Just like people, dogs can have or develop allergies at any time in their lives. Simply put, allergies are our bodies' response to allergens - substances like pollen, dust mites, and mold - which trigger our immune systems to respond as if we are under attack from bacteria or viruses. We sneeze, our noses run, and our bodies produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies and tissue-inflaming histamine as our body works to rid itself of allergens.
Does your dog have allergies?
Allergies typically present as one or more skin, digestive, and respiratory symptoms. Dogs that constantly scratch their own back or the base of their tails could suffer from flea bite allergies. For dogs with such allergies, a single flea bite could trigger a reaction that lasts for two to three weeks.
If your dog displays any of the following symptoms, he or she could be suffering from allergies:
- Constant licking or scratching
- Ear itchiness or infection
- Goopy eyes
- Paw chewing or swelling
- Wet, irritated, or scabbed skin
While dogs can be allergic to anything, a few common allergens include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Cleaning products
- Drugs - prescription and over-the-counter (OTC)
- Dust mites
- Fleas and flea-control products
- Mold spores
- Rubber and plastic
- Soap and shampoo
Like other allergies, your dog can develop food allergies during the course of its life. Common culprits include corn, beef, chicken, pork, soy, and wheat. Your vet will likely try to diagnose a food allergy by first placing the dog on a rigid prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet that is free of allergens until his symptoms go away, about twelve weeks. You can then slowly and systematically reintroduce old foods one at a time to determine which one is triggering the allergic reaction.
The best way to avoid allergies is to avoid allergens. If you haven't started a flea-control program, start one now. Flea season has begun. Discuss options with your vet.
Keep it clean. Wash your pet's bedding weekly and vacuum at least twice each week. Bathing can help relieve itching and remove allergens from your dog's skin, but ask your vet for shampoo recommendations. Some shampoos dry out skin.
If your vet cannot determine the cause of your dog's allergic reactions, he or she might recommend skin or blood tests, which are most often performed by a veterinary dermatologist.
Not every substance can be removed from your dog's environment. Oftentimes allergies have to be controlled with one of more medications. Airborne allergens are often treated with allergy injections that help your pet develop resistance to the allergen instead of treating the symptom.
Antihistamines like Benadryl only benefit a small percentage of dogs with allergies. Fatty-acid supplements and sprays that contain oatmeal or aloe can help relieve skin irritation.
If the problem is severe, a corticosteroid like prednisone might be employed to suppress the immune system and prevent the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation.
In sum, allergies must be treated. It is not only very uncomfortable for your dog, but even harmful: obsessive scratching could result in hair loss, scabs, and crusts from a secondary bacterial or yeast infection. If you suspect your pet is suffering from allergies, take it to the veterinarian.
For more pet care advice, check out my blog at: http://caninecompanionandconcierge.com/blog/