Spring is notorious for causing itchy, runny eyes and sneezing fits in people. But, did you know your pet may also have allergies? When your pet is sensitive to something—referred to as an allergen—her immune system overreacts and causes an allergic reaction. Unlike the respiratory signs people experience, the most common symptom of allergies in pets is itching. She may itch all over, but the itching is often most intense at the ears, feet, and rear end. Understanding the source may help alleviate your pet’s discomfort.

Outdoor allergens

Sensitivity to environmental allergens is called atopic dermatitis, or atopy. Pets and people are often sensitive to the same allergens: pollens from flowering plants, grasses, and trees. Since pollen circulation is highest during the spring and summer, allergy symptoms are most severe during these seasons.

Allergy testing can diagnose atopy and identify the specific allergens your pet is sensitive to. We conduct serum allergy testing, which involves drawing blood from your pet and sending it to a diagnostic laboratory for measurement of immunoglobulins specific for individual allergens.

Atopy treatment includes:

  • Allergen avoidance, when possible
  • Medications—most commonly Cytopoint and Apoquel—to control symptoms and flare-ups

Household allergens

Common household allergens, such as molds, dust mites, and storage mites, found in varying amounts in all homes, can also cause atopy. Since these allergens are present year-round, symptoms are non-seasonal. Both intradermal and serum allergy testing panels can detect mold and mite sensitivity. Treatment is similar to that for other environmental allergens, with an increased focus on allergen avoidance:

  • Pet bedding should be laundered at least once a week to reduce mite accumulation.
  • Floors should be vacuumed weekly.
  • An air purifier can remove mold spores circulating in the air.


When a flea bites, it leaves behind a small amount of saliva that causes irritation and itching. Animals with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) react strongly and can itch intensely after a single flea bite. Pets with FAD often suffer hair loss, particularly over the back and rump. FAD symptoms, along with the presence of fleas, typically make diagnosis obvious. Treatment is focused on decreasing inflammation, eliminating fleas, and preventing future flea exposure.

To prevent fleas in dogs, we recommend NexGard, a safe and palatable monthly chew that also protects dogs from ticks and the dangerous diseases they transmit. You should also eliminate fleas in your environment.

  • Vacuum all floors every 2 to 3 days, including areas behind or under furniture where your pet hides or naps.
  • Wash all your pet’s bedding and blankets at least weekly.

Food ingredients

Animals may develop an allergy to a specific food ingredient she is given consistently. The most accurate way to diagnose a food allergy is through a food trial directed by our veterinary health care team. Two different diets may be used:

  • Food with a unique protein and carbohydrate source, such as duck, kangaroo, salmon, potatoes, and oats  
  • Food containing hydrolyzed (fragmented) proteins the immune system won’t recognize as allergens

The unique diet is your pet’s only food source for approximately two months to see if her allergy symptoms improve. A true diagnosis is confirmed by a sequential challenge with a variety of food ingredients while the pet is monitored for the reappearance of clinical signs.

Once the offending allergen has been identified, long-term treatment involves a diet of foods with a different protein or carbohydrate source.

Is your pet chewing or licking excessively? Contact us today.