Allergies can be a common problem for many dogs and can be caused by a variety of things, from environmental allergies to food allergies. Because allergies can have such a variety of causes and symptoms, it’s important to understand the different signs and symptoms of allergies in dogs so you can make sure your pup is being cared for properly.
In this article, we’ll discuss the different signs of allergies and steps you can take to help your dog manage their allergies:
Common allergy symptoms
If your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction, there are some common symptoms you should look out for. These can include mild skin irritation such as redness, itching, lumps or bumps that may be filled with fluid or pus. Your dog’s body may produce excessive saliva due to the itchiness of the skin.
Your dog may also display signs of discomfort while they are sleeping or when they’re awake, such as scratching at the air or licking themselves excessively. Additional symptoms can include sneezing, an increase in yawning and/or breathing difficulties. If you notice any of these signs in your dog it’s best to have them seen by a vet as soon as possible to determine if allergies are the cause and to begin treatment.
Allergens that commonly affect dogs
Allergens that commonly affect dogs include pollen, dust mites, mold and other airborne particulates, as well as fleas, food ingredients, and various medications. The most common type of allergy seen in dogs is atopic dermatitis (inhalant allergy) which often involves a reaction to pollens from different plants and trees found in the environment. Allergens can also come in contact with the skin – such as flea saliva and food ingredients – which then cause skin irritation.
When an allergen enters a dog’s body it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that cause inflammation or an allergic reaction. Symptoms vary depending on the allergen but may include excessive scratching or biting of areas around the muzzle, underarms or belly; red itchy patches on the belly; sneezing; coughing/gagging; runny eyes and/or nose; vomiting; diarrhea; or ear infections. If you suspect your dog is dealing with allergies it’s important to get them checked out by your veterinarian so they can determine the cause and develop a treatment plan tailored specifically for your pet.
Other common allergens that may affect your dog are foods such as beef, eggs, wheat or corn, dairy products, preservatives found in commercial pet foods, dust mites that live in carpets and on furniture surfaces (though some breeds may be more sensitive), insect bites from mosquitoes or ticks, parasites like flea saliva or intestinal worms, chemicals such as shampoos and detergents used to clean bedding and upholstery fabrics, certain human medications given to pets (i.e., antibiotics), molds found inside homes (especially during humid climates), animal dander from cats/dogs living inside similar households, smoke particles present in wood-burning stoves/fireplaces. So if you feel like something’s bothering your dog besides fleas check out our comprehensive guide on how to diagnose allergies!
How allergies are diagnosed
Allergies are usually diagnosed through a combination of physical examinations, blood tests and allergy skin tests. Your veterinarian may also use the answers to a questionnaire to determine the type and severity of your dog’s allergy symptoms.
Physical Exams: Your veterinarian will do a physical examination in order to assess how much difficulty your pet is having breathing, check for rashes and other skin signs, look for signs of infection or inflammation, diagnose ear problems, or recognize any other medical issues that could be causing allergic responses.
Blood Tests: The analysis of blood samples can detect underlying health conditions that may require additional testing or medications before any specific allergies can be diagnosed. Common tests include complete blood count (CBC) and serum chemistries that measure liver and kidney function, glucose levels in the bloodstream, electrolytes levels, total protein concentration and more.
Allergy Skin Tests: Allergy skin tests involve taking small amounts of allergens such as pollen, dust mites and mold spores, then making contact with your pet’s skin to measure if they react positively to any particular allergens. This helps vets identify exactly what is causing an allergic reaction in your pet and makes it easier to start treatment targeting only those specific triggers.
Finally, once all testing has been done and allergies have been identified it is important to continue allergen avoidance strategies such as:
- Limiting contact with known environmental triggers like dust mites.
- Changing bedding materials that might cause reactions.
In order to manage this condition on an ongoing basis.
Diagnosing allergies in dogs
It can be difficult to diagnose allergies in your dog, as there are many symptoms that could be related to allergies or other ailments. Symptoms of allergies in dogs can include:
- Itchy skin
- Excessive scratching
- Chewing on fur
- Sneezing and coughing
- Watery eyes
- Swollen paws
By understanding the symptoms, it is possible to determine if your dog is suffering from an allergy or another health issue.
Skin tests are an important part of evaluating your dog for allergies. These tests involve either putting a small amount of allergen on the surface of your dog’s skin or injecting a tiny amount just below the skin’s surface. If the area becomes red and inflamed, it may indicate a allergy to that particular allergen.
The results from skin tests can be combined with other diagnostic methods such as
- blood or serum tests,
- environmental testing
to provide you and your veterinarian with an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s allergies.
It is important to note that skin testing should only be performed by a qualified veterinarian with experience in canine allergy diagnosis and management.
The most accurate way of diagnosing allergies in dogs is to perform a blood test to measure the level of allergen-specific immunoglobulin, or antibodies, in the blood. This type of test is also referred to as an intradermal or scratch test. The sample is then tested against small amounts of known allergens and any positive reactions can help identify what your dog may be allergic to.
A newer type of technology, called a ‘cytokine bead array’ can also measure specific cytokines produced by mast cells and basophils when exposed to an allergen. This method is becoming increasingly popular for testing canine allergies as it is more accurate than traditional serologic methods.
For both tests, it’s important that you take your dog’s medical history into account when interpreting results and consult your veterinarian if needed. Your veterinarian can work with you to create an appropriate management plan based on the identified allergens and the severity of any reactions shown by your pet:
- Identifying allergens
- Interpreting test results
- Creating a management plan
One way to determine if allergies are the cause of your dog’s symptoms is to conduct an elimination diet. This involves feeding your pet a novel source of protein and carbohydrate (ingredients they have not been exposed to in the past) for 8-12 weeks and seeing if their symptoms improve. The most common sources of novel proteins and carbohydrates used in elimination diets are venison, rabbit, duck or salmon paired with sweet potatoes or white rice.
If you find that their skin issues improve during this trial period, then it may be indicative of an allergy and further testing may be needed.
It is important to remember that it might take up to 8 weeks for food allergies as well as adverse food reactions to show any signs of improvement with an elimination diet, so patience is key when conducting this process. Additionally, once you have identified which foods trigger your pet’s allergies, it is crucial to avoid those ingredients in all future meals for them. Your veterinarian will probably suggest that you feed your dog only hypoallergenic formulas that are free from common allergen triggers such as corn, wheat, soy and dairy products.
Treating allergies in dogs
Allergies in dogs can cause intense irritation, hair loss, skin issues, and even breathing problems, so it is important to understand the signs and treatments available for our furry friends. Allergy symptoms in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the type of allergens. Common signs of allergies in dogs include sneezing, coughing, body scratching, swollen paws, and more.
In this article, we will discuss the different treatments available for dogs with allergies:
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can provide immediate relief for mild to moderate itchiness associated with allergies in dogs. Veterinary approved OTC antihistamines, such as Benadryl®, Claritin®, or Zyrtec® may be used to treat minor skin and ear complaints. Talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any OTC medication. A general guideline is 1 mg of medication per pound of body weight two to three times a day, but specific dosages varies for each individual pet and should be determined by your veterinarian.
OTC corticosteroids and anti-inflammatories still require a prescription from your veterinarian, but short-term use of these drugs can help reduce the symptoms associated with allergies in dogs. These medications are generally applied directly and topically on the affected area rather than being taken orally. Corticosteroid creams such as hydrocortisone or fluticasone can help relieve skin inflammation and itchiness associated with mild allergies, but may have some additional side effects you should discuss with your veterinarian.
Prescription medications are the most common treatments for dog allergies. Many of these medications can be used to reduce or eliminate environmental allergens, as well as provide relief from itchiness associated with canine allergies. Some of the available prescription therapies for dogs with allergies include:
- Steroids – Corticosteroids decrease inflammation and provide relief from itching and irritation caused by allergic reactions. They are usually administered orally, but can also be injected in severe cases.
- Antihistamines – Antihistamines help to block the release of histamines, which are chemicals released by cells in response to triggers like pollen or dust mites. Medications like Benadryl reduce skin inflammation and relieve symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and itchy skin.
- Immunomodulators – These drugs work by suppressing the immune system’s response to allergens and reducing their effects on the body. Examples include Atopica and Cytopoint.
In addition to medications your veterinarian may also suggest other therapies such as immunotherapy (like allergy shots), dietary changes, topical ointments, or natural remedies like honey and herbs can help dogs manage their allergies without needing unnecessary medication.
Natural remedies used to treat allergies in dogs are often a safe and cost-effective way to address your pet’s issues. A holistic approach is best when it comes to dealing with allergies in dogs, as the underlying cause must be identified before an effective treatment is put in place. It’s recommended that you regularly assess your pet’s health and investigate any potential causes of the allergy.
Some common natural remedies include:
- Exposure to probiotics: Probiotics can help restore gut flora and digestive balance, reducing potential allergens entering the body. They come as powder, capsules or treats for easy administration.
- Raw diet: Natural food sources such as raw meat, bones, vegetables and fruits may help prevent allergic reactions by offering easier digestion of nutrients and more fiber for elimination of waste products which could be sources of an allergy.
- Regular brushing: Regularly brushing fur helps stimulate circulation while loosening dead skin cells and possible allergens from your dog’s coat.
- Herbal medicines such as Echinacea, Milk Thistle or Licorice Root can help boost your dog’s immune system.
- Essential oils like Chamomile oil act as a calming remedy effective for reducing stress.
- Vitamins that reduce inflammation including Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and Vitamin B complex can be administered through supplements or added to regular meals.
- Homeopathic treatments like Natrum Muriaticum may be prescribed by a veterinarian after careful assessment.
Prevention and Management
Knowing how to prevent and manage allergies in your pet is often the key to keeping them comfortable and healthy. Allergies can affect dogs of all ages and breeds, making it important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of allergies and how to treat them.
There are a variety of prevention and management techniques that can be used to help alleviate the symptoms of allergies and other skin irritations. In this article, we will discuss the best ways to prevent and manage common allergies in dogs:
Allergen-proof your home
Preventing and managing your animal’s allergies may start with allergen-proofing the home. To reduce your pet’s exposure to allergens, it is important to keep him or her away from areas where dander, dust, mold and other substances are present. As much as possible, limit pets to one area of the house and try to keep them away from fabrics such as carpets, drapes and furniture that easily trap allergens.
Clean frequently to help reduce the build-up of pet and environmental allergens in the home. Vacuuming carpets with a HEPA filter vacuum can lower airborne pollutants; wiping surfaces and floors weekly with a damp cloth can also reduce allergen levels. If you have wood or tile floors, consider using a mop instead of a broom for more thorough cleaning. Additionally, keeping windows closed in high pollen seasons can help minimize airborne allergen exposure.
Be sure to keep your pet’s bedding clean by washing it regularly in hot water—at least monthly—and drying it on high heat for 20 minutes or more per load. The use of hypoallergenic bedding may lessen allergy symptoms in some cases; ask your vet before attempting this option though as not all substrates are suitable for every pet species or situation. Also be aware that even washing management doesn’t always remove 100 percent of dust mites; the American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology recommends encasing beds, cushions, mattresses and pillows with dust mite proof covers specifically made for them if possible.
Reduce exposure to allergens
Reducing your dog’s exposure to allergens can help alleviate allergic symptoms and reduce the need for medications. Common sources of canine allergies include pollen, dust mites, mold spores, foods, fleas and insect bites.
Home environments can be managed to help reduce the effects of these allergens. Household changes may include using allergen-barrier covers on beds and furniture. These covers are designed to keep out dirt, dust and other airborne particles that cause or trigger allergies. Vacuuming carpets is also recommended at least weekly, as well as keeping pet bedding clean and free of dander by washing it regularly in hot water. Keeping windows closed during times when outdoor pollens are high will also help reduce exposure to allergens.
To combat food allergies, carefully select a quality dog food that offers complete nutrition while avoiding ingredients responsible for your pet’s allergic reactions. For flea-bite allergies, you may want to explore alternative flea protection products such as all-natural chewable tablets or collars containing essential oils rather than harsh chemicals. And if outdoor insects are an issue for your pet’s health, invest in netting or fabric screens for windows and doors to keep these pests from coming in contact with your furry friend when they go outdoors.
Regular grooming and bathing
Regular grooming and bathing can reduce the buildup of irritants in your dog’s coat. Keeping their coats clean and free of dander, dirt, and debris is an important part of managing canine allergies. You’ll want to bathe your pup on a regular basis with a hypoallergenic or oatmeal-based shampoo designed for sensitive skin. Make sure to rinse thoroughly—any residual shampoo can trigger an allergic reaction. After a bath, consider using a protein-free conditioner on your pup’s coat if they have long fur.
A protein-free comb or brush with softer bristles should also be used to help manage the problem during and after bathing.
Along with consistent bathing, dogs prone to allergies should also be brushed regularly in order to remove any shedding hair from their coat. Brush your pup several times each week and talk to your vet about the best option for encouraging healthy coat growth without irritating the skin of an allergic pup—they might suggest night brushing which is when you brush their fur before going to bed.