Common Causes of Skin Allergies in Pets

In my previous post, I discussed the link between allergies and skin issues, like hair loss and itchiness. In this post, I wanted to dive a little deeper into this topic. So what are the possible allergic causes that could be making your furry friend downright uncomfortable? Below are three of the most common causes of allergic skin disease in pets.


The most common pet allergy is caused by fleas. Fleas are parasites that feed on your pet and their saliva can trigger an allergic reaction, resulting in hair loss, redness, and intense itching. We will typically see the hairless regions near the base of the tail in dogs and cats. Cats will sometimes experience hair loss around their chin as well. If your veterinarian suspects a flea allergy, he or she will check for evidence of live fleas and flea dirt.Your veterinarian will be able to make recommendations as far as an effective topical or oral flea preventative product as well as ways to rid the environment of fleas and their larvae. It can unfortunately take several months to resolve a flea infestation.


Another allergy we commonly see in pets is environmental. This is medically referred to as atopic dermatitis. These allergies are very similar to what we, as people, experience during different seasons. Something in the environment, whether it is grass, pollen, dust, etc, causes your pet to become itchy after multiple exposures. We usually see hairless regions or redness on the paws and inguinal regions since these are the most likely areas allergens touch when your pet is walking or laying down. As you can imagine, these allergies are a little more difficult to conquer. However, if further testing beyond your primary care veterinarian is required, he or she can refer your pet to a dermatologist who is well-equipped to perform specific allergen testing.


Some pets also develop food allergies. I can remember several occasions when I have had clients say, “..but he/she has been on the same food for years and hasn’t had these skin issues until now!” I had to explain that this is actually how a food allergy develops. Your pet is on the same diet for a long time and then suddenly (or so it seems!) develops an allergy to it. It seems counter-intuitive, but these allergies develop from repeat exposure over time as the body becomes sensitized to a certain component of the food. Typically the allergic component is the protein. Resolving a food allergy involves strict diet trials over several months. Recurrent ear infections can also point towards possible underlying food allergies.

As always, if you notice changes to your pet’s skin or coat, it is best to schedule a veterinary visit to get to the bottom of it!