Hypersensitivity: Allergic Reactions in Pets

Allergies are common problems for pets, but their signs manifest in various ways. Some pets struggle with constant, low-level itchiness, while others react severely only to specific substances, such as bee venom. Allergic reactions seem to come out of nowhere, and you may not understand what’s happening to your four-legged friend. Our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital & Urgent Care Services team knows that your pet’s allergic reaction signs can be startling. Read our guide to learn how to recognize whether your pet is experiencing an allergic reaction and what to do if they have one.

What causes allergic reactions in pets?

Allergic reactions (i.e., hypersensitivity reactions) are mediated by a pet’s immune system, which overreacts to a foreign substance, such as bee venom, and sets off a cascade of inflammatory substances that create the reaction signs. Your four-legged friend can experience an acute allergic reaction within minutes or hours of exposure to an offending allergen, most often an insect bite or sting, drug, vaccine, food, or inhaled substance.

Are allergic reactions the same as seasonal allergies in pets?

A seasonal allergy is caused by a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. Seasonal, flea, and food allergies usually take continued exposures over several days before signs develop. This allergy type may cause itchy skin, skin infections, ear infections, hair loss, and persistently scabbing, thickened, darkened, or flaky skin. Treatments for seasonal and other chronic allergies are different from those for acute allergic reactions.

How do I know if my pet is having an allergic reaction?

An allergic reaction occurs minutes to hours after exposure to an offending allergen. You may be able to link the event to a bee sting or vaccine, or you might never know the cause. In either case, your pet may exhibit the following signs:

  • Localized swelling 
  • Itchy hives all over the body
  • Facial swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What is anaphylaxis in pets?

Anaphylaxis is a rare and severe allergic reaction that may begin similarly to other reactions but quickly progresses—often within minutes—to include a blood pressure drop, difficulty breathing, collapse, and possible death. Vaccines most commonly cause anaphylaxis in pets. All pets should be monitored for several minutes after injection to ensure they do not have an adverse reaction.

What should I do if my pet has an allergic reaction?

Our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital primary care or urgent care team should treat your pet’s allergic reaction the day they begin exhibiting signs so we can provide treatments and relieve their discomfort. If you suspect anaphylaxis, our veterinary team or your local emergency veterinary hospital—whichever is closer—must provide your pet with immediate care. Always call ahead when seeking emergency care to ensure the hospital is open and so staff can prepare for your pet’s arrival.

How are allergic reactions treated in pets?

A mild to moderate allergic reaction is treated on an outpatient basis with injectable medications that block the inflammatory cascade and provide an affected pet with immediate relief from their itching, swelling, and hives. We may also prescribe oral medications that you will administer to your pet at home for a few days to reduce the chance of a recurring reaction. 

Anaphylaxis often requires an overnight or longer hospitalization after our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital & Urgent Care Services team has stabilized your pet. During an anaphylactic episode, blood vessels dilate and blood pools in the intestines, liver, and other vital organs rather than flowing throughout the body, leading to a blood pressure drop and collapse. Epinephrine (i.e., adrenaline), intravenous (IV) fluids, and other medications are required to restore normal blood flow and support healthy liver and gastrointestinal (GI) function. 

How can I determine the cause of an allergic reaction in my pet? 

If you know what caused your pet’s allergic reaction, you can take active measures to prevent it from happening again. However, in many cases, you may be unable to link something directly to the reaction, and the reaction is unlikely to recur. Pets who have repeated reactions may benefit from a consultation with a veterinary dermatologist. The specialist can perform diagnostic testing to pinpoint your furry pal’s allergen and start treatments to desensitize their body to the offending substance. In addition, to minimize your pet’s need for emergency care, the veterinary dermatologist can help you develop a rescue plan to implement at home.

Preventing allergic reactions is difficult because the causative factor isn’t always easy to pinpoint. If your pet experiences an allergic reaction, you can trust our urgent care team at Woodinville Veterinary Hospital & Urgent Care Services to treat your pet’s condition quickly and effectively. For after-hours emergencies, contact your nearest veterinary emergency hospital.

By |2024-02-15T00:00:08+00:00October 1st, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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