Allergies in Dogs

Allergies affect up to half of the American dog population, making daily life uncomfortable and paving the way for other serious medical conditions. Often, they don’t go away on their own. Your dog needs veterinary care and, more importantly, an environment that doesn’t trigger his or her allergies.

Your dog’s immune system is partly responsible for this condition. An allergy, according to the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA), occurs when your dog’s immune system overreacts to a substance called an allergen.

When your dog is exposed to an allergen, his or her immune system thinks it’s a threat, even though allergens are usually harmless. The immune system responds by releasing histamines, which cause itching, swelling, redness, and other allergy symptoms.

Types of Allergies Among Dogs

The allergens determine the type of allergies your dog has.

Food Allergies. An estimated 10% of cases are food allergies. These involve a certain protein or carbohydrate in the food that triggers the immune system’s response. It’s different from food intolerance, where your dog’s body doesn’t process certain food types, leading to gastrointestinal problems.

A 2017 study published in the journal BMC Veterinary Research enumerated the top food allergens among dogs:

  • Beef (34% of participants were affected)
  • Dairy products (17%)
  • Chicken (15%)
  • Wheat (13%)
  • Lamb (5%)

Flea or Insect Bite Allergies. This is the immune system’s over-response to the sting or bite of an insect. If the culprits are fleas, it goes by the name flea allergies. If other insects or arachnids cause the reaction, it’s called insect bite allergies. Allergens include the bites of blackflies, mosquitoes, ants, bees, hornets, wasps, spiders, and ticks.

The bites or stings trigger severe local itching. As a result, the dog bites and scratches the area vigorously, removing large amounts of hair and leaving them vulnerable to infection. In fact, a single flea bite can set off an allergic reaction that lasts weeks.

Atopic Allergies. Around 15% of dogs experience atopic allergies, which is caused by substances that your dog inhales. Breeds like the Terrier, Retriever, Dalmatian, Maltese, English Bulldog, and Shar Pei are likely to develop this condition. Main allergens include:

  • Tree pollen (e.g., Ash, Oak, and Cedar)
  • Weed and grass pollens
  • Molds and mildew
  • House dust mites

You’ll know if your dog is allergic to pollen because symptoms will show up seasonally. On the other hand, dogs that are allergic to dust mites, molds, and mildew contend with the symptoms all year round.

Atopic allergies manifest differentlybetween people and dogs. People who inhale allergens often experience respiratory problems, such as a runny nose and sneezing. The most common symptom among dogs, in contrast, is itchy skin.

Contact Allergies. This is the least common form of allergies. Contact allergies are caused by direct contact with allergens. Substances that trigger the immune system’s response are lawn pesticides, grass, pyrethrins in flea collars, wool, and more. The allergy causes skin irritation and itching, often on the feet and stomach.

The Symptoms You Should Watch Out For

Allergies can develop in dogs of various breeds and backgrounds, but the VCA says most conditions occur after the dog reaches his or her first birthday. Regardless of age or breed, you should watch out for these allergy symptoms:

1. Your Dog’s Skin

  • Itchiness
  • Hives (pale red bumps, patches, and welts)
  • Swelling on the face (earflaps, eyelids, and lips)
  • Inflammation or redness
  • Hair loss due to scratching
  • Flea dirt (dark specks on your dog’s skin)
  • Leathery skin texture

2. Your Dog’s Behavior

  • Constant licking on a specific area
  • Constant scratching
  • Sneezing and wheezing
  • Disinterest in playtime or food
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Take note that different types of allergies may exhibit similar symptoms. Additionally, your dog may have multipletypes of allergies at the same time.

This is why you shouldn’t diagnose your dog’s allergies on your own. The best step is to bring your dog to the vet for an official check-up and diagnosis. He or she will then provide the correct medical prescription.

What Can You Do?

Allergies are a treatable condition, and your pet can avoid a recurrence if you follow your vet’s recommendations carefully and make a few lifestyle changes.

1. Follow the Vet’s Prescription

Your vet might recommend various treatment methods to relieve your dog’s symptoms. This could include anti-inflammatory drugs that block allergic reactions in atopic allergies. He or she may also recommend a hypoallergenic shampoo to soothe itchy, inflamed skin. In some cases, the conditions require allergy shots that would desensitize the dog’s over-active immune system.

If a dog has flea bite allergies, the vet might prescribe a flea and tick medicine as well as a good dog flea comb.

Administer your dog’s medicine according to the schedule and dosage prescribed by the vet. Don’t miss an allergy shot, and bathe your dog according to the vet’s recommended schedule.

2. Remove the Allergen

Without the allergen, your dog’s immune system doesn’t have any reason to overreact. So, the best way to treat allergy is to remove the allergen.Contact allergies, for instance, are easy to solve. Keeping the dog away from the allergen (the dog leash, for instance) solves the problem.

Food allergies call for a diet change. Once the vet identifies the food component that causes allergic reactions, replace your dog’s meals with food that’s free of the allergen.

Dave’s Pet Food, for instance, features food options that can help dogs with food allergies.

  • Our 95% Premium Meats Canned Dog Food contains no fillers or grains. It’s ideal for dogs who are allergic to carbohydrates.
  • Our Naturally Healthy Dog Food in Pork Meal and Sweet Potato doesn’t contain beef, poultry, soy, wheat, corn, or dairy products. It’s wholesome and easy to digest.
  • Our Grain-Free Chicken Meal Dry Dog Food doesn’t have grains, gluten, beef, corn, or soy. It’s also free of artificial colors and flavors. This option is ideal for dogs with very sensitive food allergies.

Remember, too, that a gradual transition to the new diet prevents stomach problems. So, start by mixing your dog’s old food with the new food. Every day, increase the proportion of new food while reducing that of the old one. By the end of a week, your dog should be used to eating the new food.

Atopic and insect bites allergens, meanwhile, require more extensive solutions. Vets often prescribe medications and lifestyle changes. For example, you can install air purifiers, which remove airborne pollens and microorganisms at home. Keep your house clean, too, to control insect populations.

3. Change Your Home and Dog’s Routine

Making a few changes around your house could help relieve your dog’s symptoms and prevent recurrences.

For instance, don’t let your dog come into contact with substances that irritate him or her. If your dog is allergic to pollen, wipe his or her hair and paws with a damp towel to remove pollen and dander. If grass irritates your dog, consider giving him or her dog boots. Ask your vet if you can give your dog foot baths, too.

You can reduce and prevent a flea population from spreading by regularly vacuuming carpets and rugs. Immature fleas often thrive in these areas. Also, wash your dog’s clothes and bedding regularly with hypoallergenic and non-toxic detergents. Keep your yard mowed and trimmed. It is, after all, your homes’ first line of defense against fleas.

Ask your vet for a healthy bathing schedule that reduces the risk for flea infestations and removes harmful organisms from your dog’s skin.

Allergies, whatever type they may be, stops your dog from enjoying day-to-day activities. It even makes them vulnerable to skin infections and other health issues. So, bring your dog to your vet the moment you spot the symptoms of an allergy.

If your dog is experiencing food allergies, try our selection of dog food.