Dogs also suffer from different types of allergies and pretty much exhibit the same symptoms as humans do. So it should be easy enough to spot when your dog has an allergy. How should you treat it? Can dog allergies be prevented? Read on to learn more.
Different types of dog allergies
An allergy is the body’s negative and “defensive” reaction to certain foreign substances that are normally harmless. These substances, which are called allergens, include dust mites, pollen, insects, ticks, molds, foods, and some medications.
When a dog is exposed to an allergen, the immune system produces an antibody response by releasing histamine. This allergic response is responsible for the characteristic symptoms of allergies, such as redness, swelling, sneezing, coughing, irritated/teary eyes, rashes, itching, and runny nose.
Dog allergies can be classified into two, major types:
Also called allergic dermatitis, skin allergies are the most common type of dog allergies. They can be caused by fleas, environmental allergens, or food.
An allergic reaction to flea bites or, more specifically, flea saliva causes extreme itchiness, redness, inflammation, and scabbing of the affected skin, which is usually the skin at the base of the tail.
Environmental allergies are often seasonal, and allergens include dust, mold, and pollen. Exposure to any of these allergens leads to atopic dermatitis which is characterized by itching, usually affecting the paws, wrists, ankles, between the toes, underarms, the groin area, the muzzle, around the eyes, and the ears.
Given the symptoms of skin allergies, constant scratching, biting, and licking of the affected area make it susceptible to bacterial infection.
Food allergies are often confused with food sensitivities. The difference between the two is that a food allergy triggers an immune response, whereas a food sensitivity triggers a response from the digestive system.
The most common food allergens that affect dogs are proteins present in dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy, or wheat. But practically any type of food can be an allergen. The allergic reaction often comes in the form of itchy skin and/or digestive issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Weight loss, lack of energy, hyperactivity, or aggression may also occur.
Food sensitivities or food intolerance, on the other hand, often only result in digestive problems. The symptoms of a food allergy and food sensitivity can be confusing, so it’s best to have your dog checked by a veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis and so the specific culprit can also be correctly identified.
Drug allergies in dogs are not common. A certain vaccine or some antibiotics are the usual culprits. If your dog has an allergic reaction to certain drugs, he may experience itchy skin, hives, swelling of the face or parts of the face, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, depression, difficulty breathing, changes in urinary habits, and even some bleeding. If you notice any of these symptoms in Fido after he’s given a vaccine or an antibiotic, take him to the vet immediately.
What are the common allergy symptoms in dogs?
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog, he may be having an allergic reaction:
- Itchiness, which often affects the skin, but may also affect the eyes, ears, and muzzle
- Skin redness and inflammation
- Swelling of the eyelids, ears, ear flaps, lips, or the entire face
- Runny eyes and nose
- Chronic ear infection
- Constant and vigorous licking, biting, and/or scratching of a particular area
What is an acute allergic reaction?
A severe allergic reaction, or anaphylactic shock, can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Instead of mild symptoms, some dogs have an immediate and severe reaction to an allergen; an anaphylactic response may also occur after a single exposure to high amounts of the allergen. Unlike in humans, though, anaphylactic shock is not common among dogs.
Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include difficulty breathing, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and collapse. Without emergency treatment, death may soon follow. If your dog has a severe allergic reaction to a known allergen, consult your vet about an anaphylaxis action plan and you should have emergency treatment always handy.
Severe hives and/or swelling of the face, eyelids, lips, ear flaps, and throat that leads to breathing difficulties are also signs of an acute allergic reaction. Fortunately, these symptoms can be easily treated with antihistamines.
How are dog allergies treated?
Allergies can be prevented simply by making sure that your dog is not exposed to his known allergens. Some allergens may be difficult to avoid, however, so you should always have his first-aid allergy kit readily available.
Antihistamines are the common treatment for allergies; these provide relief from allergy symptoms, such as itching, sneezing, swelling, and runny eyes and nose. Make sure to get advice from your vet before giving your dog any medications for the first time. Corticosteroids may be prescribed for more serious symptoms.
Antihistamines and corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory treatments that block the allergy response by the body. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, these treatments can be administered orally or by injection.
If your dog has a food allergy, work with your vet to determine the right diet for your dog to make sure that his nutrition is not compromised. In some cases, a prescription diet may be necessary.
Other at-home therapies include using a hypoallergenic shampoo to soothe irritated skin or therapeutic/medicated shampoo to protect against bites; using baking soda paste or spray to relieve itchiness; and giving your dog supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, to boost his immune system and promote coat and skin health.
If your fur-kid experiences a severe allergic reaction, take him to a veterinary clinic immediately.
Dog Allergies - Final Thoughts
The earlier you find out if your dog has any allergies, the better. There is a wide variety of substances that can trigger allergies in dogs, and allergic reactions can be mild, severe, or even fatal. With the help of your vet, you’ll be able to properly identify the specific allergen/s so that you can minimize and prevent exposure and the allergic response.
Your dog can still live a comfortable life even with allergies as long as you make the necessary lifestyle changes and take the appropriate preventive measures. At the same time, always err on the side of caution and have an emergency allergy kit readily available.