Dogs allergies are one of the most common complaints among owners. If your puppy already shows signs of reactions, and some do, don’t hesitate to get it treated. You may head off a lifetime of trouble if you get a handle on it early. Dog allergies get worse every year if left untreated. Histamine reactions usually materialize in the form of small skin eruptions, rashes, hair loss, itching, moist or oozing dermatitis, and ear infections. Dogs will over-wash themselves, chew, scratch, and rub to alleviate the sensations which in turn makes them worse.
How Dog Allergies Develop
Allergies are such that your dog may be exposed to a pathogen one year and show no outward signs of ailment. Next time he or she comes in contact, it will create a reaction, maybe small at first, but each time becoming more sensitized and each time the reaction will be a little, or a lot worse.
We often hear owners saying, “he never had this problem before”. Dogs can develop allergies to any number of things such as grass, trees, shrubs, dust mites, molds, and most commonly…fleas. If your dog has an allergy to something, it will take very little to set of a histamine reaction in their body.
Dogs are most commonly allergic to things their skin touches rather than something they ingest oh inhale. They may be allergic to pollen but it is usually a contact problem, not an inhalant like people would experience. Fleas are the most common cause of allergies by far. You may not even think your dog has fleas but it could only take one bite to set them off. One of the most important things you can do is protect them against fleas.
Protect your dog aggressively and often. There are excellent products on the market now such as Advantage Flea Control, Frontline Plus Flea and Tick, Revolution, and Sentinel. A couple of these require simple blood tests before they can be used because they also protect against heartworms. You must always make sure your dog is not infected before starting on heartworm medication. It is also vital that you treat not only your pet but also their environment as best you can. Fleas can live anywhere. They reside quite nicely in your yard, grass, sand, dirt, carpet, bedding and anywhere else you can think of.
Fleas are resilient. Persistence is a must. One study showed fleas that were found in Arctic Turns nests which were thawed out and found to be still viable after having been frozen for a long time. The flea life cycle must be broken to gain any sort of advantage at depleting their population.
Treat the house, the yard, and your pets. Make sure you use products that are safe for all your pets. Cats and other small animals can be very sensitive to toxins.
NEVER use over the counter products unless they are recommended by your veterinarian. Many of the products sold in stores are very dangerous and can be deadly, especially to cats.
There are many ways to treat your dog if he or she develops allergies. If it is not too bad you may only have minor flare ups in the summer which can be treated with oatmeal baths and antihistamines.
The dogs who really suffer often require year round treatment, or at least aggressive treatment through their sensitive times of the year. A regimen may include injections of steroids, antihistamine and steroid tablets, a special diet, flea products, and frequent soothing baths. Long term use of steroids can cause serious health problems so it is best to avoid them if possible.
Less than 10% of dogs who have allergies are allergic to what they eat. We often make that leap on our own because there are so many allergies with the human population. Not so with your dog. While it is quite possible, it is not usually the best place to start looking for solutions. Many dog food companies have created diets for those dogs who are sensitive to their diets. Hills and Nature’s Recipe are among the leaders. They make a variety of foods with ingredients that your dog won’t have come in contact with. They may include venison, duck, whitefish, lamb, rice and potato.
The trick to ruling out a food allergy is to eliminate everything else they may put in their mouths and it will take up to 60 days to clear everything from their system. You must not only change their diet but also eliminate treats unless they are just hand outs of the same biscuits they get at meals. They should eat from stainless bowls. You must remove any chew toys, like raw hides, and cow hooves. This sounds easy but it must be maintained without hesitation or fail or else it will all be for not. Any contact will set you back to the beginning.
Environmental Dog Allergies
Dogs are usually allergic to more than one antigen. Most will react in varying degrees to a number of different things they come in contact with.
While dogs are often allergic to pollens, it is not usually due to inhalation, but due to contact with the skin. If your dog has a severe sensitivity to grass for instance, you may need to wash off their feet every time they come in from outside. Even just rinsing them will help prevent further involvement. They may need baths several times a week but only with specific types of treatments and direction from the veterinarian. The wrong things could aggravate, instead of help the problem.
Dog allergies usually come in the form of dermatitis; some form of skin inflammation, itching, redness, hair loss, scratching, oozing, and ear infections. The animals are truly miserable and inconsolable. If you can get by with a few treatments in a season you should consider yourself lucky as allergies go. If you have a dog who is sensitive to something all year or hyper sensitive at certain times of the year you may need to explore allergy testing and injections.
Dog allergy testing is the best way to determine what exactly you are battling and how best to handle it. The tests are done either in the form of skin testing where part of the dog is shaved and tiny amounts of possible allergens are injected under or applied to the skin to see what he might react to. The areas are checked regularly for signs of a reaction. Another is a blood test where the dogs blood is drawn and sent to a special laboratory who just does this type of blood work. The results can take a week or two but the answers come without further insult to the dogs skin.
A blood test will tell you not only what they are allergic to, but HOW allergic they are. It will show a titer, or a number out of normal range to help you and the vet understand how severe it is. The test will cover 20 or more different possible pathogens which are prominent in your part of the country and test the blood to all of them. You can also test for food allergies this way. One other benefit of blood testing is that you have not only the vet and their experience, but you also have the laboratory to help with their vast and focused expertise. The labs will guide you through the many types of treatments that may be done at home and by the vet.
Once the blood work has determined what the dog is allergic to, the lab can make an antigen therapy which the dog will undergo to begin desensitizing him. The antigen vial will contain an injectable and sterile form of what the dog is allergic to. Tiny amounts are injected under the skin and regular intervals and strengths to allow the dogs body to start to build a tolerance to it.
This can take months and may have to be done every so often to maintain the effect but it is the most promising form of treatment. If your dog has severe allergies you and your vet will become well acquainted so make sure you and your dog are comfortable with them and their office. Allergies can be expensive, frustrating, and time consuming but they can almost always be alleviated.
About The Author
This article was written by Laura Anderson, a veterinary technician with more than 15 years experience in the veterinary field. The views and statements expressed in this article, and all other articles found on Puppy’s Place, do not under any circumstance, constitute veterinary advice. Always seek professional veterinary care for your pet.