Allergies in dogs
30th October, 2023
Allergies in dogs or allergic dermatitis is when a pet’s immune system is triggered by an allergen. To most dogs these allergens are harmless but a pet with allergies will have an extreme reaction to them.
Some dogs are affected by allergies all year round while other are only itchy at particular times of the year, similar to us as a human suffering with hay fever, often it is not possible to find the single trigger of the allergy but you as the pet owner may suspect a particular event to have been the cause of the allergy.
Primary causes of allergies in dogs
Allergies in dogs can be triggered by a variety of factors. These include:
- Environmental allergens: These include pollen, house dust mites, mould spores, and other airborne allergens. Dogs can inhale these allergens or come into contact with them through their skin.
- Food allergies: Some dogs can be allergic to certain foods or food ingredients such as wheat, dairy, chicken, or beef.
- Flea allergies: When a flea bites a dog, it leaves behind saliva. Some dogs are allergic to this saliva, resulting in a condition called flea allergy dermatitis.
- Contact allergens: These are allergens that cause allergic reactions when they come into contact with a dog's skin. Examples include certain types of grass, plants, carpets, or cleaning products.
Identifying allergies in dogs
Identifying allergies in dogs can be difficult as the dog's allergy symptoms often mimic other health conditions. However, if your dog is showing any of the following signs, they may be suffering from allergies.
Common allergic symptoms in dogs
- Itching and scratching: This is the most common symptom of allergies in dogs. Dogs may scratch or lick their skin excessively, leading to redness, swelling, and sometimes, secondary skin infections.
- Skin rashes: Dogs with allergies may develop rashes or hives on their skin. These rashes can appear anywhere but are most common on the belly, feet, and ears.
- Hair loss: Allergic reactions can lead to hair loss or alopecia in dogs. This usually occurs due to excessive scratching or licking.
- Ear infections: Dogs with allergies often suffer from recurring ear infections. Symptoms include head shaking, scratching at the ears, and a foul smell from the ears.
- Digestive issues: Some dogs may experience vomiting, diarrhoea, or other digestive problems due to food allergies.
- Respiratory symptoms: Although less common, some dogs can exhibit respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, reverse sneezing and wheezing.
It's essential to consult a veterinarian if you notice any of these common symptoms in your dog. They can perform allergy testing to determine whether your dog has an allergy and, if so, identify what's causing your pet's allergies.
How do I know what food my dog is allergic to?
Just like humans, our four-legged friends can also develop food allergies. The question is, how do I know what food my dog is allergic to?
Noticing the signs is the first step, your dog might exhibit symptoms such as:
- Skin irritation
- Chronic ear infections
- Digestive problems like vomiting and diarrhoea
- Behavioural changes
These symptoms can occur immediately after a meal or even hours later making it hard to pinpoint the exact allergen. To identify the specific food allergen, a food elimination diet is often recommended by veterinarians.
This involves feeding your dog a diet with minimal ingredients, then gradually reintroducing other foods to see which causes a reaction. It's a slow process but extremely effective in identifying the culprit.
Another way is through allergy testing which can be done via blood or skin tests by your vet.
Are certain dog breeds more likely to have allergies?
When it comes to our four-legged friends, it's often surprising to find that, just like humans, they too can suffer from allergies. But are certain breeds more likely to have allergies? The answer is yes, some breeds are indeed more susceptible.
Breeds such as Bulldogs, Retrievers, and Terriers seem to be more prone to environmental allergies. They might react to dust, molds, or pollens, resulting in itchy skin, sneezing, or even digestive issues.
Shih Tzus, Boxers, and Dalmatians are more inclined towards food allergies that can cause skin irritations and gastrointestinal problems.
Cocker Spaniels and German Shepherds are known to be more sensitive to flea allergies.
That being said, any dog can develop allergies at any age, regardless of its breed.
Managing dog allergies
Managing dog allergies involves avoiding the allergen, administering medication, and making dietary changes.
Avoidance is the most effective way to manage allergies in dogs. This involves identifying and eliminating environmental allergies.
For dogs that are sensitive to pollen and other outdoor irritants don't walk your dog through tall grasses or meadows, particularly during spring and autumn when pollen counts are higher.
Try to also tailor your daily walks to times when the pollen count is lowest, normally between 5am and 10am.
Medication can be used to treat the symptoms of allergies in dogs.
Antihistamines, corticosteroids, and other anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce itching and inflammation.
In severe cases, immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be recommended.
Diet can play a significant role in managing allergies in dogs. Some dogs may benefit from a hypoallergenic diet, while others may need supplements to boost their immune system.
Always consult your vet before making any significant changes to your dog's diet.
Food allergies or intolerances can be tested for by carrying out a dietary exclusion trial. This involves feeding your pet an alternative diet for a period of 6-8 weeks.
The choice of the dogs food is very important and your vet will advise you on the most appropriate diet to use.
Treating allergies in dogs
Treatment for allergies in dogs depends on the cause of the allergy and the severity of the symptoms. Your vet will be able to recommend the best treatment plan for your dog.
Topical treatments such as creams, ointments, and medicated shampoos can help soothe itchy skin and reduce inflammation.
Oral medications can be used to control itching and other allergy symptoms. These may include antihistamines, corticosteroids, or other anti-inflammatory drugs.
Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment option for dogs with allergies. It involves exposing your dog to small amounts of the allergen over time to help their immune system build tolerance.
Dietary supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics can help boost your dog's immune system and improve skin health.
Have any studies into dog allergies been carried out?
Absolutely, several studies into dog allergies have been carried out over the years. The world of science has continually strived to understand the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments for dog allergies.
These studies have uncovered that dog allergies are caused by a reaction to proteins found in a dog's skin cells, urine, or saliva.
Research has also shown that exposure to dogs at an early age may help reduce the likelihood of developing these allergies.
Interestingly, one study even found that certain dog breeds may be more likely to cause allergies than others.
These research efforts have not only deepened our understanding of allergies but also helped improve the lives of both dogs and their owners.
Despite the progress made, there is still much to learn about dog allergies, with ongoing studies continuously seeking more answers. The findings from these studies are essential and showcase the significance of continued research in this area.
Allergies in dogs can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right care and treatment, your dog can lead a comfortable and happy life. Remember, if you suspect your dog has allergies, always consult a vet for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Treating allergies in dogs can be expensive, especially if your dog requires ongoing treatment*. To help manage these costs, consider getting dog insurance.
If you're interested in getting a quote for your furry friend, you can do so through our website. You can also get in touch with one of our dog insurance specialists at 0330 102 5748.
With the right care, understanding, and treatment, your dog can live a happy and comfortable life, despite having allergies. Just remember, early detection and treatment are key to managing allergies in dogs.
*Here at Purely Pets, we will not cover pre-existing conditions that have been noted prior to the policy inception
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