Apr 3, 2024 - News

Pet allergies on the rise in Pennsylvania

Illustration of a tissue box with the opening in the shape of a dog bone

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More pets in Pennsylvania, particularly dogs, are being treated for itchy skin and allergies.

Why it matters: Seasonal allergies can be terribly uncomfortable for furry friends, and they can snowball into secondary problems, including skin infections, Axios' Carly Mallenbaum writes.

By the numbers: Pet insurance company Trupanion reports a 23% increase in allergy claims for insured pets in Pennsylvania in 2023 compared to 2019, with the data growth adjusted and measured on a per 1,000 pet basis.

  • Nationwide, there has been a 45% increase while Florida (73%) saw the largest spike in pet allergy claims.
  • And insurer Nationwide says allergies top the list of health conditions that prompt vet visits.
  • Dog allergy drugs Apoquel and Cytopoint have treated more than 20 million dogs in total since they were released in 2013 and 2018, respectively, according to the drugs' maker, Zoetis.

What they're saying: Bonnie Valiente Wright, a veterinarian at Liberty Vet Pets in Rittenhouse Square, says it's possible allergies are more prevalent among pets, but it's just as likely that owners are better nowadays at identifying their pets' health needs.

  • "There are people who are treating their pets like family members. They're going the extra nine yards to get a diagnosis," she said.

Zoom in: Wright says many pets she treats are allergic to vegetation and pollens endemic to the region, such as Bermuda grass, dandelions and cottonwoods.

  • She sees more pets developing food allergies because of the proliferation of products used in their foods.
  • No joke, some pets are even allergic to humans: "Maybe that was causing controversy," Wright joked.

Anti-itch prescriptions are available to treat allergic dogs.

  • Injectable treatments work to block the signal that triggers an itch.
  • And chewable treatments are meant to reduce skin inflammation.

Between the lines: Skin problems in pets are "absolutely the No. 1 issue we see with allergies," American Veterinary Medical Association president Rena Carlson tells Axios.

  • Allergies can also show up in the ear canal, which "is actually just an extension of the skin," she says.
  • And with environmental allergies, the itchiness can appear seasonally.
  • Another major reason a pet could be itching is a parasite-related skin problem.

🧠 Be smart: Wright cautions pet owners to look out for common signs their pet may have allergies.

  • They include excessive grooming, licking or scratching of the paws or other areas.
  • Some owners report noticing the smell of corn chips around their pets, which can sometimes be a sign of an ear infection.

The bottom line: If you suspect your pet has allergies, take them to the vet immediately, experts say.

  • Be prepared for questions about your pet's age (younger pups might be more likely to have food allergies), evidence of fleas (which could indicate a parasite), details about when the itchiness started and patterns in their environment or food.

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