By Mary Beth Miller
Humans aren’t the only ones who suffer from itchy, scratchy allergies.
Just like us, our dogs develop allergy symptoms when their immune system begins red flagging every particle of pollen, dust. or mold. Although harmless in the environment, a small allergen can become a big problem if it is ingested, inhaled, or comes into contact with the skin.
If your dog is a seasonal or chronic allergy sufferer, it is of the utmost importance that you learn everything you can on how to help your dog’s allergies.
Keep an eye out for allergy symptoms
Dogs with allergies are pretty hard to ignore. The constant itching, scratching, and chewing are enough to make everyone in the house crazy. However, there are other allergy symptoms a dog can develop that you may not immediately pick up on.
In an attempt to rid the body of these “dangerous” substances, dogs can develop a variety of respiratory, digestive, and skin-related symptoms.
- Constant licking
- Swollen paws
- Hot spots
- Snoring (the result of an swollen throat)
- Itchy ears
- Ear infections
- Itchy back
- Itchy tail
- Watery eyes
- Scabbed, moist, red, and itchy skin
Identify the allergens
Canine allergies mirror that of human allergies, but you might not think of these common allergens as affecting your dog:
- Food substances (soy, wheat, corn, pork, chicken, beef)
- Plastic or rubber materials
- Flea and mite shampoos
- Cleaning products
- Topical flea/tick preventatives
- Prescription drugs
- Cigarette smoke
- Weed, grass, or tree pollen
- Dust mites
Keep allergens out of your home & off your dog
Wherever a dog roams, environmental allergens are present. The pollen from the grass and flowers are carried in on your pet’s fur and paws. Not only does your dog bring these eye watering substances in your home, but you could be carrying them inside the home, too. And don’t forget about fleas! Adult fleas and their eggs can easily be carried in on the bottom of your shoes or hitch a ride with your dog.
Here is a list of easy and effective tips to reduce environmental and pest allergies:
1. To prevent tracking in allergens, wipe your dog’s paws with a damp washcloth before entering the house; leave your own shoes outside or in a mudroom or garage.
2. Give your dog a weekly bath and brush him daily to remove pollen from the fur.
3. Vacuum, dust. and sweep the home regularly to pick up any stragglers that you might have missed.
4. Wash your dog’s bedding and plush toys regularly with a gentle, hypoallergenic detergent.
Pinpoint your dog’s allergies
If your dog is suffering from an allergy you just can’t put your finger on, you may want to consider an intradermal skin test. Performed by a veterinary dermatologist, an intradermal skin test or allergy test will help pinpoint the cause(s) of all that itchiness.
The process of a skin test involves shaving a small patch of hair on the dog’s body to visibly see the skin’s reaction to various allergens after they are injected under the skin.
If your dog is indeed allergic to a substance, the injection site will swell, redden, and become itchy. The test is highly effective (if pricey) and allows the vet to isolate an allergen, planning a course of action.
If having a skin allergy test performed on your dog is a bit out of your price range, there are other at home tests you can do.
Monitoring your dog’s symptoms inside and outside the home is also an effective way to pinpoint an allergy, it will just take more time. If your dog tends to have more allergies inside the home than out, you may want to focus on dust mites, mold, or fleas as the culprits.
Don’t forget about food allergies! Food products such as soy, wheat, corn, pork, dairy, chicken, or beef are all common ingredients in dog food and treats. If you notice your dog has itchy skin combined with hair loss, vomiting, and diarrhea, you may want to take a look at that bowl of kibble. Talk to your veterinarian about a safe way to conduct a food allergy experiment with your dog.
Maintain flea treatments
It only takes one flea to turn your dog into an itchy mess. Flea allergy dermatitis, an overreaction to flea saliva, is very common in dogs, especially sighthounds. Hair loss on the back and tail base are sure signs your dog is allergic to fleas.
The best way to prevent flea allergies is to keep the tiny pests off Fido. Talk with your veterinarian to select the best flea preventative that works for you and your dog.
Allergies are everywhere and we aren’t the only ones who suffer from itchy, watery eyes, and dry, scratchy skin. A large number of our dogs seem to be cursed with overactive immune systems, too. Your dog’s allergies cannot be cured, but you can make allergy season more bearable for everyone!
Mary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals. MaryBeth has three dogs, a Siberian husky named Rocky and two rescue dogs named Sambita and Nina.