Signs and Treatment of Dog Allergies

Dog allergic to certain foods? Signs of dog allergies during certain seasons? Skin symptoms appear after a change in shampoo or diet? Then your dog is probably suffering from some type of dog allergy.

Well, it’s not only humans who can suffer as canine allergies can effect your pet. it is the most common reason why a dog suffers from skin and coat problems. Unlike people that get watery eyes or a stuffed nose, dogs usually show symptoms such as skin inflammation followed by itch. Itching and scratching results in secondary problems such as hot spots (hair loss), and skin problems such as irritation and infection.

In many cases, allergies in dogs cannot be cured, but can be controlled.

Types of Canine Allergy

Canine allergies are caused by various factors known as antigens.

They can also be caused by an immune response wherein the body's immune system rejects a foreign object and creates a reaction to get rid of that object while protecting the body from their harmful effects.

There are many factors that can contribute to dog allergies, which are categorized below:

  • Atopy or inhalant canine allergies.  This is the most common and is usually caused by environmental factors such as moulds, dust mites, feathers, house dusts, pollen or human dander. It's allergens in the air a dog breathes. In occurs in pets that are hereditarily predisposed to allergies.

    Otitis externa is a type of dog atopy that affects the external ear or ears. 50% of dogs with atopy get external ear infections. Symptoms are red ears, wax discharge, itch and skin inflammation.
  • Food.  All kinds of foods can cause allergies are meats such as pork, beef, fish, chicken, eggs, and lamb; dairy products such as milk; grains such as whey and wheat, and corn.  There are over 40 food components that can cause a skin reaction.
  • Fleas.  Some dogs with a lot of fleas are allergic to them.  It's not the flea itself that causes the allergic reactions but their saliva. This type of allergy is commonly misdiagnosed as other skin problems such as scabies and fleabites.
  • Bacterial. Dogs normally have Staph bacteria, which are actually harmless.  However, some dogs develop an autoimmune response to these natural floras causing them to develop sensitivity and allergic reactions to these kinds of bacteria.
  • Contact Sensitivity.  These are the least common of all the dog allergies.  Common contact allergens are wool beddings, grass, pet sweaters, plastic food bowls, flea collars, and plants.

Canine Allergy Symptoms

Dog allergies from food cause symptoms such as these on the face of a Dalmation
Source: Washington State University

The most common symptoms of dog allergies are scratching of areas such as abdomen, face, armpits, paws, genital area and sometimes all over the body. These areas may appear red, swollen and with patches or rashes.

Aside from that, other symptoms that can be observed are coughing, sneezing, hair loss and dog hot spots, nose and eye discharges, licking, chewing, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of appetite, itching in the anal area, head shaking, pawing at their ears, and worse cases, breathing problems.

Canine atopy from pollen causes itch in specific areas (less likely to be the entire body), with most itch on the feet, face, front legs, ears and armpits.

Dog flea bit hypersensitivity does not affect the face of front half of the body. Look for signs above the tail, down the back legs, and toward the head like the shape of an arrow.

Dog food allergy symptoms can occur on any part of the body.


Dog Atopic allergies causes otitis externa in the Chocolate Labrador Retriever
Source: Washington State University

Dog Allergy Treatment

Before any treatment you must first you must make sure that it is indeed an allergic reaction and not any other disorder or condition.

You may need to take your dog to the vet in order to determine the proper diagnosis.The Veterinarian will start by looking for the most common cause, such as flea bite sensitivity, followed by seasonal allergies (called atopy or inhaled allergens), food allergy and contact allergy. He or she will also take a detailed medical history to see if any recent changes in diet or care may have resulted in an allergic reaction.

Do not dismiss causes such as flea bite hypersensitivity or flea allergy out of hand as even a few fleas can result in an allergic reaction. They are also very good at hiding on the dog and can be carried into the home by a human.

The veterinarian will also note the location of any dog skin allergy reactions. Contact allergy will be localized or impact a specific area, while a dog good allergy will cause problems all over the dog.

Once you are certain that it is indeed an allergy, you must know what caused it in order for you to prevent future recurrences.

Aside from avoiding the allergens, you need to give your dog a regular bath using cold water.This will wash off any allergens that might have been pick up outdoors. Use a hypoallergenic shampoo such as Dermapet DermaLyte Shampoo to avoid having the shampoo being the source of a potential problem.

It is crucial to keep them clean as they would always lick and scratch the areas that are affected, which could lead to infection.

Also, keep the area dry as moist or dump areas harbour bacterial growth.

If the condition is severe, the vet may prescribe some medications such as antihistamines to relieve the symptoms and antibiotics if an infection has already developed. Cortinsone type medications can relieve itch, but have side effects such as increased urination, appetite and thirst.  It can also depress the dog's immune system.

If your dog is itching you can try two natural approaches. In 10% of dogs, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids help. In others a remedy such as Itch Dr. which uses a combination of natural ingredients could bring some relief.

For Otitis externa (dog ear problems due to atopy), try an otic ear cleanser such as Dermapet to acidify the ear canal making it difficult for bacteria or yeast to grow.

If food allergy is suspected, the veterinarian will recommend an elimination diet that eliminates all ingredients from the diet except a simple carbohydrate such as rice and a simple protein such as duck. If a dog responds well to this diet, ingredients are slowly added back in until one causes a skin reaction.  At that point a diagnosis is made and that specific food component is eliminated. A veterinarian may also recommend a hypoallergenic diet such as Hill's Prescription Diet Z/D.

Dog allergies should not be taken for granted because in some cases, the condition could become worse and may lead to other health problems.

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