you are able to spot when something isn’t quite right.

What is an allergy?
An allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Most allergens are proteins from plants, insects, animals, or foods.

For dogs, the most common symptom for allergies is itching of the skin, either localized or generalized. In some cases, the symptoms involve the respiratory system, with coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from the eyes or nose. In other cases, the allergic symptoms affect the digestive system resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea. Sometimes it’s difficult to see these symptoms as allergies as they are associated with other illnesses too.

What are the common allergy-causing substances (allergens)?
A very large number of substances can act as allergens. Most are proteins of insect, plant, or animal origin, but small chemical molecules can also cause allergy. Examples of common allergens are pollens, mould spores, dust mites, shed skin cells (similar to pet allergies in humans) and insect proteins such as flea saliva. Certain breeds are more susceptible to allergies such as boxers, springer spaniels and German shepherds.

Your vet will be able to advise an elimination diet so you can identify the food that is causing the problems. Once the allergy has subsided, you then will have to introduce all the feeds back into the diet one at a time. If/when the symptoms re-appear, it should be easier to identify the troublesome food so you can stop feeding it.

It only takes a tiny amount of an ingredient to give your cat an allergic reaction. Often Beef, dairy or fish are root causes. Allergies are difficult to diagnose as there are no allergy-specific tests available and symptoms can be broad and common in other illnesses, just as in dogs.

Skin problems is the most common symptom of food allergies in cats. They scratch excessively and can lose their hair, as well as vomiting and diarrhoea. Most commonly, the head and neck suffer most with skin problems which is a clear indicator to suggest food may be the cause.

Just as in dogs, you will need to change the diet to find the root cause. Cats are harder to monitor than dogs as they tend to roam. It will be beneficial to keep your cat indoors under your watchful eye until the issue is resolved. You do not know what they may be eating when out and about. If they allergy symptoms stop once you keep them in, you may have found your answer also!


The symptoms of allergies in rabbits are fairly clear in comparison to other animals. They suffer with skin irritation which results in them scratching and this can lead to them losing their fur. Once again, diet is more than likely the cause, so begin by giving them a new diet of hay and pellets as these are not known to be allergens and once the symptoms disappear, re-introduce the foods to find out which food is the culprit.

Remember that sometimes, bedding can cause respiratory allergies and can affect their eyes too. It’s worth changing your bedding if your rabbit is suffering with weeping eyes or constant sneezing.

If you think your pet may be having a reaction, we advise taking them to the vet to make sure the right course of action can be taken. Some reactions can be very dangerous, especially when they affect the airways.

Pop down to Myhills if you find you need to change your pet’s feed. We stock a wide variety of feeds to suit all requirements.