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Dog Allergies

What you need to know About Dog Allergies

Constant scratching, tail-biting, coughing and wheezing, eye and nose discharges – if these symptoms commonly occur with your dog, chances are that he/she is suffering from allergies.

Yes, dogs, just like us can suffer from allergies. Roughly about 20 percent of dogs living in our homes suffer from some type of allergy. Major classifications of canine allergies are atopic dermatitis, flea allergy, food allergy and inhalant allergy. 

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a skin allergy caused by a hypersensitivity to several and very common substances like molds and dust mites.

If your dog scratches and licks himself excessively (particularly licking and chewing the paws, abdomen and legs), and his/her ears are hot to the touch, he/she may be suffering from atopic dermatitis.

Check to see if your dog’s saliva causes stains. A red to brown stain is another indicator that your dog has atopic dermatitis. In persistent cases, the skin on the abdomen changes color from pink, to a bright red then to black.

Flea Allergy

Flea allergy is the most common form of canine allergy. However, it is not the flea but the flea’s saliva that your dog may be allergic to. To find out if your dog has flea allergies, a skin allergy test is required. If he/she tests positive, a strict control regimen can reduce symptoms. Consult your vet as to what type of treatment is best for your pet. There is a wide array of choices ranging from pills to sprays to shampoos.

Inhalant Allergy

Just like us, dogs are susceptible to allergens inhaled from the air. Pollen from trees, grass, and flowers, dust mites and molds are just some of the common culprits. However, unlike humans who exhibit inhalant allergies through sneezing and coughing, dogs show their reactions through scratching and biting as well as chewing of feet and licking constantly. A less common reaction is recurrent infections in your dog’s ears.

You can help alleviate the allergy by vacuuming frequently and dusting the areas your dog spends most of his time in (like his sleeping area).

Food Allergy 

Dogs also exhibit allergies to the food they eat. And this is perhaps the most tedious to diagnose because food allergies can mimic any of the other allergies mentioned above. The first thing to do is to remove all possible allergy causing ingredients from your pet’s diet. You can do this by using a homemade meal of a protein and starch source that your dog hasn’t had before. Gradually add (one at a time for about a week), more ingredients into it. If symptoms return after adding a particular ingredient, then the possible allergen could be identified.

However, allergic reactions may not appear for about a week after consuming the allergen so be sure to confirm your findings with your vet. Once it has been verified, avoid that ingredient in all foods given to your dog.

Relief

You can help your pet and alleviate his allergy woes by bathing and conditioning your dog regularly. Water helps to relieve your dog’s skin and keeps it healthy. It also rinses off allergens from their body. Different kinds of shampoos are available to treat allergies, depending, of course, on your pet’s particular condition.

Treatment

Corticosteroids are useful for controlling allergies by reducing the inflammation in your dog’s skin. Although it will weaken their immune system a bit, it is often necessary in order to treat the allergy.

Some side effects are increased appetite and drinking, and higher chances of developing infections. It is therefore not recommended for long-term use. If a longer duration of use is necessary, your pet will require close supervision by your Vet.

Prednisone, a short-acting steroid, can be used orally and is safer than the long-acting steroids. Taken with antihistamines and Omega fatty acids and frequent bathing, these short-acting steroids can be used effectively when used sparingly.

An allergy injection, also called immunotherapy, is a series of treatments meant to produce immunity to substances your dog is currently allergic to. Skin and blood testing is performed to find out what substances causes your pet’s allergies. These substances then are given to your dog in small but increasing amounts via injections.

Over a period of time, the dog becomes desensitized to the substances and no longer exhibits allergic reactions to them. Finding out what allergies your dog is suffering from and the allergens that cause them may be a tedious, pain-staking process. But it is worth the effort especially as you see the relief you give your dog translate to a pet that’s in a better disposition and mood, perhaps in gratitude for the time you’ve spent to understand and take care of their ailments.