Everything About Dog Allergies – 101 Guide
Just like us humans, dogs are also prone to many allergies which may be triggered by an internal or an external element known as an ‘allergen’. It often causes a reaction which affects them negatively. These allergies can be particular to a dog or sometimes an entire breed or even a geography and can occur at a particular age or whenever in some breeds. Allergies per se are not diseases but rather an immunity defense to an external stimulus which ends up over compensating and responds abnormally to what should be a normal environmental or internal issue. Most allergens are proteins from plants, insects, animals, or foods.
Types of Allergies
There are different types of allergies which can be different in forms of reactions on body part, type of allergen, internal or external, etc.
Skin Allergy – Also called dermatitis, this is the most common type of allergic reaction in dogs. These allergies are caused due to 3 main reasons
Fleas and insects – Fleabites are the culprit for most of the dogs and the second one is flea saliva. These makes their skin very itchy which can make it become red, inflamed and scrabbed.
Food – There are some foods which cause irritation inside a dog’s stomach. This again causes their skin itch and the most common body parts are ears and paws. It can also cause some gastrointestinal symptoms.
Environmental agents – Dust, pollen and mold can cause atopic allergic reactions. Atopic allergies are inhalant ones which are caused by, as the name suggests, by inhaling allergens. These type of allergies are usually seasonal so the itching may happen only during certain time of the year. Common body parts affected are paws and ears but some also include wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes and between the toes.
All skin allergies pose the risk of secondary infection. As your dog scratches, bites, and licks at his skin, he risks opening up his skin to yeast and bacterial infections that may require treatment
Food Allergy – These are the ones caused by ingestion of certain foods which are irritational to the dog’s stomach. The symptoms of such allergies can be seen on skin in the form of hives, facial swelling, itchiness or gastrointestinal signs like diarrhea or vomiting or can be a combination of both.
You might have heard dogs on hypoallergenic diets. This basically means that their guts are sensitive to some foods and cannot tolerate them. These allergies are not an immune response but rather a gradual reaction to an unsuitable food. The usual suspects here are beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy or milk.
The symptoms can be seen in the form of vomiting and diarrhea or itchiness, poor skin and coat and chronic ear and foot infections
Acute Allergy – You might have seen a lot of people turning red with just one piece of peanuts or any kind of nuts. This is also seen in dogs. Dogs, like people can go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen. This can be fatal if not treated.
Bee stings and vaccine reactions are the common culprits here. This is why it is recommended that you keep a close watch on your dog when a new vaccine is administered or even when a new food item is introduced to his/her diet.
Hives or facial swelling are usually seen as symptoms caused by an acute allergen. Swelling of the face, throat, lips, eyelids, or earflaps may look serious, but is rarely fatal, and your veterinarian can treat it with an antihistamine
Common Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs
The signs and symptoms may vary breed to breed or even dog to dog, but there are some common reactions seen in dogs which indicate an allergy
Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or ear flaps
Red, inflamed skin
Chronic ear infections
Itchy, runny eyes
Most Common Food Allergens in Dogs
The most common allergens found in dogs are proteins. And the sources of these proteins are dairy, beef, chicken, eggs, soy or wheat.
Dog Breeds Most Susceptible to Allergies
Although almost all breeds can be prone to some or the other type of allergy whether a skin one or food or an environmental one. But there are some breeds which are known to be more sensitive and hence more susceptible toward these allergies.
English Springer Spaniels – Spaniels tend to get ear and lip fold infections. And many yeasty ear infections are caused by food intolerances, so feeding these dogs an appropriate non-hypoallergenic diet is very helpful. You may also be interested in the Tibetan Spaniel.
Poodles – They have a hereditary condition called granulomatous sebaceous adenitis, which affects the oil glands and can cause hair loss. Antibiotics and antifungals may be needed for treating secondary infections. You may also be interested in Schnoodle.
American Bulldogs – They tend to have allergies, both food and environmental. Environmental probably because of their short-haired skin which is more exposed. Canine ichthyosiform dermatoses, a genetic defect can also be noticed in the pups here.
Affenpinschers – Dogs like Pinschers, that are with low thyroid function tend to have a sparse coat, with thinning and alopecia along the flanks. The coat and skin tend to be dry and flaky. This leads to it being more prone to skin infections and allergies. You may also be interested in Miniature Pinscher.
Pitbull Terriers – Demodex, or tiny mites that live in hair follicles, can affect dogs with a weak immune system
Westies (aka West Highland White Terriers)
Yorkies (aka Yorkshire Terriers)
There are again a lot of breeds that are susceptible to allergies of skin, food or environmental allergens, so if you see any odd symptoms in your dog, consult your vet immediately. Such allergies are usually seen in dogs with shorter and thinner coats which provides less protection against fleas and termites.
Treatment for Allergies in Dogs
Treatment largely depends largely on the length of the specific allergy season. It may involve one or more of the following three therapies:
Anti-Inflammatory Therapy – This involves drugs such as corticosteroids, or with antihistamines. They tend to quickly block the allergic reactions in most of the cases. Oral medications, such as oclacitinib and injections like Cytopoint have been developed as well. But do consult your vet before using any.
Shampoo Therapy – To avoid skin allergies, frequent shampooing with a hypoallergenic solution can be good for itchy and inflamed skin. Bathing also helps rinsing out allergens. There are also some anti-inflammatory shampoos available which may be more beneficial
Hyposensitization or desensitization therapy – This involves injecting an allergy serum or popularly known as allergy shots, which is done weakly. The purpose here is to basically reprogram or desensitize the immune system.
There may be a lot of inherited allergies while others may be born during early years. The key is to keep checking for signs, keep a healthy and well-balanced diet, have regular vet check-ups and a good cleaning schedule.
Happy Mood and Health to your Doggo and lots of Love and Licks to you!
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