If your dog has recently begun to scratch themselves more, has begun having issues with his/her anal glands, has begun shedding more than usual, or has begun constantly licking, your dog might have allergies.
Just like people, dogs can show allergic reactions to everyday things. Allergies occur when your dog's immune system reacts to a foreign substance or thing.
Signs and Symptoms of Allergies
Some other signs and symptoms of allergies include sneezing, runny eyes, itchy ears or ear infections, diarrhea, or paw chewing or swollen paws.
Dogs can develop allergies at any time, but allergic reactions seem to be more common in terriers, retrievers, setters, bulldogs, pugs, and other flat-faced breeds. Dogs can be allergic to many different substances.
Causes of Allergies
Some of the most common allergies include:
- Tree, grass, weed pollen
- Mold spores
- Cigarette Smoke
- Food ingredients (e.g. chicken, beef, pork, wheat, corn, or soy)
- Fleas and flea-control products
- Rubber and plastic mats
- Mite larvae
It can be quite tricky finding the exact substance or mites that your dog is allergic to.
Parasites are present all year, and if grass is long, mites can be picked up by dogs and cats fur. Typically the mites feed on plants and insects, but the larvae live on the skin of mammals such as cats and dogs. They can cause an allergic reation resutling in dermatitis, an infection of the skin that requires treatment with antibiotics and corticosteriods. Most mite infestations can be treated with a simple anti-parasitic wash from most pet shops, although it's best to ask your vet first to make sure you're using the correct wash.
You can also try a food elimination diet - which is an eating plan that omits a food or group of foods believed to cause an adverse food reaction, often referred to as a “food intolerance.” By removing certain foods for a period of time and then reintroducing them during a “challenge” period, you can learn which foods are causing symptoms or none at all. Some pet food brands also have hypoallergenic dog food you could trial to see whether your pet's symptoms decrease while on that food for a week or two.
If those treatments don't work, the vet may suggest allergy testing. There are two types of allergy tests that can be conducted on dogs: blood testing or skin testing. Both of these tests have advantages and disadvantages. A blood test is beneficial because the dog can stay on any current medications that are assisting the dog with his/her allergies; however, this test often isn't as accurate as the skin test. As mentioned, a skin test is much more accurate than a blood test; however, a dog must be off of any allergy related medication for a month before testing occurs. This is often impossible, especially for dogs with severe allergies.
The results of both of these tests lead to create shots to desensitize your dog to their specific allergens. These vaccinations are done in phases of different potencies, just as they are for people. These shots can be done at home and your vet will instruct you how to administer them. The effectiveness of these shots has been proven time and time again. However, they may not be the perfect fix for your dog.
Some vet clinics put off allergy testing until treatments have been applied. Some of these treatments include, antihistamines, medicated shampoos, and steroids. Each of these treatments can be very beneficial. In many cases, one, or a combination of, these treatments is all that is needed to ease your dog's allergies. It is important to note that you should never give your dog any medication without instruction from a vet. Many dogs with severe allergies require a combination of vaccinations, steroids, antihistamines, and medicated baths. There are many ways to help ease your dog's allergies. Don't be afraid to talk to your vet about possible solutions for your dog.