Dog Allergies  

By Debbie Brookham C.P.N.

What is all the itch about?

If you find your pup constantly scratching at her fur, it may be time to look into dog allergies. Itching of the skin is the most common symptom associated with allergies. Dogs can get a variety of different allergies to many things. The problem is, it may be a mystery until you know identify symptomology and the underlying causes of dog allergies. When I say it could be anything, it literally could. In fact, I know a dog that is allergic to human dander!

Dog breeds of all types can develop allergies and unfortunately, they are quite common. The majority of dogs develop allergies after one-to-two years of age. Dogs can get allergies genetically passed from their parents. Breeds with a high incidence of allergies include Shar-Peis, West Highland Terriers, Cairn Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Wire-Haired Fox Terriers, Dalmations, Pugs, Irish Setters, Boston Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, English Setters, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers and Belgian Tervurens.


Types of Allergies

There are multiple types of allergies including food, seasonal, inhalant, and skin contact. Some dogs can be allergic to the plastic bowls they are eating or drinking from when their nose touches the plastic. One tip: always use ceramic or stainless steel bowls that are certified NSF, and made in the United States. Your bowls will have fewer bacteria.

Typically, dogs with allergies have an over-active immune system response. Itching is just one of several symptoms of allergies. Others include ear Infections, skin infections, red eyes, skin redness everywhere, watery eyes, runny nose, swollen paws, coughing and sneezing, asthma, anal gland issues, inflamed ears, diarrhea, and vomiting. If that seems like a long list there are also self-inflicted wounds from obsessive licking and chewing--or biting at the top or bottom of the paws. We call these areas of intense irritation “hot spots.” When your dog chews their skin so intently, the hair falls out and the dog feels as though its skin is on fire. Hot spots are inflamed, infected skin, from an overgrowth of normal bacteria. If you’re allergic to, say, a mosquito bite, you’ll understand why your canine friend can’t stop itching.

If you find yourself taking your dog to the Vet for consistent ear infections, it may be a symptom of allergies. Ear infections have typical symptoms like head shaking, discharge and stinky smell.

When all this occurs (with one or multiple symptoms) your dog is screaming out “help me!. It will take patience and time to figure out what allergy/allergies are affecting your dog.


Allergies in Detail

Another common allergen for a dog is flea saliva. After consistent biting from the fleas, the dog can develop a secondary bacterial infection. If your pup keeps aggravating the bites with his tongue or teeth, he can develop a yeast infection, which makes your dog smell. Stopping the flea infestation is your only option to stop the vicious itching allergic reaction.

Food allergies are tricky to figure out. Interesting to note, a dog can eat the same food every day in his life with no problems. But, one day her body’s immune system will fight back against the allergy, as your dog seems to randomly develop an allergy/sensitivity to an ingredient in his food. By changing foods monthly or quarterly, you expose your dog to different ingredients, reducing the chance of food allergy. During your diet rotation, try to not feed unique proteins that might be difficult to replace later. Examples are rabbit, kangaroo, or alligator--any protein that isn’t widely available.

Dogs can be allergic to any protein or carbohydrate found in their food. You have to pay attention to all the ingredients in your food. Most common food allergies or food hypersensitivity come from chicken, chicken eggs, beef, dairy, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, lamb, potatoes, and a number of other ingredients found in commercial dog foods.

Often times, eliminating the suspected food as the culprit can put things back in sync with your dog’s immune system. Trial and error tests can help you determine the cause, as can allergy tests Don’t forget to check every suspected ingredient in every treat you feed, table food, supplements, along with the daily food you give your dog. A food elimination diet can take up to three months to find out what ingredient is causing the problem. However, I’d recommend having your Veterinarian perform a blood test. The results will show you a list of food allergens to which your dog has a borderline sensitivity--as well as what tested with positive results.

Curious if your dog has a food allergy? The most common symptoms of food allergies can include a consistent chewing on the paws. The canine body has histamines that are emitted through the paws when trying to fight the allergy. The body’s immune system becomes over-reactive and this sets up the hyperactivity of the immune system and the histamine response.


Additional Allergies

Common allergies for people can also affect furry friends, like environmental allergens. Each year with more exposure to environmental allergies, symptoms can get worse for dogs, like ear infections. When seasonal weather brings pollen, grass, ragweed, and dust, allergies can occur. When your canine loves to roll in the very green grass he’s allergic to, symptoms can develop. Your dog doesn’t have to roll in the grass to get incessant itching.

Inhaling pollen, molds, mites and more can set off the vicious cycle of itching if he has an environmental sensitivity. The dog might also rub its face, lick its feet and scratch underarms. There may be hair loss and If you live in warmer climates, allergies can be year-round. Unfortunately, many dogs, that have food allergies, can develop into seasonal allergies. Your vet can perform an intradermal skin test or blood test to help determine the seasonal allergy.

Allergies can also come from indoor household items, like your dog’s bedding, carpeting, household cleaners, and dust mites. Dogs are seven times more sensitive to indoor exposure to toxins than humans. It could be a combination of substances. Needless to say, it can be a real challenge to find out the source of your dog’s allergies.


What pet parents can do

Having a dog with allergies is very stressful. We pet parents hate to see our furry friends in any sort of pain or discomfort. Luckily, scientific analysis is advancing and it’s becoming easier to determine allergens than ever before.

A visit to your veterinarian can help you determine a food allergy, seasonal allergies or both. Veterinarians can take skin testing or blood testing to determine the correct path of treatment.

It will often take time to get on the correct path to eliminate or minimize the allergies, but with patience, your dog can live in harmony with his immune system.

Talk to your Holistic Vet or Pet Nutritionist about some natural ways to increase your dog’s immune health. For instance, you can start by adding Omega-3 fatty acids or coconut oil (given in the correct dose) which is a natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial oil. Additionally, Hungry Bark has some fantastic supplements for sale that may help dogs with various food sensitivities or food allergens!


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