Signs of Dog Allergies (And What to Do About It)
If you suffer from allergies, you already know how miserable they can be. But did you know that dogs can have allergies, too?
Nobody wants to see their best pal in discomfort! It’s important to know the signs of dog allergies — and what a concerned pet parent can do about it.
Causes & Types of Dog Allergies
Basically, allergies are what happens when a dog (or human) has an overzealous immune system. While the immune system is supposed to fight off harmful foreign substances, allergies are the result of the immune system reacting (sometimes quite strongly) to something that’s actually harmless. The Veterinary Centers of America puts it this way:
“.The immune reactions involved in allergies are quite complex. Most reactions involve allergen protein molecules combining with antibodies in the blood, then attaching to a type of cell called a mast cell. Mast cells are found in many tissues throughout the body. When the antigen and antibody react with mast cells, the mast cells release potent chemicals, such as histamines, that cause local inflammation such as redness, swelling, and itching. This inflammation causes the various signs associated with an allergic reaction.”
Of course, you may still be wondering: what actually causes dogs to have allergies? Are allergies inherited, or did something that happened in Fido’s life trigger his immune system to mount a full-scale defense against an innocent bit of pollen?
Unfortunately, allergies are mysterious things, and it’s not always clear how or why they develop. Some allergies are thought to be inherited, while others are not. Allergies may be present from a young age or develop later in life — often without an obvious cause. Likewise, some allergies that have been present for years have been known to vanish suddenly!
Dogs of all breeds and backgrounds can and do develop allergies. A few common allergies dogs can have include:
Food ingredients (grains, proteins, etc.)
Fleas, bees, wasps or other insects
Signs of Dog Allergies
For many pet parents, it’s difficult to know if your dog is suffering from allergies or something else entirely.
The most classic signs of dog allergies are uncomfortable and aggravating skin problems. This usually manifests as constant itching, either all over Fido’s body or in a specific area such as their paws or belly. The discomfort often causes your best pal to obsessively lick and chew on themselves, or frequently rub up against furniture and other surfaces. Allergies can also be the cause of your pup’s fur loss, red skin, hives or swelling.
Other times, the signs of dog allergies more closely mimic human allergies, with respiratory and sinus issues. If your best pal is coughing, sneezing, wheezing, has runny discharge from their eyes or nose or seems prone to ear infections, allergies may be to blame.
Many pet parents don’t realize that digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea or excessive gas can also be caused by allergies. Then again, sometimes it feels like almost anything triggers GI distress in dogs! Don’t immediately assume your dog has allergies if it’s also possible your pup recently ate raccoon poop or inhaled their dinner too fast.
Finally, the most extreme allergic reaction a dog can have is to go into anaphylactic shock — a sudden drop in blood pressure and the onset of shock. If your dog suddenly collapses, has pale gums, feels cold or does not seem to be breathing, immediate and urgent medical care is required.
How to Help Your Dog with Allergies
It’s no fun when your best pal isn’t feeling their best! Treating your dog’s allergies involves a combination approach: mitigating the unpleasant symptoms in the short term, while working long-term to identify the allergen and reduce or eliminate contact with it.
There are a variety of medications your vet may prescribe to alleviate the discomfort from allergy symptoms. These include antihistamines, anti inflammatories, immune modulators and steroids.
Many of these drugs are quite effective, but it’s important to remember that they are designed to be only temporary fixes, not permanent solutions. If your dog’s allergies manifest as skin issues, bathing Fido regularly with therapeutic or medicated shampoo may also help.
As many of the signs of dog allergies can be symptoms of other common ailments, confirming that your pup is indeed suffering from allergies can be tricky. Your veterinarian will typically want to rule out other medical causes before assuming your dog has allergies.
If your vet does suspect your dog may have environmental or seasonal allergies, they will use skin testing to pinpoint the allergen. If you can keep your pup from having any contact with the allergen moving forward, that would be best — but if not, your vet will help you decide on a treatment.
One of the most effective means of treating seasonal or environmental allergies is through immunotherapy, also called hyposensitization therapy or an “allergy vaccine.” A series of injections slowly acclimates your dog’s body to the allergen, greatly reducing or even eliminating their allergy symptoms.
If food allergies are suspected, your vet will recommend an elimination diet. This involves putting your dog on a limited ingredient diet for a few months, restricting them to only one protein and no outside treats or human food to see if symptoms subside.
Nature’s Advantage grain free dog food is especially helpful with elimination diets, since we have already eliminated all grains, gluten, artificial preservatives, dyes or rendered by-products. A limited ingredient panel gives pet parents and veterinarians much more ability to pinpoint the allergen culprit.
Finally, if your vet suspects your dog may have a flea allergy, the treatment and the test is the same: killing the fleas!
Dog allergies can be aggravating for your pet and distressing for you. Thankfully, with proper treatment and care, your best pal’s itchiness, sneeziness or gassiness can be relieved!