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Allergies in dogs

Does your dog have allergies?

 Springtime is upon us and boasts many blooms that brighten our planet! Along with beautiful blooms, comes an issue that is not so pretty…allergies in our dogs! While dogs can unfortunately suffer from allergies year-round, inhalant allergies are at their peak during the spring and fall months of the year. Due to the signs of pet allergies initially being subtle, they can often be mistaken for other skin conditions. Symptoms may start with scratching occasionally and can progress to excessive itching, extreme inflammation, and irritation of the skin. Common causes of itchy skin in pets include parasites, infection, and allergies. Symptoms are not always identified easily. We highly recommend consulting with your veterinarian before any attempt to treat a skin issue. If you suspect your pet is suffering, or you see the following signs of pet allergies, bring your pet in for an examination by the doctor!

itchy dog

Symptoms of allergies include the following

  • Visible skin rash
  • Itchiness
  • Watery eyes
  • Swelling
  • Excessive licking or chewing
  • Hives
  • Hair loss

While very common in allergies, the listed symptoms above are common to a few different conditions. Therefore, it is important to get a diagnosis before treating as allergy symptoms to ensure your dog remains healthy and happy.

So, what are allergies and what are the different types that effect dogs?

Allergies are an overreaction of our immune system to things that enter or contact our bodies. Allergens can be almost anything, but more common allergens include foods, chemicals, pollens, molds, or bites from insects like fleas.

 Flea dermatitis is the first allergen we will discuss as it is commonly seen during the warmer months. It causes reactions in pets through the bite of the flea. A reaction to flea saliva results in inflammation, hair loss, excessive itchiness, and redness. This can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog. We can treat flea dermatitis with the proper measures and medications to relieve your pet’s allergies caused by fleas. A line of defense in this battle is to keep your dog on a flea preventative purchased through or approved by your veterinarian! There are many products for fleas and your choice will depend on your dog’s needs and lifestyle.

Another common allergy in the warmer months is environmental allergies. Signs of allergies caused by environmental factors  include severe skin irritation, itching, sneezing, and coughing. Insect stings, pollen, grass, and mold are common outdoor factors. The indoor environment can also play a role in your dog’s allergies. Allergens like house dust mites, human dander, chemicals, aerosols, and other cleaning products can all cause a reaction in your dog. We recommend using natural products to clean your home and to avoid using wall plug ins and room sprays. Use care when laundering items your pet frequents, using a gentle detergent or hand washing in Dawn dish liquid is recommended.

 You can try treating minimal allergy issues at home with antihistamines. Regular Benadryl, Claritin, or Zyrtec can be effective in some dogs to minimize their symptoms. It is vital when purchasing an antihistamine for your dog that you choose one that does NOT include decongestants such as pseudoephedrine.  Most labels will list this ingredient clearly, and the product may say “DM” such as Benadryl DM. If it is unclear to you, ask the pharmacist before purchasing and your veterinarian before administering. You may call us anytime for a dosage as it depends on your dog’s weight.

environmental allergies

We will next discuss a year-round allergy culprit, and possibly the most frustrating of them all… Food allergies. Food allergies are caused by animal protein that your dog is allergic to and can lead to GI upset (frequent vomiting and or diarrhea), lethargy, weight loss and itching. Specifically you'll notice your dog licking their paws and ears excessively.  Eliminating certain ingredients from the diet and keeping track of any changes in behavior are essential defenses. This process is a food trial and must be given at least 6-8 weeks before you see results. Common proteins that dogs can be allergic to are, chicken, beef, and lamb. We recommend starting a food trial with a novel protein such as duck, fish, or venison.

While symptoms can potentially be managed with antihistamines, a novel protein diet, and flea preventatives, sometimes these measures are just not enough to keep your dog comfortable. When allergy symptoms are not maintained with the listed above, dependent upon the diagnosis, there are options additionally to relieve the discomfort.

food allergy

One great option is a medicated shampoo. There are many at our office that were designed to treat specific allergy issues. Medicated mousses and wipes can also be extremely helpful in treating red, itchy skin. There is an option of anti-itch medications such as Apoquel. Apoquel is a tablet that your dog would take as directed by your veterinarian daily or as often as prescribed. Does your dog have difficulty taking pills? No problem! Cytopoint is another anti-itch medication given through injection by your veterinarian. This may be administered one every 4-6 weeks dependent on your dogs needs. For flaky skin, you also have the option to add Omega-3 fatty acid supplements to your dogs’ regimen. This can be purchased through our office.

In some dogs, allergies are so severe that they require allergy testing. We can allergy test your dog in clinic per recommendation. The testing and treatment process is not harmful to your pet. The testing process is simple and quick. A trusted outside lab (VARL) will determine your dogs’ allergies and prepare an allergy serum specifically for your dog. Once received, your dog will have a schedule and we will administer the injections when your dog is due for them. This may be a monthly or bi-monthly schedule and will be unique to each dog.

With so many types of allergies and potential triggers, it can be frustrating determining the appropriate form of treatment for your dog. We understand and are dedicated to treating your dogs’ allergies so they can enjoy this beautiful time of year as they should! If you have questions of concerns, give us a call!


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