Allergies in Dogs
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.
The only way to diagnose a food allergy is to feed your dog a prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet exclusively for 12 weeks. The importance of not feeding your dog anything but the diet cannot be emphasized enough-that means no treats, table food or flavored medication. This diet will be free of potential allergy-causing ingredients and will ideally have ingredients your dog has never been exposed to. He’ll remain on the diet until his symptoms go away, at which time you’ll begin to reintroduce old foods to see which ones might be causing the allergic reaction.
Please note, many dogs diagnosed with a food allergy will require home-cooked meals-but this must be done in conjunction with your veterinarian, as it requires careful food balancing.
How Can Dog Allergies Be Treated?
The best way to treat allergies is to remove the offending allergens from the environment.
- Prevention is the best treatment for allergies caused by fleas. Start a flea control program for all of your pets before the season starts. Remember, outdoor pets can carry fleas inside to indoor pets. See your veterinarian for advice about the best flea control products for your dog and the environment.
- If dust is the problem, clean your pet's bedding once a week and vacuum at least twice weekly-this includes rugs, curtains and any other materials that gather dust.
- 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 dry out skin.
- If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, she’ll need to be put on an exclusive prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet. Once the allergy is determined, your vet will recommend specific foods or a home-cooked diet.