Carolinas Animal Hospital

Allergies Affect Dogs and Cats Too!

Allergies affect dogs and cats too! Itchy skin, gunky ears, and what is that smell?! Allergies and sensitivities are common problems for pets, often resulting in very itchy skin, inflamed ears, and yeast overgrowth or bacterial infections. These are unpleasant to deal with for both pet and owner. The good news is that your vet can help you to treat and manage the problems! That means a happier, healthier four-legged family member!

The most common allergens for dogs and cats are either environmental or food-related. The symptoms can sometimes look the same. For that reason, it’s important to consider when the symptoms started when determining the cause.


The Causes

1. Environmental allergens include pollen, grasses, mold, fleas or mites. Sometimes even the cleaning products or fragrances in your home can be causes. Some of these are seasonal, of course, so work with your vet on a plan to manage the symptoms while they last each year.

Spring and autumn are especially tough times for pets with allergies to grasses and other outdoor triggers. Some regions of the U.S. are worse for this than others. Being in Charlotte, NC certainly puts us in a prime location for this annual trigger. These can enter the body in much the same way as with humans – through the nose, mouth, or other physical contact.

Often, even fleas can be a major trigger! This is yet another reason to talk to your veterinarian to decide which flea preventative is the best for your individual pet. Be diligent! You can purchase your flea preventative from us online!

The less frequent allergic reactions to things like cleaning products and fragrances are often easy enough to avoid once you have determined if that is an allergen.

2. Food allergies are the other top cause of these problems. Many pets are allergic or sensitive to grains or particular protein sources. Consult your vet to discuss this as a possibility, and don’t forget to consider the treats you might be giving your pet.

The Symptoms & Treatments

Being familiar with what to look for is a great idea because early veterinary treatment will help to prevent more severe problems like bacterial or fungal infections. Skin and ears are the primary places we see allergies present themselves on both dogs and cats.

Dermatitis, or inflamed, itchy skin is a very common symptom. It’s not just uncomfortable for your pet; it can become severe. What starts as itching can easily progress to hot spots, infections, hair loss, and red, swollen paws from excessive licking. It’s not unusual for some areas of the skin to become yeasty, particularly between the pads of dogs’ feet as their constant licking creates a moist environment for the yeast the thrive. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your pet may need baths with gentle shampoos, antibiotics, steroids such as prednisone to reverse inflammation, and antihistamines.

Charlotte Veterinarian Checking Dog Ears with Otoscope

Your veterinarian can examine your dog’s ears using an otoscope to check for inflammation possibly due to allergies. (photo courtesy of

Otitis, or inflamed ears, are generally itchy and red. They will often overproduce wax and yeast which just amplifies the problem, often leading to bacterial or fungal infections. A tell-tale sign of this is a pungent smell coming from the ears. Excessive scratching can make them quite painful, too. Left untreated, infections can cause significant damage to the ear such as a perforated tympanic membrane in the middle ear and hearing loss.

To get a good look at the condition of the ear, your veterinarian will examine the ear with an otoscope. Next, they will swab the ear and look at some of the material removed from the ear under a microscope to determine what bacteria, yeast, or mites might be present. This will let them know which medication is the best choice for treatment for your pet.

For food allergies, there are a variety of high-quality foods available with limited ingredients for exactly this reason. Eliminating the allergen from the diet is the goal after the immediate symptoms have been evaluated and treated by your veterinarian. Prescription diets are best. Not all over-the-counter brands maintain strict standards of sterilization or prevent cross-contamination of multiple ingredients that might be processed or packaged on the same equipment like prescription brands do.

Ever heard of allergy testing? It isn’t just for humans!
While some allergies and sensitivities are easy to determine, or maybe don’t even need to be pin-pointed specifically to be managed, there are times when it is wise to do allergy testing for your pet to determine with certainly exactly what they are allergic too. If it’s a specific species of grass, then you need to know not to plant it in your yard next spring, right? Or if corn is a trigger, then your pet needs a food with a different carbohydrate.

Think your pet is suffering from allergies? Come see us!


  • Monday: 7:30am - 5:30pm
  • Tuesday: 7:30am - 5:30pm
  • Wednesdsay: 7:30am - 5:30pm
  • Thursday: 7:30am - 5:30pm
  • Friday: 7:30am - 5:30pm
  • Saturday: 8:00am - 12:00pm
  • Sunday: Closed

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