Just like people, dogs can get allergic reactions when their immune systems begin to recognize certain everyday substances as dangerous. The immune system is designed to protect us, but when it mistakes non-harmful environmental substances as threats, then allergic reactions occur. For example, if your dog eats a specific ingredient and the dog’s immune system views it as a threat, an extreme allergic reaction occurs. Whether we are talking about people or pets, the cause of allergies is an overactive immune system. Here’s what you need to know about dog allergies.
The most general symptoms of dog allergies
- Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin
- Increased scratching
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Itchy back or base of tail (most commonly flea allergy)
- Constant licking
- Itchy ears and ear infections
- Paw chewing/swollen paws
If you think your dog has allergies
If you think your pup is suffering from allergies, it’s important that you contact your veterinarian. After taking a complete history and conducting a physical examination, he or she may be able to determine the source of your dog’s allergic reaction. If not, your vet will most probably recommend skin or blood tests, or a special elimination diet, to find out what’s causing the allergic reaction.
What can dogs be allergic to?
These are the most common allergens:
- Tree, grass and weed pollens
- Dust and house dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Food ingredients (e.g. beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy)
- Prescription drugs
- Fleas and flea-control products
- Cleaning products
- Insecticidal shampoo
- Rubber and plastic materials
How can dog allergies be treated?
The best way to treat allergies is to remove the offending allergens from your dog’s environment. If dust is the problem, clean your pet’s bedding once a week and vacuum at least twice weekly. And try to keep your home clean and dust-free. If your dog has a food allergy, he or she probably need a special diet. Once the allergy is determined, your vet will recommend specific foods or a home-cooked diet. If the problem is grass or pollen, weekly bathing may help relieve itching and remove environmental allergens and pollens from your dog’s skin. Discuss with your vet what prescription shampoos are best, as frequent bathing with the wrong product can be more damaging than good.
Since certain substances, like airborne allergens, cannot be removed from the environment, your vet may recommend medications to control the allergic reaction. Or in some cases, allergy injections may be needed. However, never give your dog medication without talking to your vet first.