Just like people, pets can suffer from allergies too. While it’s easy for us to spot our symptoms, how do we know when our pets have an allergy and what might cause it?

Signs your pet may have an allergy include itchy or sore skin especially around the ears, paws and armpits, usually coupled with frequent licking in these areas. Occasionally pets may show other signs like runny eyes. Unlike in humans, runny noses and sneezing aren’t common signs of allergies in pets.

Almost anything that a pet comes into contact with has the potential to cause an allergic reaction.

PDSA vet Olivia Anderson Nathan said: “Fleas are actually the most common trigger of allergic skin reactions. For some pets they can trigger a condition called ‘flea allergic dermatitis’ (FAD), a reaction to flea saliva which can drive our four-legged friends mad through severe itching and cause their skin to become sore.

“The key to treating FAD is to prevent flea bites by getting rid of every single flea and making sure your pet has ongoing protection against them. Speak to your vet for advice on the best flea treatment for your pet and how often to use it. Your home, bedding and other pets might also need to be treated if fleas have got into your home, which can easily happen if one of your pets has picked them up.”

Flea treatments meant for dogs should never be used on cats because they contain an ingredient that can be fatal to felines.

Another common trigger for itchy skin at this time of year is pollen.

Olivia added: “If your dog gets itchy feet, rinse their paws after every walk with lukewarm water or a special medicated shampoo to wash away allergens. Regular bathing with medicated shampoo and feeding supplements to support the skin barrier can help too.”

Food is another common cause of allergies and can lead to skin problems and tummy upsets. Finding which food is the cause of the allergy can be tricky though. It can be any food that a pet has come into contact with before, for example beef, chicken or wheat.

Olivia said: “It’s unfortunately not as simple as just switching to a different flavour if you suspect a food allergy in your pet. Like with human nut allergy sufferers, even a small amount of an allergen on a production line could set off a food allergy even if it’s not a listed ingredient. If your vet suspects your pet is suffering from a food allergy, they’ll put them on a special prescription diet which shouldn’t trigger your dog’s allergies. All other food is strictly off the menu and, if an allergy is to blame, the symptoms should start to subside after a few months. Other foods could then be re-introduced slowly – usually one a week, to help identify the food triggering the reaction.

“Lots of different things can cause your pet’s allergy so it’s worth getting advice from your vet to try and narrow down possible causes. Sometimes, we never find out the exact cause but there are lots of ways we can combat skin allergies, from special diets to medications to supplements to shampoos. Depending on the allergy, some pets might need treatment for the rest of their life, along with regular check-ups from their vet.”