Allergies in dogs occur for the same reason as they do in humans: when the body starts to perceive an everyday substance as dangerous, it sends various signals that indicate that something is not right.
Some of the most common symptoms of dog allergies are:
- Increased scratching and licking,
- Itching and/or runny eyes,
- Itching, red skin,
- Itchy and infected ears,
- Paw chewing or swollen paws.
Naturally, some or even all of these symptoms may indicate another condition. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance not to speculate about what’s wrong with your dog, but to immediately go to the vet. The vet will examine your dog and eliminate suspicions of any underlying conditions that may be causing these symptoms to appear, such as yeast or bacterial infections or food poisoning.
Any dog can get any allergy in its lifetime. While that is true, it’s also worth noting that some dog breeds are more susceptible to getting allergies. Retrievers, Setters, Pugs, Bulldogs and Terriers are among the breeds that are most common victims of allergies.
But what causes allergies in dogs, exactly? Well, the list is eerily similar to the human allergen list:
- Trees, grass and pollen,
- Dust and house dust mites,
- Cigarette smoke,
- Food ingredients such as beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy,
- Prescription drugs,
- Fleas and flea-control products,
- Perfumes and cleaning products,
- Fabrics, rubber and plastic materials.
As you can see, dogs can be allergic to food, which is different from food poisoning, but it often has the exact same symptoms. That’s why food allergies are the hardest ones to pinpoint. To find out the substance causing the allergic reaction, the vet will most likely put your dog on a food elimination diet. This diet lasts for 4-6 months and consists of stripping your dog’s diet to the bare essentials, avoiding any allergens and putting them back in the diet one by one, while watching for the dog’s reaction to them. This way, the allergen culprit will be uncovered. However, one drawback of the food elimination diet is that it’s really hard to control what your dog eats all of the time. Unless, of course, you want to imprison your dog in a puppy playpen for the duration of the diet which we do not recommend! Therefore you’ll have to be extremely careful your pup doesn’t sniff out some food or roam through the garbage because that could take you right back to day 1 of the diet.
The best treatment for allergies is to completely avoid the allergen, if possible. However, if that’s not a viable option, then you should consider making some lifestyle changes in your dog’s life. For instance, if it turns out that it has dust allergies, washing your dog’s bedding once a week and cleaning it every day will be a necessary measure to implement. Weekly bathing with prescription shampoos is recommended for dogs that have pollen allergies.
If all else fails, your veterinarian can prescribe some medications that can help greatly in dealing with allergies. Furthermore, the medications could help with relieving the symptoms like itching and scratching, thus preventing the secondary bacterial infections that are commonplace when the skin is irritated for longer periods of time.
The good news is that once you know the symptoms to look for, you’ll be able to react and solve the problem as quickly as possible.