Pet allergies generally fall into three categories, with flea allergies being the most common, followed by environmental and food. But how do you know if your pet’s scratching is due to an allergy or if it’s just a normal itch? How do you tell if your pet is allergic to a certain food? Read on to learn more — and have your pet checked out by a veterinarian if you notice any of the signs below. Flea Allergies • Cause: allergic reaction to saliva from fleabites • Symptoms: excessive scratching or biting, inflamed skin, scabs, hair loss, signs of fleas • Diagnosis: veterinarian may check pet’s skin for signs of fleas and possibly perform a skin or blood test • Treatment: flea-control product to kill fleas and for year-round prevention; medication to reduce itching and inflammation; deep cleaning of home (including bedding and carpet) to remove all traces of fleas Environmental Allergies • Causes: outdoor allergens (pollen, ragweed, grasses) and indoor allergens (mold, dust mites, cleaning chemicals) • Symptoms: excessive scratching or biting, inflamed skin, chronic ear infections • Diagnosis: veterinarian may perform a skin or blood test • Treatment: antihistamines; fatty acid supplements; allergy shots; immunosuppressive drugs; corticosteroids in certain cases; removal of allergens through frequent baths, foot soaks, and regular house cleaning Food Allergies • Cause: immune response to a protein or food additive; common food allergens for dogs include beef, chicken, dairy, eggs, fish, and wheat; common food allergens for cats include beef, corn, dairy, fish, soy, and wheat • Symptoms: excessive scratching especially paws and ears, skin infections, vomiting, diarrhea, chronic ear infections • Diagnosis: veterinarian may recommend hydrolyzed protein or elimination diet, then gradually reintroduce other foods to determine allergen; might perform a skin test to rule out other conditions • Treatment: diet free of known allergen; prescription diet if needed Most pet allergies are easy to treat and even prevent. By recognizing the signs and consulting with a veterinarian for treatment, a pet with allergies can live a happy and comfortable life.