Have you ever had to deal with an allergy? Be it caused by pollen, dander, or food allergens, humans have been plagued by numerous allergies that could have annoying and uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms may include red eyes, a runny nose, mild to moderate itching, redness, or even rashes. Scientifically, allergies are described as a reaction in which the immune system exhibits hypersensitivity to a certain substance in the environment that normally incites no negative reaction. Such substance is known as an allergen.
Over time, numerous medications have been developed to combat different types of allergy, and this has worked to the advantage of many people.
But did you know that dogs have allergies too? The symptoms that appear in dogs are highly similar to those in humans. These symptoms appear when your pet’s immune system starts to identify some everyday allergens as dangerous. Despite the fact that allergens and symptoms are comparable between humans and our pets, dogs actually have it worse because they are unable to let us know immediately whenever they’re not feeling well. As a result, symptoms may go on undetected for days or even weeks.
Imagine how uncomfortable it must be for a dog to experience a prolonged manifestation of symptoms from an allergic reaction. You wouldn’t want that for your pet, would you? To prevent this from happening, this article informs all pet parents about common dog allergies and how to treat these ailments to ensure optimum pet health.
Allergens and pre-disposing factors
Dogs and humans have an uncannily similar list of common allergens. These allergens can be found in our environment every day and almost everywhere—from parks, to grocery stores, to our very own homes. One thing to note about allergens is that they do not necessarily appear to be dangerous and are therefore not something that you would normally avoid. This may work to our disadvantage because when a substance appears to be dangerous, we automatically avoid it and keep our pets away from it.
In contrast, when something is apparently harmless, we make no effort to avoid it and we allow our pets to be continually exposed to it. Thus, our pets have a higher likelihood of being exposed to the allergen and of suffering from an allergic reaction. Once an allergic reaction is activated, the symptoms that are associated with it may range from being mild to severe and, in some cases, may be difficult to address.
Below is a list of the most common allergens. This list could go a long way in terms of giving you a heads up on what you should prevent your pet from being exposed to.
- Cigarette smoke. This allergen is very common in the environment and may often exist in your own household or in the places you and your dog often visit, such as the park. Smoke from a cigarette may trigger an allergic reaction when inhaled and may cause your pet to have a runny nose with frequent sneezing.
- Cleaning agents. Isn’t it ironic that the chemicals we use to maintain the cleanliness of our surroundings could actually be the culprits behind allergic reactions in our pets? Many cleaning agents may have a strong odor that may trigger a nasal allergy. Aside from this, harsh chemical ingredients may result in irritation or redness when they come in contact with the skin.
- Dander. You read that right. Do you have several pets of different breeds or species in your household? In some rare instances, this may pose a problem because some dogs may be allergic to the dander of other pets of breeds.
- Dust. This is the most common substance that takes the blame for causing nasal allergies, even in humans. Exposure to this allergen almost always causes a negative reaction.
- Dust Mites. These are the invisible creatures that inhabit our dwellings by the hundreds of thousands and even up to millions. The waste product of these creatures is a potent allergen that may cause mild to moderate reactions when inhaled.
- Feathers. Is your home located near a wooded area frequented by birds? Or do you have a bird as a pet? If your answer is affirmative, please note that this may not bode well for your dog that may be allergic to bird feathers.
- Food ingredients (like meat, corn, and soy). Food is a broad category, which makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that may trigger an allergic reaction in your dog. When your pet exhibits symptoms after food consumption, your best bet is to break down what your pet has eaten and try to isolate the allergen.
- Perfumes. Similar to cleaning agents, some perfumes may have a strong odor that may activate an allergic reaction in your pet.
- Shampoo (medicated or fancy scented). Although it may seem pleasant, the fancy scent of dog shampoo may result in nose itching or sneezing in your pet. Meanwhile, medicated shampoos may be harsh on the sensitive skin of your dog.
One interesting fact to note here is that dogs can exhibit symptoms at any age, which means that even if your dog had a generally healthy and allergen-free life as a puppy, there is still a chance for it to show signs of dog allergies in later years as an adult. When this happens, extensive history-taking may be required to isolate the allergen and identify its source.
This is why it is essential for you to be very honest with your veterinarian regarding your dog’s environment at home, the places that you bring it to, the pet products that you use, and what it usually eats. Doing so, would ensure that proper medical management could be achieved. Being transparent regarding all relevant health information will expedite the process of determining the substance or substances responsible for triggering the allergic reaction and correspondingly identifying the most effective medical intervention.
If you’d like to know more about specific kinds of dog allergies, please read our article on dog allergy treatment and the different options that are available to you.
Breeds requiring special care
All dogs serve as a source of love, affection, and companionship for their owners. Without exception, these pets bring much joy to their loving parents. However, when it comes to having allergies, not all dogs are created equal. While it is true that as responsible pet owners, we must be vigilant about protecting our dogs’ health regardless of breed, it is important to note that there are a number of dog breeds that are more highly predisposed to having allergies than others.
If you are an owner of any of the breeds given in the list below, please note that your pet may require careful monitoring and special care, especially in terms of the food that they consume, the products you use on them and on your home, as well as the places that you bring them to. These breeds run a high risk of having a negative reaction to one or more allergens.
Terriers: Yorkshire Terriers; Airedale Terriers; Scottish Terriers; Cairn Terrier.
Setters: English Setter; Gordon Setter; Irish Setter; White Setter.
Flat-faced Breeds: Pugs and Bulldogs.
General allergy symptoms in dogs
Allergens could be ingested, inhaled, or applied. Moreover, they may have simply come into contact with your dog’s skin. When your pet’s immune system triggers an alarm to remove the allergen, numerous symptoms can be observed.
Depending on the type of allergen and the means of exposure, dogs may exhibit different symptoms and signs of dog allergies. Moreover, given that humans and dogs share some of the most common allergy symptoms, identifying them as they appear can often be done with ease.
- Generalized itching. In humans and dogs alike, itchiness of the skin is a common symptom that manifests immediately after an allergen is applied to, or comes in contact with, the skin. This is an uncomfortable sensation and may bring on a bout of scratching, which may result in the breaking of the skin and further inflammation.
- Scratching that is more frequent than usual. Dogs are bound to engage in a fit of scratching every so often. However, prolonged and very frequent scratching may be an indicator that something is amiss. Scratching is highly related to itching and, as mentioned above, may cause further damage to the skin, especially when the allergen is not identified and treatment is not initiated.
- Sneezing. This is a trademark of a nasal allergy. A number of allergens, including pollen, dander, dust, and smoke are very likely to cause a sneezing fir upon inhalation.
- Vomiting. This symptom is alarming when it occurs, as it may be an indicator of an allergy or a more severe illness. When an allergen is ingested, vomiting often occurs. A high frequency of vomiting may result in a grave worsening of your dog’s condition, especially if not immediately addressed.
- Swollen paws. Swelling may be an end-effect of the ingestion of an allergen. This may or may not be painful, depending on the severity. However, your best bet is to consult your veterinarian if you observe this symptom in your pet.
- Continuous licking. Among all the allergy symptoms, this is something that may not be detected immediately, simply because it seems so normal. However, when you notice your pet doing this more than usual, you should examine the target area to determine whether any skin irritation is present.
These allergy symptoms can be observed moments after ingestion of, or contact with, an allergen. Due to discomfort, irritation and itching often result in certain behavioral changes in your pet. Dog breeds that are short-tempered will seem to be very bothered and will become irritable and exasperated, whereas the more sweet-tempered ones may appear anxious or unresponsive. Because dogs cannot tell us what they are actually feeling, they only rely on their “body language” — such as scratching, licking, and whimpering — to inform us that something is amiss.
Your vet is your friend
Upon observation of any common signs of dog allergies, you should pay a visit to your veterinarian. The earlier the management has been initiated, the sooner the treatment will be administered. There have been reported cases of deaths because the pet parent had the misconception that the allergy symptoms in dogs will just “go away.” This is usually not the case.
If symptoms are left unaddressed, more serious complications are likely to emerge. A quick visit to your veterinarian can reveal the important details related to the allergic reaction. Moreover, timely blood tests, administration of medication, and diet modification can go a long way toward getting your pet back in shape.
Diagnosing dog allergies
If the symptoms persist after the initial treatment, allergy testing can be performed by a veterinary dermatologist. This type of testing is similar to ones performed on humans. Skin tests may cause mild discomfort to your dog when the skin is pricked. Reactions may manifest if your dog is allergic to the tested substance. These reactions include itching, a stuffy or runny nose, red watery eyes, or a skin rash.
In contrast, diagnosing a food allergy may be more difficult because you would have to place your dog on a modified diet, the most common of which is the hydrolyzed protein diet. This diet should be given for twelve weeks or until the symptoms go away. A hydrolyzed protein diet is allergen-free.
Once your veterinarian clears your dog of allergic reaction, you can start reintroducing the usual foods that your pet consumes to determine which ones are triggering the allergic reaction. It should be emphasized that your dog should not consume anything outside the prescribed diet, which should include treats, human food, or any flavored medication. Pet parents should be stern with their dogs when it comes to discipline in relation to diet to ensure proper compliance, especially because dogs often cannot resist eating every morsel of food that is accessible or available.
You can learn more about the specifics of dog allergy testing so you know what to expect during your next vet visit.
Treatments and medications
The best treatment for any allergy is the elimination of any existing or potential allergen that may activate symptoms in your dog. The removal of any or all allergens will significantly reduce the chance of triggering allergies, thereby improving the quality of life for both the pet parent and the fur baby. Remember that prevention is always better than cure. If fleas are the culprits responsible for an allergy, you may initiate a flea control program for all your pets before the start of the season.
Always remember that regardless of how clear you maintain your home to achieve a flea-free environment, outdoor pets can always reintroduce fleas indoors. You may consult your veterinarian for advice regarding the best flea control products that are compatible for use with your dog. Now if the problem is dust, you may schedule the cleaning of your pet’s bedding at least once a week. Vacuuming curtains, rugs, and other indoor materials that collect dust at least twice a week may significantly reduce the occurrence of dust-related allergies.
Hygiene is also important for dogs. Scheduled bathing not only relieves itching and removes potential allergens from your dog’s skin, but also improves comfort and health. You may consult your vet regarding the ideal bathing frequency and the ideal shampoo that is suitable for your dog’s needs.
Keep in mind that frequent bathing may actually be more harmful than helpful, as it may dry out skin, especially when using the wrong product. If the problem is food allergy, your veterinarian can prescribe a hydrolyzed protein diet until the specific allergen has been determined. Thereafter, your vet will recommend a specific food list or possibly a home-cooked diet.
There are certain substances that cannot be removed from the environment. However, your veterinarian may suggest medications that may alleviate any allergic reaction. Allergy injections can be administered to dogs that are sensitive to airborne allergens. The mechanism of these injections is that they enhance the resistance of your pet to the allergen. Immune-modulating drugs can also help.
Meanwhile, when fleas are to blame, there are numerous flea-preventing products that can be applied on your dog’s skin on a monthly basis. Supplements, medicated shampoos, and sprays can also soothe existing skin infections caused by allergies. A holistic treatment approach can be suggested by your veterinarian depending on the existing allergy symptoms.
If you’re interested in what shampoos work best on dog allergies, take a look at our article on how to find the right allergy shampoo for your dog.
With the amount of love and joy that they bring into our lives, our dogs deserve the best possible care from us. For many pet parents, any sign of illness or discomfort in our dogs would cause us to feel anxious and worried. It is important that we understand the unique needs of our pets and that we take all the necessary steps to ensure that our dogs remain in optimum health. Like humans, dogs deserve the best quality of life, which can be achieved in a great home environment that is free from any health hazards.
Pet parents should work hand in hand with a veterinarian to provide the best possible treatment for afflicted pets and to help ensure that the necessary precautions are taken to prevent any negative reaction from reoccurring in the future. When dogs’ health needs are met, pet parents are sure to be rewarded with countless more years of loyalty and affection.