Dog Allergies | Basic Information

Dog allergies are a source of discomfort for some dogs just as allergies can be a discomfort for some humans. Essentially the immune system recognizes a substance as dangerous, whether it is actually dangerous or not, and the body reacts by taking protective measures. Most of the time the reaction is of a mild to moderate measure that is noticeably uncomfortable. However, sometimes the reaction can be extreme.

The substance that causes dog allergies is called an allergen, and an allergen can be inhaled, ingested, or in come in direct contact with the skin. After recognizing a substance as an allergen, and therefore dangerous, the body will then try to eliminate the problem causing a range of respiratory, digestive, and skin allergy symptoms.

The typical symptoms of dog allergies include:

• Increased scratching, increased licking
• Rubbing face on carpet or any similar surface
• Red, moist skin
• Paw chewing
• Itchy ears, ear infection
• Runny eyes
• Sneezing
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea

If you suspect your dog may be affected by dog allergies it is wise to take your dog to a veterinarian so he/she can confirm an allergy through diagnosis. In some cases, skin testing and blood work may be necessary in order to attempt to determine the allergen.

Whether the allergen is identified at first or not, your veterinarian will usually be able to alleviate the discomfort of your pet to a tolerable level. Ideally, with the identification of the allergen, it will be possible for your pet dog to live the remainder of his/her life without allergy discomfort. Hopefully, the allergen can be discovered and therefore removed from the dog’s environment.

However, this is not always possible. In some cases, continuing dog allergies can lead to medical complications such as recurring ear infections as skin conditions that may require medication or other special treatment. A dog allergy typically will first show up when a dog is between one to three years old. In some cases a dog will first experience a dog allergy as late as six to eight years old.

Basic Types of Dog Allergies

1. Dog Flea Allergies

Dog flea allergies are the most common form of dog allergies. The allergen is flea saliva which is left on the dog’s skin after a flea has bitten your dog. Unfortunately, fleas can be difficult to get rid of. Fleas are very fertile and produce huge numbers of eggs. It is important to get your dog on a flea treatment program as soon as possible after fleas are found on your dog. In warm weather, fleas thrive and can live until cold weather sets in. During this period of time, which is year-round in California, the southwest and southern states, fleas will patiently await a dog host, attach themselves, and begin to feed from the dog’s blood.

2. Dog Food Allergies

Dog food allergies are less common than dog flea allergies, but they are common. Unfortunately, dog food allergies can sometimes become a problem because discovering the food responsible for the allergenic reaction can be tricky. However, there are skin testing, and other avoidance and detection techniques that will be used to zero-in on the food allergen. This may take some detective work.

For some dogs, there is no perfect food. Especially with so many chemicals in commercial dog food, sometimes a dog owner must resort to cooking for their dog.

3. Dog Inhalant Allergies

Dog inhalant allergies, which are also referred to as “atopy”, and are caused by environmental factors, things or pollutants in the air that your dog breathes. If your dog becomes allergic to something in their environment, this may also require some detective work to narrow down the possibilities and finally locate the exact allergen.

Atopic allergens can be from natural sources and unnatural sources.

Natural sources include pollen from grass, plants and trees; dust mites; mold spores; animal dander; feathers; and other similar items.

Unnatural sources are usually manufactured substances such as chemicals, additives, and other pollutants contained in such items as plastics, rubber, as well as fumes from household cleaning products, tobacco smoke and other noxious fumes, chemicals in wool, cotton, nylon and other products, and other similar artificial or toxic gasses and fumes associated with manufactured goods and products.

Finding an Atopic Allergen

A prime cause of allergic reactions in dogs is the same prime cause of allergic reactions in humans—pollen. This to say that if you are allergic to pollen, then your dog may also be allergic to pollen. So, if you are reacting to hay fever or some new pollen in your back yard, it may be that your dog is reacting to the same irritant. Just as you may take medication for your allergy, your dog may need medication as well, but not the same as yours. A veterinarian will need to determine the best treatment for your pet dog.

Seasonal dog allergies come and go with seasonal pollen allergens and there is little you can do about them except to take medication to relieve symptoms. You may wish to check the pollen count to see if the specific source can be identified. That may help in avoidance. Keep in mind that tree pollens usually occur earlier in the spring than grass pollen. With seasonal allergens, the pollen will pass in a few weeks and the allergy will disappear, until next spring.

Non-seasonal dog allergies are another story. If the allergy does not go away in a month or so, then it is likely you are dealing with a year-round allergy. It is possible to eliminate this form of inhalant allergen from the dog’s environment if the source can be found. To do this, often the best technique is to use the process of elimination. Keep in mind, there may be more than one thing your dog has developed an allergy. However, the elimination process may reveal one or more allergens. When they are identified, they are simply removed from the immediate environment and that should solve the problem.

Sometimes in the case of certain items, the dog’s bed and toys may need to be cleaned. In fact, your pet can become allergic to the plastic or other substance in his bed or toys. Allergen skin tests may be effective in identification.

Summing Up

Dog allergies can be a problem for some pets. But with the help of your veterinarian you should be able to deal with mild to medium allergies very effectively. Serious allergies may require considerably more work, but your veterinarian will walk you through the process.

On this site we have articles that discuss various aspects of dog allergies. We hope you may find them useful.