Dog Allergies – Managing An Ongoing Medical Problem

Allergies can make your dog miserable with itching, eye discharge, ear infections and stomach distress. Finding the allergen at fault can take some time, particularly with food allergies.

Dog sneezing over flowers

Dog Breeds Vulnerable to Allergies

Certain breeds seem to be more vulnerable to allergy reactions than others. For instance, a high proportion of terriers, retrievers, and setters are prone to allergies, as are flat-faced breeds like pugs, Boston terriers and bulldogs. Collies, cocker spaniels, Dalmatians, Llasa apsos, shar peis and a number of other breeds also have a high percentage of allergy problems. Of course, individual dogs of any breed can have problems with allergies.

What Causes Allergies?

Allergy reactions occur when offending substances are in the dog’s environment or when he ingests something that causes a physical response. Some breeds have an atopic tendency to certain substances, that is, they have exaggerated immune system reactions. This tendency is an inherited trait, however, many dogs can develop allergies spontaneously at any time of their lives. This may occur due to stress or medical conditions that compromise the dog’s immune system. Basically, three sources of allergies should be investigated, food the dog consumes, air the dog breaths and substances in the environment the dog touches.

Skin Symptoms

Allergies can cause a wide range skin symptoms, including moist, inflamed areas, rashes, hair loss, and itchy areas that the dog constantly chews or licks. Problem areas are usually the paws, base of the tail, areas of the face, around the ears and on the abdomen. Often, these irritated areas then develop a secondary infection that must be treated with antibiotic medications. Flea bites can cause a severe allergic reaction with intense itching and skin eruption.

Pug dog with allergies has a mask on
Flat-faced breeds like Pugs are often prone to allergies

Respiratory Symptoms.

Instead of skin problems, allergies sometimes demonstrate as respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing, wheezing, coughing, eye irritation, ear scratching and ear infections. These reactions often occur when the allergen is airborne, such as cigarette smoke, pollen, dust, mould spores, dander or perfumes. In the case of airborne allergies, you may have to limit your dog’s time outdoors during the worst period of allergy season. An air purifier for indoor air may also help relieve symptoms.

Stomach Problems

If your dog has frequent stomach upsets with vomiting and diarrhoea, you should begin to investigate the possibility of food allergies. It can be challenging to sort out the offending substance from the many ingredients that are normally found in commercial dog foods. Generally, veterinarians recommend a test period over several weeks during which you offer food with just 2 or 3 ingredients and gradually add other ingredients to see which ones provoke an allergic reaction. Over time, the owner begins to recognize which foods cause allergic problems and which are safe to offer. The vet can also offer prescription type dog foods that contain ingredients that are least likely to cause reactions.

Allergy Medications

Your veterinarian can provide medications that help to control the symptoms of allergies. Topical steroid creams can help to reduce skin eruptions and itching. Antibiotic creams and oral antibiotics can help to control skin and respiratory infections. Antihistamine medications like Benadryl can help reduce discomfort in some animals. Fatty acid supplements can help to reduce skin irritation. Oatmeal shampoos can also help to soothe irritated skin. Ensure that your dog is protected with monthly spot-on flea control products. Provide the proper diet on a regular basis to prevent stomach problems.


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