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Dog allergies: symptoms, cause and treatments

By Dawn Parrish Content Writer

Updated on the

Just as humans can suffer from allergies, so can our dogs. However, an allergic reaction in your dog will be much more difficult to spot, as he won’t react to an allergen in the same way that humans do.

Symptoms of dog allergies

An allergic reaction will happen if a dog’s immune system begins to recognise things around them as being menacing. If your dog is suffering from one of the many possible allergies, one prominent sign will be skin irritation. Scabby, red and itchy skin are among the most frequent symptoms, and your dog will also scratch incessantly. A flea allergy may present as itchy ears, the base of the tail, or an itchy back. A dog food allergy will probably exhibit as gastrointestinal troubles, chronic ear infections or itching.

What to look out for

Watery, red eyes, shortness of breath, rashes, coughing, sneezing and a stuffy nose are all symptoms of various allergic reactions. In more serious cases, anaphylactic shock or even death is a possibility. Other potential symptoms to look out for include frequent bowel movements, yeast infections, excessive licking, biting or scratching and of course, hair loss. A sudden, extreme, allergic reaction requires urgent veterinary intervention. If you notice that your dog has swollen eyes or muzzle, or has trouble breathing and is gasping, don’t hesitate to call the emergency surgery immediately.

Take note of when you first notice any symptoms, plus any troubles or wretchedness your pet appears to be suffering. These notes may help you or your Vet to decide on the best assessments and treatments.

Causes – what is your dog allergic to?

An allergy is a condition of hypersensitivity or over-reactivity of the immune system, to the element – an allergen. The majority of these allergens are from foods, animals, insects or plants. Other possible environmental causes of dog allergies, can be attributed to plastics, rubber, smoke, mould spores and pollen. Of course the most frequent can be linked to fleas and mites.

Exposure to this hypersensitive article, possibly over a period of several months or even years, triggers the immune system, when a follow-up exposure to this same allergen can cause a reactive outcome. Some breeds are more susceptible to allergic reactions than others. In 2010, a report by Daniel O. Morris, Department of Clinical Studies – Philadelphia, School of Veterinary Medicine, was published reporting that

"some breed of dogs were more hypoallergenic due to their hair/coat type." 

Of course, any breed of dog could potentially suffer from an allergy, but Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Pugs, Setters and Terriers are among those more susceptible.

What are dogs allergic to? ©ariana.presto, Unsplash

Treatment of dog allergies

If you think that your pet has had an allergic reaction to something, consult your Vet. They will determine the cause of the symptoms with a physical examination and using the dog’s medical history. If this fails to prove a diagnosis, the next logical step will be allergy testing.

Removing exposure to the offending allergen is the key part to treatment. The exact method of treatment will be dependent on the source of the problem of course. Some common treatment forms for dog allergies include the following:

Food allergies - Elimination of various food items, to pinpoint the problematic products. Your Vet may suggest a prescription diet which should reduce any uncomfortable symptoms. At this point, attempt to introduce foods one at a time, to ascertain which foodstuff is the trigger.

Flea allergies – Your Vet will suggest that you implement a continuous protection strategy so that your dog is not affected by flea infestations.

Dust mite allergies – To limit your dog’s exposure to dust mites, vacuum and clean your pet’s bedding at least weekly.

Environmental allergies – Steroids or antihistamines may be prescribed to avoid allergen triggers. A prescription shampoo is recommended for pollen allergies, especially if your dog has an irritated skin condition. This shampoo will also treat any secondary skin infections and sores.

Dog allergy treatments ©Amanda.Collingford, Unsplash

Allergy Vaccine treatment

In the majority of cases, it’s difficult to remove the allergen totally. However, all isn’t lost, as your Vet may be able to prescribe a regular allergy vaccine that will at least give your dog some resistance to the initial problem.

As you can see, there is no definite way to prevent or treat dog allergies. There are so many sources that irritants can stem from, that it’s most difficult to narrow things down to an origin. Your dog doesn’t have to be miserable and suffer, and with just a bit of patience and time, you can help your pooch to cope with any allergies.    

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