Skin allergies are now the most common reason for veterinary visits. When allergies strike dogs, they almost always result in dermalogical problems. Your canine friend may chew on his feet, shake his head, rub his body on the carpet, scratch incessantly, or lick himself in a vain attempt to relieve the itching. This can and often does result in mutilated skin and hair loss.
What Causes Dog Allergies?
Veterinarians estimate that one in seven dogs is allergic to something. Unlike humans, however, dogs seldom manifest a multitude of symptoms. Even if they inhale environmental allergens, like pollen, their noses rarely run and their eyes usually don’t get red. Instead, they will have an itching sensation, skin rash, or possibly an ear infection.
The three most common culprits are food, environmental allergens, and flea bites. Scratching is the most common symptom and ear infections are possible, since the glands in your dog’s ears overproduce wax in response to allergic reactions. Owners must stay alert because the self-inflicted lesions caused by incessant scratching can lead to serious bacterial infections.
Just as with humans, when allergens are ingested, inhaled, or even touched, they cause the immune system to release irritating chemicals called histamines. Histamines are located in the skin and cause the itching. Because these allergens are produced in greater quantities in certain seasons, dogs tend to scratch a lot more in the spring, late summer, and fall.
Allergies typically develop in dogs between the ages of one and three. The symptoms to a known allergen rarely abate as the dog ages. In fact, they may get worse.
Flea Control is a Must
As noted above, fleas are a common cause of allergies in dogs. See our previous post for information on flea prevention medications available at VetRxDirect.
Allergy Testing in Dogs
Because they cannot tell you what symptoms they’re having or even how they feel, diagnosing allergies in dogs can be difficult. If your pouch experiences fairly consistent symptoms year round, he may be allergic to his food or to something in your home, typically dust mites. But if he only scratches himself for a few weeks in the spring, it means he almost certainly has seasonal allergies.
There are a few ways to determine what is causing your pet’s allergic reaction. The first and most definitive one is to take him to his veterinarian for an allergy test. Another is to eliminate things from your dog’s environment, one by one, until the allergen is determined. This method is generally used when food allergies are suspected.
Allergen Avoidance in Dogs
The simplest and most reliable way to assuage your pet’s allergies is to eliminate offending agents. If your dog is allergic to house dust, put him in another room while you vacuum the rugs and floors. If house dust mites are the culprit, wash his bedding in very hot water at least once a week. It may also be a good idea to use plastic covers on stuffed furniture. And make sure you keep rooms cool when the mercury rises, since pests thrive in warm environments.
The two other common environmental allergens are molds and pollens. To shield your dog from mold, keep him out of the basement and indoors when the grass is being cut. Because they are magnets for molds, humidifiers should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Using a dehumidifier may also help prevent the spread of these offending agents. Pollen is a bit easier to protect against since we know when pollen counts generally rise, i.e., during the spring. If your dog has a problem with pollen, keep him indoors and in the air conditioning during these periods, or at least wipe his feet before he comes inside.
Topical Solutions for Dog’s Skin Health
Shampoos and anti-itch medications provide immediate, albeit short-term relief. As a result, they are extremely popular with owners whose pets suffer from seasonal allergies. Most can be used once, even twice a week without issue. Solutions that contain hydrocortisone offer increased relief for most dogs. Salves and lotions may also be applied to sooth red, irritated skin.
VetRxDirect has a full line of dog shampoos and sprays for healthy skin:
Ask your veterinarian which one is right for your pet.
Immunotherapy for Dogs
Intensive, expensive, but extremely effective, immunotherapy is only recommended when allergy symptoms are persistant and severe. The treatment involves a series of weekly or monthly shots administered during periods of intense suffering. Before these injections can be applied, your dog must undergo blood and/or intradermal testing to identify the offending allergens. New oral immunotherapy is now available- see Medications below.
Medication for Allergic Dogs
In more typical cases, when the allergies are seasonal and of shorter duration, your veterinarian may decide to prescribe medications to suppress the symptoms until the allergen dissipates in the environment, usually after a killing frost or significant snowfall.
Prescription medications to treat common pet allergies are available at deeply-discounted prices at VetRxDirect:
Your veterinarian will prescribe the best allergy medication for your dog.
Nutritional Supplements for Allergic Dogs
Essential fatty acids can help with allergy symptoms and potentiate other medications such as corticosteroids, antihistamines, and immune suppressants like cyclosporine.
VetRxDirect has many products containing fatty acids for dogs to choose from.
Topical Solutions and Medications for Allergic Dog’s Ears
If your dog’s ears are litchy, waxy, or sore, topical ear cleaners and medications may be needed to clean the ears, treat infections, and relieve symptoms. A veterinarian can look deep in your dog’s ear and check the debris under the microscope to determine the best treatment. Talk to your veterinarian about these possible ear cleaners and medications for dogs from VetRxDirect:
Ear Cleaners for Dogs:
Ear Medications for Dogs:
How do you fight seasonal allergies in your dog? Please post any suggestions or tips you have to help the rest of us who have scratchy, licking dogs.
Have a great day,