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What pet owners need to know about animal allergies in Colorado

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The warm-weather pet allergy season is just around the corner and there's a few things the doctors at VRCC Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital in Englewood (www.vrcc.com) want pet guardians to know.

* First, they say that environmental allergies and food allergies are commonly confused, and due to creative marketing in the pet food industry, many of the popular pet food trends (i.e. grain-free, raw diets, etc.) are really just fads and many times have no effect on alleviating your pet’s potential allergies.

“Food allergies occur in only 10 to 30 percent of dogs and 20 to 30 percent of cats," said Dr. Christina Gentry of VRCC’s Dermatology/Allergy department. "Environmental allergies are much more common.”

So when it comes to the newest "grain-free" diets, regardless of whether your pet is a dog or cat, the doctors say their body does not treat grains differently from other sources of carbohydrates. The body recognizes food by the nutritional content, not by whether the source is a grain or other form of carbohydrate.They say the main cause of obesity in dogs and cats is excessive fat and calories, not grains.

Likewise, the VRCC speialists say no scientific studies have shown benefits of raw diets, and raw diets are commonly nutritionally imbalanced by containing either a surplus or deficit of nutrients that may have serious effects on growing animals.

* Second, the doctors say that cats should get extra attention from owners. "We see allergy more in dogs than cats," said Dr. Michael Rossi. "Partly that's because dogs get taken to the veterinarian more than cats. Also, dogs with allegy symptoms usually are more noticable to owners. Cats often hide somewhere when they have them." So Rossi says owners should check cats often, looking for allergy symptoms such as a pinkish/reddish appearance inside their ears.

* Third, Rossi believes that the approaching environmental pet allergy season is shaping up to be a tough one. "April could be a big month," he said. "We'll have warmer weather after a winter with plenty of moisture. Plants will be sprouting and pollinating."

Signs of both environmental and food allergies include: paw licking, scratching, chewing, itching, scooting, rubbing and/or recurrent skin and/or ear infections. Some food allergic pets may also experience chronic gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, and burping.

If you are concerned your pet may have allergies, contact your veterinarian.

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