Most people equate a dog scratching with a flea or tick problem. That isn’t always the case. Many dogs actually have allergies just like their human parents. Allergies can be caused by touching something (contact dermatitis) or ingesting something like pollen or certain foods. Learn how to tell if your dog is dealing with allergy season.
Causes of Dog Allergies
Like humans, a dog’s body can incorrectly attack a harmless foreign substance in the body. The animal’s own immune system is fighting itself. Also like their human parents, dog allergies can be caused by something in the air, something they come in contact with, a bite or food sources. Allergies in dogs are common. Some veterinarians believe there is a genetic trait while others also feel less healthy foods for dogs have led to an increase in allergies.
Our dog Arky was adopted and had a serious tummy issue as a pup. Everything he ate came out to the point we were concerned about worms. Our amazing vet at the Sherman Oaks Veterinary Group did the basic worm tests, explained that he could do more expensive ones for hidden ones deep in the intestinal tract or change Arky’s diet. If it was allergies, chances are diet was the fastest and cheapest alternative.
Three Types of Dog Allergies
Allergies in dogs can come from many different places. There are three main areas to consider when diagnosing a potential allergy problem in your pup.
Skin Allergies in Dogs
Skin allergies are often referred to as allergic dermatitis. The dog’s skin and ears get red, he might scratch a lot and you could notice patches of fur thinning. One of the most common causes of skin allergies is fleabites. Some dogs are allergic to flea saliva.
Contact dermatitis is the fancy term to describe what happens when your dog’s skin comes in contact with something he is allergic to. It could be that hour he spent rolling around in the freshly cut grass or the fabric on that new chic sweater. Your dog could also be allergic to pollen or mold at certain times of the year.
Food Allergies in Dogs
Intolerance to certain foods is becoming more common in many dogs. Certain foods (even dog toothpaste) are more likely to increase an allergic reaction. The biggest known culprits are beef, chicken, corn, dairy, chicken eggs, wheat and soy. For some dogs, this is a true allergy where the body is an auto-immune response and reaction. For other dogs, this is food intolerance meaning they have a sensitive tummy but aren’t really allergic.
Neither food intolerance nor an allergy is fun for a dog owner. You can tell the difference by looking at the symptoms. Allergies will result in hives, redness of the skin, chronic ear infections, licking, diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing and runny eyes. Food intolerance generally sticks to the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting.
Arky was taken off of the dense protein beef diet and given duck and sweet potatoes. He was a different dog immediately. Not only did his tummy trouble stop, he stopped scratching as much. Over time, we tried reintroducing chicken and beef treats. His ears got red, he scratched more and got the runs. It’s easier (and cheaper) to give him a special diet – and real veggie treats.
Sudden or Acute Allergic Reactions
Anaphylactic shock is a serious and potentially deadly allergic reaction if left untreated. It happens when an allergic reaction acutely responds to an introduced substance. A flood of chemicals gets released to fight the substance that can lead to shock. Initial symptoms are hives, throat and tongue swelling, labored breathing, wheezing, choking and disorientation.
Left untreated, your dog’s blood pressure will drop and his airway constricts preventing air to get in. The worst-case scenario is your dog suffocates and dies. Thankfully for dogs, this is rarely fatal and can be treated with antihistamines.
Dogs can have an acute allergic reaction to bee stings and other insect bites, food, medications and vaccines. It is important to monitor dogs whenever you are giving them something new to eat, get a new booster or are prescribed new medications or supplements. Contact your veterinarian immediately with concerns.
Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs
Dogs may have one or two symptoms or many. As a dog owner, you need to be aware of what your dog’s normal health condition is. Pay attention to changes in behavior and overall physical condition.
The common symptoms to look for with dog allergies are:
- Red, itchy eyes, skin and ears
- Constant scratching
- Sneezing, coughing and wheezing
- Excessive shedding, hotspots, scabs and bald areas
- Diarrhea and vomiting
Remember that any serious concerns should always be addressed with your veterinarian.
Treating Allergies in Dogs
Most allergies in dogs are treated with antihistamines or by removing the allergen exposure. A common antihistamine given to dogs is actually over-the-counter human Benadryl. Your veterinarian will help you zone in on the dosage. The other thing to do is stop exposing your dog to allergens such as dust, mold or foods that he has reactions to.
You aren’t going to keep your dog in a bubble. I notice that Arky gets a bit redder and itchier when he roles in the fresh yard clippings. While we don’t want him to suffer, he still enjoys that so much that we give him his Benadryl and keep an eye on him. His food will never change. It’s just not worth the chronic issues to change that up.
Your Dog and Allergies
Many people feel that the way chicken and beef are raised and the high content of grains in dog food is a primary cause for increased dog allergies. Immune systems don’t develop the way they should. Regardless of what the cause is, pay attention to what things are problems for your dog.
The good news is it doesn’t take a lot to keep your dog free from allergens. Once you determine what is bothering him, it just becomes part of dog ownership to keep him healthy.
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