Have you noticed your canine companion scratching themselves to the point of breaking skin? Licking incessantly at their feet or limbs? Experiencing vomiting or diarrhea after every meal?
While a variety of medical conditions could cause symptoms like these, one of the most common causes for our four-legged friends is allergies.
What are allergies, exactly? Allergies occur when your dog's immune system overreacts to a certain substance, such as pollen in the air or an ingredient in dog food. The immune system responds by releasing histamine, which causes inflammation and results in many of the allergy symptoms you see.
There are various allergens that cause allergic reactions in dogs, but allergies in general can be grouped into a few main categories: flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), environmental allergies, and food allergies. Let's take a closer look at each of these common dog allergies and find out how you can help your dog to feel better if they're suffering.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Some dogs are allergic to proteins in flea saliva. This immune response to those proteins is flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD. This is one of the most common dermatological issues to affect our dogs. It's diagnosed more often in the spring and summer months when fleas are most active, but can occur any time a flea bites your pet.
Signs of Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs
Your dog does not need to have a full-fledged flea infestation to suffer from flea allergy dermatitis. Just a single flea bite can make many dogs itchy. So, you may or may not be able to see live fleas on your dog when they're suffering from FAD.
Common signs of flea allergy dermatitis in dogs include:
- Itchy skin and associated scratching, chewing, licking, and biting, possibly leading to secondary bacterial skin infections
- Hair loss
- Red, inflamed skin
- Oozing sores on the skin
Treating Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Because FAD is directly related to fleas biting your dog, using flea control products is the main way to treat and prevent this common dog allergy.
Ideally, your dog will have already been on a flea preventative and a case of flea allergy dermatitis won't occur in the first place. But if it does, beginning treatment with a veterinarian-approved flea control product will probably be the first step toward resolving the issue.
In severe cases, corticosteroids might help control itching and promote skin healing. Since these medications can have severe side effects if not used properly, you'll want to keep in close contact with your vet throughout the treatment process. If bacterial infections of the skin are present, antibiotics will need to be prescribed.
In addition to various home remedies, your vet might also recommend supplementing your dog's diet with omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acid supplements are very good for your dog's skin health and can help the skin heal faster after a case of FAD. Native Pet's all-natural Omega Oil is a great way to relieve itching and scratching.
The term "environmental allergies" covers a wide range of common dog allergies, from airborne allergies to seasonal and contact allergies. Essentially, environmental allergies can be considered anything your dog encounters in their daily environment. Some common examples include pollen, dust, dirt, mold, cigarette smoke, perfume, plastic, rubber, and cleaning products.
Signs of Environmental Allergies in Dogs
Your dog might inhale certain environmental allergens like pollen, dust mites, or smoke. Their skin may come into contact with other environmental allergens like plastic or cleaning products (contact allergies). Regardless of the method of exposure, environmental allergy symptoms may include:
- Itchiness and associated scratching, chewing, licking, and biting
- Rubbing of the face and eyes
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
- Scabbed or scaly skin
Treating Environmental Allergies
The best treatment for environmental allergies is avoidance — if you know what substance or substances cause your dog to have a reaction, keep Fido away from them. Remove plants, cleaning supplies, household products, or other items that may cause reactions from your home.
Talk to your vet about keeping anti-inflammatory medications or antihistamines like Benadryl on hand in the event of an environmental allergy flare-up. These can help soothe the symptoms of your dog's allergies. Medicated shampoos are also helpful, particularly in the case of contact allergies.
An option for dogs with persistent or severe environmental allergies is allergy shots. Otherwise known as immunotherapy, allergy shots may increase your pup's tolerance to the allergen they react to, building up a defense over time. While this doesn't "cure" your allergic dog, it tends to improve the condition by reducing the severity of immune responses.
Last but not least, food allergies are another type of common dog allergy. Out of all the allergies that affect our pets, food allergies account for about 10% of them.
When a dog is allergic to an ingredient in their food (typically a protein or a complex carbohydrate), their immune system produces antibodies to that ingredient. That's what causes the symptoms you see.
The most common food allergens that cause trouble include protein sources like dairy, beef, chicken, lamb, soy, and wheat, although almost any food substance could cause food intolerances or allergies.
Signs of Food Allergies in Dogs
The signs of a food allergy can mimic the symptoms of other types of common dog allergies, like environmental allergies. That's why you’ll need allergy testing and other methods (discussed below) to diagnose food allergies.
In most dogs, symptoms of a food allergy include:
- Itchy skin and associated scratching, chewing, licking, and biting
- Hives around your dog's body
- Gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and flatulence
Less frequently, symptoms like lethargy, hyperactivity, and weight loss can occur in affected dogs.
Treating Food Allergies in Dogs
Before a food allergy is treated, it must be diagnosed. That involves pinpointing the ingredient or ingredient that's causing the reaction. Blood testing is one method — serum tests may also be able to indicate what your dog is reacting to. The more common method, though, is what's known as an elimination diet or food trial.
An elimination diet involves switching certain food ingredients in and out by feeding your dog different diets over time. That way, you'll be able to identify the exact substance that your dog is reacting to. From there, you can find pet food that doesn't contain that ingredient. Work closely with your veterinarian throughout the food trial to make sure your pup is getting the proper nutrition.
To give your dog a little extra support against both food allergies and environmental allergies, try Native Pet's Allergy Chicken Chews. They target itchy skin and hot spots and provide a natural antihistamine to build your dog's defense against allergens.
Dealing With Common Dog Allergies
Wondering why your dog keeps suffering from itchy skin, ear infections, hair loss, or skin inflammation? Common dog allergies like food allergies, environmental allergies, and flea allergy dermatitis are all possibilities.
Pet owners who see these symptoms in their dogs should contact their veterinarian. Working together, you'll be able to diagnose what kind of allergy your dog is suffering from and take steps to deal with the problem.
Luckily, most dogs with allergies are able to live a perfectly normal, happy life. It just takes some persistence, careful management, and the right treatment methods to help your dog feel better.Want to read more about your dog's health and wellness needs? Visit the Native Pet blog.