Allergies in Dogs
Just like people, dogs can show allergic symptoms when their immune systems begin to recognize certain everyday substances-or allergens- as dangerous. Even though these allergens are common in most environments and harmless to most animals, a dog with allergies will have an extreme reaction to them. Allergens can be problematic when inhaled, ingested or contact a dog’s skin. As his body tries to rid itself of these substances, a variety of skin, digestive and respiratory symptoms may appear.
What Are the General Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs?
- Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin
- Increased scratching
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Itchy back or base of tail (most commonly flea allergy)
- Itchy ears and ear infections
- Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
- Paw chewing/swollen paws
- Constant licking
Allergic dogs may also suffer from secondary bacterial or yeast skin infections, which may cause hair loss, scabs or crusts on the skin.
Which Dogs Are At Risk for Getting Allergies?
Any dog can develop allergies at any time during his life, but allergic reactions seem to be especially common in Terriers, Setters, Retrievers, and flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston terriers.
What Substances Can Dogs Be Allergic To?
A few common allergens include:
- Tree, grass and weed pollens
- Mold spores
- 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 (Only a few flea bites can trigger intense itchiness for two to three weeks!)
- Cleaning products
- Insecticidal shampoo
- Rubber and plastic materials
Can Dogs Be Allergic to Food?
Yes, but it often takes some detective work to find out what substance is causing the allergic reaction. Dogs with a food allergy will commonly have itchy skin, chronic ear infections or sometimes gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting, and an elimination diet will most probably be used to determine what food he is allergic to. If your dog is specifically allergic to chicken, for example, you should avoid feeding him any products containing chicken protein or fat.
Please note that food allergies may show up in dogs at any age.
What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Allergies?
Visit 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.
How Are Dog Allergies Diagnosed?
If your dog’s itchy, red or irritated skin persists beyond initial treatment by a veterinarian, allergy testing, most often performed by a veterinary dermatologist, is likely warranted. The diagnostic test of choice is an intradermal skin test similar to the one performed on humans.