Allergies in Dogs

Allergies are a very common reason for your canine best friend to visit his
veterinarian. There are three main types of allergies in your dog.

Flea Allergy

This is by far the most common allergy in dogs. When a flea bites, it injects saliva
which causes severe itching in a sensitive individual. Your poor dog will bite and
scratch his skin to try and get relief, resulting in redness and hair loss.

Flea allergy commonly affects the skin on your dog's back and on the base of his tail. It may also cause itching on his back legs and around his bottom. A common characteristic of dogs with long standing allergies is worn teeth from chewing their hair, which is very abrasive.

Food Allergy

Many dogs, like people, become allergic to something in their diet. They have usually been eating the problem food for up to 2 years before the allergy develops. This means that it is unlikely to be a new food that is causing the problem. It also means that you can diagnose food allergy by feeding your dog a food he has never had before for 12 weeks. If his itching improves, then you know something he is eating is contributing to his problem.

Symptoms of food allergy include itchy skin, itchy feet and ear infections. Some dogs with food allergies don't show any symptoms except they have persistent ear infections that never seem to clear up.

Atopy

Atopy is an allergy to dusts and pollens in the environment. It causes itchy skin, itchy ears and itchy feet, and can also be responsible for sneezing and watery eyes. These symptoms are initially seasonal, but eventually occur all year round.

Treating Allergies in Dogs

The two ways of managing allergies in your dog are firstly to remove whatever is causing his reaction, and secondly, to stop his body from reacting to the allergen.

Removing the problem is reasonably straightforward with flea allergies and food allergies. You can use a good flea control product or feed your dog a hypo-allergenic diet, and he should be more comfortable.

However, it can be almost impossible to stop your dog being exposed to environmental allergens. After all, pollen can blow into your yard from anywhere in your neighborhood, and make him itch and sneeze. Under these circumstances, you need to reduce the allergic reaction that occurs in his body.

The quickest and often cheapest way to do this is by using drugs such as anti-histamines and corticosteroids. They stop the inflammation that causes itching, and your dog will stop scratching very quickly. Anti-histamines are a safe drug but aren't effective in every dog. Corticosteroids work very well but they have side effects.

Desensitising injections can also be used to control your dog's reaction to an allergen. Tests performed by a veterinary dermatologist will identify exactly what he is allergic to. Then, an injection containing these allergens is manufactured. Your dog is given tiny amounts of the injection on a regular basis. This lets his body get used to the allergen and learn to tolerate it, and will ultimately reduce his allergic symptoms. Desensitising injections work well but they can be expensive and it can take a while for them to show results.

If your dog has allergies, then you'll find that they really can't be cured. You'll just have to manage his condition to stop him itching and keep him comfortable. It can be a lot of work, but it's a labor of love.