I gather from my friends that are hay fever sufferers that we are now in prime time for itchy eyes, runny noses and general allergic suffering. Although animals do not suffer from hay fever as such, we do see plenty of allergic conditions in cats and dogs; the main way in which these allergies manifest themselves is as skin issues. Allergic skin means itchy skin – in dogs this appears as scratching, licking and chewing but in cats it can be more subtle and initially just presents as the cat grooming themselves more than usual.

The result of this scratching or overgrooming is hair loss, scabs and sore skin. The single most common cause of itchy skin in cats and dogs is still the old faithful – fleas. Whenever we see an itchy pet the first thing that we vets want to rule out is fleas, closely followed by other creepy crawlies such as mites (which cause mange). Sometimes these little creatures can be hard to get on top of, particularly in households with more than one pet.

Once we are satisfied that there are no parasites causing this itching then things can get more complicated; we see seasonal allergies to certain grasses, crops and plants. Less commonly we see food allergies, but more commonly than either plant or food allergy is house dust mite allergy (also known as Atopy).

Of course, house dust mite allergy is an enormous pain because it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate house dust mites from even the cleanest household. So, sadly, dogs suffering from Atopy often need lifelong treatment – I will talk more about the treatment of allergies next week.