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Author Topic:   Diseases - Allergies in dogs


Posts: 435
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 07-29-2003 02:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Auspetian     Edit/Delete Message
Allergies in dogs

If your dog seems to be really itchy, is constantly scratching him or herself, has a rash, or is losing fur, he or she may have allergies. Unlike humans who react to allergens with sneezing, running noses, and sinus symptoms, dogs usually react with skin allergies. In the allergic state, the dog's immune system overreacts to a foreign substance (the allergen or antigen) to which it is exposed. The most common way those ‘overreactions' are manifested is through the skin, and can involve into everything from itchy skin, a red bumpy rash, hot spots, fur loss, and/or a poor coat texture. Dogs themselves may react to an allergen by simple scratching or licking, or more seriously by biting, chewing, or gnawing at their skin merely because they are irritated or uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, skin and ear related symptoms are probably the most common problems seen by veterinarians in dogs today, and both can lead to infections. On a more positive note, there are various different forms of treatments available for dogs with allergies, but it is important to begin with a proper diagnosis. After all, the method of treatment will be dependent on the form of allergen; but finding out just what is irritating your dog can be a very time consuming process. It is of primary significance, however, to rule out other possible ailments, such as bacterial infections, ear infections, and even thyroid disease.

There are a wide variety of different substances that may be bothering your dog, and the following categorizes them to make them somewhat easier to discover and diagnose. For some dogs, however, it can be almost impossible to find the exact cause of disturbance, so do not become too disappointed if you cannot find the allergen responsible many treatments are still available.


Contact allergies tend to be the least common, but may be the easiest to diagnose or locate as they involve a local skin reaction to a topical substance. Examples include a reaction to a flea collar, a topical ointment, or to certain bedding or materials (i.e. a wool blanket). Although this is rarely the case, it can happen and through a small amount of detective work the cause can easily be removed and the skin problem disappears.


Those products or substances which can cause allergies in humans are the same as the ones that may cause allergies in dogs. Substances such as dust mites, pollen, mildew and mold may all be the potential culprit that is bothering your dog particularly if he or she is licking or chewing at his paws, under the legs (armpit area), or around the groin area. These irritants may also cause chronic ear infections, so be observant if your dog is shaking his or her head a lot or is rubbing his head on the carpet. If the ears are the real problem, a veterinary prescribed antibiotic ointment may be necessary.

Paying attention to the timing of such allergic reactions may also be important for the proper diagnosis of the allergen. Many of these allergies occur seasonally, and ragweed, cedar, grass, and pollens may be to blame. If the reaction is constant, however, dust mites and molds may also be the cause (discovering the exact cause of atopy allergies can be very difficult, even if proper allergy testing is done on your pet). Depending on the severity of the allergy, steroids are often a very successful treatment and can be given via pill form or through an injection, but only through the recommendation of a veterinarian. A home-based treatment that has proven fairly successful if done on a regular basis, includes bathing your dog and using a hypo-allergenic shampoo and conditioner (purchased from your vet or at a veterinary-related pet store). It has been demonstrated that some allergens may be absorbed through the skin, and thus bathing can remove some of the surface antigen and provide some relief. Oatmeal baths and Epsom salts can also help.


Depending on the climate where you reside, fleas are often one of the most common reason for skin problems in dogs. Fleas most commonly live in more humid areas, where the temperature rarely drops past the freezing mark, but they can be found elsewhere in the warmer months. Not every animal actually reacts to a flea bite, but some dogs do develop a skin reaction from the flea's deposited saliva which includes itchiness, redness, and sometimes a small bumpy rash known as ‘miliary lesions' (because they look like millet seeds). Hotspots may also result from excessive chewing or licking. The rash or fur loss is often found near the base of the back near the tail, but can really pop up anywhere on your dog.

The best way to rid your dog of this irritant is by using a safe and veterinary-recommended product that kills the adult flea (the one that bites). There are other products that may also be useful for the home or your dog, but if he is currently suffering be sure to use something topical and something that destroys the adult flea. Also, antibiotics may be necessary if your dog has scratched his skin open or the miliary lesions become infected.


Another possible irritant, may be found within the food you are feeding your dog. If your dog is allergic to food, it is usually just to one of the ingredients in his or her diet. Some of the most common culprits include beef, chicken, pork, milk, eggs, whey, fish, corn, soy, wheat preservatives, and even lamb. Even if your pet has been on the same food all of his life, do not rule out a food allergy because one can develop at any time and over time (and most develop from foods that have already been eaten for a long time).

The best way to filter out a food allergy or to discover the food allergen is to stop feeding your dog his or her regular meal and to begin using a homemade diet which includes only protein and starch. Mixing some rabbit or venison with rice or potatoes is one example. Many veterinarian offices also offer prepackaged hypo-allergenic diets for their clients. During this testing phase, the dog should be restricted from all other forms of treats, biscuits, chewable toys and table scraps for at least six to eight weeks. If the skin allergy seems to cease or symptoms improve, begin by slowly adding in additional ingredients (such as chicken, lamb, beef, etc.), but only one per week. This should allow enough time for the allergy to reappear if the irritant is re-introduced, and also allow you to decipher what it is. It is important to consult your veterinarian before beginning such a diet modification with your pet.

Treating your pet for an allergy may be as easy as changing his or her diet, or as difficult as needing chronic medication and constant veterinary re-examinations. Sometimes simple cortisone creams or antihistamines may help the skin, but they fail to treat the underlying allergen. In some cases, however, this is the only possible means of help, as irritants such as dust or pollens cannot always be completely eliminated.

Here are some tips for at home when you are living with a dog with allergies:

- try giving your pup an oatmeal bath 3-4 times a week (some pet stores may even carry oatmeal formulated shampoo)

- allow your dog to sit in a bath filled with Epsom salts

- after discussing this with your vet, try using essential fatty acids, namely omega-3 and omega-6. They have natural anti-inflammatory agents and can be purchased at most pet stores or veterinarians

- try using an air de-humidifier and place activated charcoal around house plants to decrease molds

- use air conditioners rather than open windows

- dust and vacuum often

- treat your pet for fleas, regardless of whether or not you see them

- use a hypoallergenic dog food or create a homemade diet for your pet

- becareful what you are washing your dog's bedding in

Title: Allergies in dogs
Description: If your dog suffers from skin rashes or is chronically scratching, he or she may be experiencing allergies. Find out what may be affecting your dog and how to best control it, either through a veterinarian or at home!

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