Understanding and Treating Allergies in Dogs

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Read how to understand allergies in dogs.

The unfortunate truth is that over time a host of allergies can afflict our dogs. The more information you’re armed with, however, the better you’ll be able to handle them. Allergies in dogs are a mysterious ailment that can be triggered by numerous conditions and events, such as the changing seasons, snacks, or contact with certain outside elements. They can cause pesky irritations that force a dog to return to the vet’s office time and time again for creams, ointments, pills and injections. In this post, we’ll cover things that cause allergies in dogs—including yeast infections, seasonal rashes, food, airborne elements, and fleas and parasites—and offer a few suggestions on how to mitigate them.

Common Skin Allergies in Dogs 

Skin Yeast Infection

If your dog has a rash that becomes thick, crusty, and odorous, it might be a yeast infection. Like bacteria, yeast is normally found on the skin, but an allergy or immune deficiency can cause the yeast to grow out of control. Unfortunately, yeast infections (also known as yeast dermatitis) are extremely common in dogs. As the fungal infection worsens, the rashes on your dog’s skin will thicken to form an elephant skin appearance, which is terribly itchy for dogs. The good news is once your veterinarian diagnoses your dog’s situation, he can be treated with a medicated shampoo. If the case is severe, your vet will probably prescribe an oral anti-fungal medication for several months.

Seasonal Allergy Rashes in Dogs

Seasonal allergies most commonly manifest as rashes that make your dog’s fur sparse and scaly. If your pup suffers from itchy rashes, take him to the vet to make sure he doesn’t have a fungal or bacterial infection. Once that’s ruled out, your vet will most likely treat him with an anti-inflammatory drug. In most instances, this will block the allergic reaction your dog is experiencing. After your dog’s rash is gone, consider using shampoos or hypoallergenic sprays to keep his skin healthy. Some dogs with purely seasonal allergies to things like pollen, dust and mold can improve on a hypoallergenic diet, even if they are not truly food allergic.

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Flea and Parasite Allergies in Dogs

Fleas can do more than make your dog itch. Many dogs are allergic to flea bites—especially those who already have a suppressed immune system or other allergies. It’s worth noting that a food-allergic dog might not itch if its fleas are controlled. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation on a safe and effective product to combat fleas. There are many options on the market, ranging from collars to monthly topical treatments to injectable flea preventatives which last for six months.

As a dog owner, you should be aware that a simple mosquito bite can infect your dog with potentially deadly heartworm disease. The best way to prevent this internal parasite from affecting your pet is to give him a heartworm preventative, which can come in the form of chewable pills, topical ointments, or shots. An initial test is required to determine if your dog currently has heartworm disease before your vet will prescribe medication. An annual test is necessary after that.

Food Allergies in Dogs

Dogs can develop allergy symptoms due to hypersensitivity to one or more ingredients found in their diet, even if they’ve been eating the same food for years. Common food allergy symptoms in dogs can include biting at their limbs, scratching at their face, and ear infections. The allergen is usually a major protein or carbohydrate ingredient such as beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy. Minor ingredients, however, such as preservatives or dyes can also be potential allergens.

Most veterinarians will offer prescription diets comprised of limited ingredients, which can help alleviate any skin irritations as the result of the dog’s food allergy. There are also a wide variety of similar diets available in pet stores, namely those labeled “grain-free.” It can be an enormous relief when a change in diet offers quick relief after numerous tests and medicines have failed to eliminate a dog’s allergy symptoms, however, pet parents should pay close attention to the ingredient list of any food and consult with their veterinarian when it’s for an allergy prone dog.

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Treats for Dogs with Food Allergies

Finding suitable treats for a dog that suffers from food allergies can be a problem. One option is hypoallergenic treats, which are easily found at pet retailers. Another solution is to make your own treats by using a canned version of your dog’s food and shaping it into little nuggets or little bones and putting them in the freezer. This is a great way to stick with the same diet and be able to give your dog treats. Vegetables, providing they agree with your dog’s system, also make good treats. Carrots, celery, apples, potatoes are a bit high in starch and calories, but can be safely included in your dog’s diet.

Airborne Allergies in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs can develop allergic reactions to pollen, grass, dander and household chemicals. Some of these elements are beyond your control, but frequently vacuuming and cleaning your home is a good course of action to minimize your dog’s exposure to airborne allergies. Regularly bathing your dog is also helpful. If your dog is still constantly itching from environmental irritants, you can ask your vet about prescribing Apoquel, a medication to control itching and inflammation.

Allergies can be frustrating to doting pet parents who hate seeing their four-legged family members suffer. Unfortunately, when it comes to symptoms associated with allergies, most times there isn’t a magic cure. Allergies are often chronic and require lifelong maintenance. Managing your dog’s condition diligently through trial and error is the best you can do. Being prepared for things like allergies as well as unforeseen emergencies comes with being a responsible pet owner. The best way to be financially prepared is by purchasing a good pet insurance policy before symptoms or allergies present themselves. This will ensure that your pet swiftly receives the medical attention he needs, thus giving you peace of mind.

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