If you suspect your dog has allergies, you might be right. Allergies in dogs can be difficult to pinpoint, but when your dog is acting strangely – perhaps scratching or licking their paws or reacting badly to food, allergies are a likely culprit. Here’s what you need to know about dog allergies.
What Kinds of Allergies Do Dogs Have?
An allergy is a reaction to a substance in the body’s system. Both people and pets suffer from allergies. There are many types of allergies, but for dogs, all fall into one of three categories:
- Food allergies
- Skin allergies
- Environmental allergies
Food sensitivities, not true food allergies, are more common among dogs. It results in a gradual reaction to an ingredient in your dog’s food. Your dog may be reacting to chicken, beef, corn, eggs, soy, wheat, or dairy. More often than not, these allergies manifest in gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and vomiting. However, it could show in the skin. Symptoms include itchiness, diminished coat luster, and chronic infections in the ear or foot. To diagnose your dog, you’ll need to have them tested by your vet.
Skin allergies are triggered by food allergens, environmental allergens, or flea allergens. Flea allergy dermatitis is a reaction to flea bites. Many dogs are allergic to flea saliva, and it makes them incredibly itchy. Food allergies may also cause skin issues – especially dry, itchy skin. With this may come gastrointestinal problems. Lastly, environmental allergens have the ability to cause skin issues in dogs. These may be seasonal allergies that impact the paws and ears. However, skin allergies due to outdoor allergens may also flare up under the arms, groin, toes, and eyes. The big risk here is a secondary infection of the skin. So, be sure to treat the skin as directed by your veterinarian.
Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs
Symptoms of allergies in dogs vary widely, but here is what you need to look out for:
- Itchy skin
- Swelling (especially in the face, lips, ears, and eyes)
- Red, irritated skin
- Ear infections
- Runny or itchy eyes
- Constant licking (of paws or other inflamed skin)
If your dog suffers from any of these symptoms chronically, your dog has allergies or some other medical condition that requires attention. Make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.
How are Dog Allergies Diagnosed?
Diagnosing allergies can be complex. Your vet will want to rule out other more serious conditions first. They may do a blood test to check for common allergies. If the allergies are food related, they may suggest an elimination diet. This diet usually consists of one source of protein and carbohydrate for 12 weeks straight.
If flea allergies are the issue, it’s fairly easy to diagnose. Usually, it’s pretty obvious by the look of the skin and your dog’s behavior. Then, the doctor will prescribe a flea killing product. The skin issues will clear up once the fleas are gone.
Treating Allergies in Dogs
The best way to treat an allergy is to avoid the trigger. That may include lifestyle changes – from avoiding certain food ingredients to applying a flea treatment regularly to avoid flea bites.
For skin allergies, the VCA says there are a variety of treatment options depending on the allergy. For instance, for skin allergies, “Frequent bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo can be soothing to itchy, inflamed skin. Bathing also rinses out allergens in and on the coat that can be absorbed through the skin. Some therapeutic shampoos also contain anti-inflammatory ingredients that may further benefit your pet.”
And of course, if your dog has an acute severe reaction to an allergen, go to the veterinarian immediately.