What you need to know about summer allergies in dogs

oes your dog seem overly itchy, scratchy or licks a lot? Chances are that your dog suffers from an allergy.

Allergies in dogs are almost as common as they are in people and it is been estimated that nearly 20% of dogs suffer from allergies, with increasing tendency.

As they are for humans, so are allergies for dogs: uncomfortable, itchy, annoying, irritating and sometimes very painful. On top of this: all the itching, scratching and licking can cause secondary infections, which worsen the symptoms even more. As a result your dog can lose hair which causes so called “hot spots”.

 

Common Allergy Symptoms

To produce an allergic reaction, it takes more than one exposure to the allergenic substance. White blood cells in the animals body build up a memory of the allergens. The more contact made, the more the body releases histamines and the itchier your dog will be.

As with all allergies, unfortunately they can’t be cured but can be managed.

This article explains the different types of allergies in dogs, their symptoms and how they can be treated. We also talk about how allergies are diagnosed and the dog breeds that more prone to skin conditions.

There are three types of allergies:

  • Atopy (also known as atopic dermatitis)
  • Flea allergy dermatitis
  • Food allergy

In this summertime article, we’re focusing on Atopic Allergies.

Atopic Dermatitis is an environmental allergic reaction to certain substances like pollen, moulds, dust mites and even animal dander (skin or hair fragments). Somewhat like hay fever in humans.

Dogs can get in contact with the substance through either inhalation or direct contact, and these allergies can be seasonal or all year around depending on the presence of the allergen. In most cases of atopic dermatitis, the allergens penetrate directly through the skin microscopically to bring out an itch response.

Through a higher concentration of the substance (e.g. pollen in the air), the animals body will release excess histamine which then prompts the symptoms.

6 common contact allergens (Source: http://www.petarmor.com/fido-health-center/for-dogs/allergies/)

What are the symptoms?

Atopic allergies result in itchy skin and the most common signs are scratching and chewing of their armpits, between their hind legs and abdomen, their face and their ears. You may find that they often lick or even chew their feet.

Atopic dermatitis - abdomen (Source: http://www.county-vets.co.uk/veterinary-services/small-animals/dogs/itchy-pet/)

 

You will see redness in those areas, and licking and scratching makes it often makes it worse. This can cause bacterial infections on their skin and in their ears.

Check your dog’s ears by pulling back the ear flap and look for redness and discharge.

Even though some atopic allergies may start out as seasonal, they are progressive which means they get worse and your dog can become itchy year-round. Allergies to dust mites are also very common, which means the symptoms persists even through the winter months.

Typically these symptoms start between 1 and 3 years of age, however an onset of these signs can be seen from as early as 4 months to 7 years of age.

How can it be treated?

Like all allergies, Atopic Dermatitis is a life-long condition that can’t be cured, however it can be managed in a few different ways:

  • Anti-itch therapy using drugs (anti-histamine, corticosteroids, antibiotics to treat infections), medicated shampoos, conditioners and skin lotions/ creams. Whenever using drugs, always consult your vets on what and how to use them and be mindful of any side effects.
  • Whilst we understand that this isn’t always possible, try to remove the source of the allergy as much as you can. Pollen can be carried up to 80km in the air, and dust mites are everywhere. In addition to this you can remove the allergenic weeds from your backyard. If you can’t avoid the allergen, wipe or wash your dog’s paws to manually to remove allergens after walks and hikes.
  • If the symptoms are mild and very occasional, you can stop your dog from scratching by using special collars, socks or t-shirts to reduce trauma and so reducing the risk of infection.
  • Hyposensitation therapy (allergy “vaccine” shots) is where, through a series of injections your dog will gradually become desensitised to the allergens. The effectiveness can vary, however in 75% of pets some relief has been recognised.
  • Use supplements such as biotin or omega-3 oils which, due to its natural anti-inflammatory effect, suppresses itching and supports coat health

 

ARE ALL DOGS PRONE TO ALLERGIES?

Generally, every dog is at risk of an allergic reaction to a substance. Some breeds however are more susceptible than others due of genetics, making their skin more fragile and sensitive to allergens.

Here are some of the breeds that are more prone to skin allergies:

If your dog suffers from an allergy, we recommend you do not breed this dog, as it is often an inherited condition.

BOTTOM LINE

Allergies in dogs are more common than most of us think, and the number of allergic dogs is increasing. There are many different things that can cause an allergic reaction in our dogs. Whilst you can’t cure allergies, you can manage them so your dog can live a comfortable, almost itch free life again.

You will need to consult your vet or a specialist (dermatologist) to identify the type of allergy your pet is suffering from in order to find the best treatment suited to your dog.

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