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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Allergies are often diagnosed by veterinarians ..but what are they ?

The body has several special defence mechanisms to protect itself against foreign materials which get into the body ..these mechanisms  are collectively called the immune system.  "Foreign material" can be anything, an infectious micro-organism, a drug, a bee sting, a component of food or some environmental material and the body responds in several ways, including sending special cells to destroy and remove the "material", and it also produces chemicals called antibodies which attack it.

An allergic (or hypersensitivity) reaction occurs when the immune response that is mounted against foreign material damages the animals own tissue. Such a reaction can only occur after the body has been in contact with the "material" once, and the immune system has been "primed". The next time that the body comes into contact with the "material" the immune response causes injury to a body tissue.

The tissue damage that is caused affects various organs in different ways. In the chest an allergic reaction will cause spasm of the airways causing wheezing. This is called bronchospasm...and  is typically the reaction seen in feline and human asthma patients. Allergies that affect the skin cause inflammation and itchiness, allergies that affect the gastrointestinal tract often result in vomiting or diarrhoea.

Treatment of allergies involves the use of  drugs that suppress the immune system, antihistamines (histamine is released as part of some allergic reactions) and antinflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids. Sometimes it is possible to desensitise an animal using special vaccines ...ask your veterinarian for more information about this.

If you have a pet that has an allergy it is likely to get problems every time it comes into contact with the material that it is primed against (called an allergen or antigen). So many dogs have seasonal itchiness because they are allergic to pollens. If you know what your pet is allergic to, you should avoid repeat contact.

Last updated : September 2013