Is your dog itching? Chewing his paws? Showing signs of chronic ear infections? If so, allergies may be the culprit.
Types of Dog Allergens
There are many different types of pet allergies and allergens. An allergy is defined as a hypersensitivity, or over-reactivity, of the immune system to an allergen. Pet allergies are classified in many different ways including route of entry (inhalant, skin contact or food), reaction time (immediate vs. delayed), clinical signs (allergic dermatitis or allergic bronchitis) and inheritance (atopy). Allergens are substances that cause these immune reactions; they are normally proteins. Common dog allergens are:
- Flea Saliva (Most common insect allergy)
- Shed skin cells
- Dust Mites
- Cigarette Smoke
- Dog food
Commonly Affected Breeds
All dogs can be affected by allergies; however certain breeds are more prone to them. Normal high risk breeds can be: retrievers, terriers, setters, bulldogs and pugs.
Common Symptoms of Dog Allergies
Allergies can manifest themselves in many different ways. Common symptoms can be grouped into three categories: Integumentary, Respiratory and Digestive. Integumentary symptoms would include itching (pruritus) either localized or generalized, hair loss, frequent ear infections, rashes, licking, swelling and scabs (normally caused by excessive itching which can lead to bacterial infection). These symptoms are the most common clinical signs of allergies because a considerable amount of them are environmental. Respiratory symptoms can include, but are not limited to: coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and discharge from the eyes/nose. Allergens that affect the digestive system are least common and normally symptoms are limited to vomiting and/or diarrhea. Usually, canines will first show symptoms of allergies over the age of two, and very rarely before six months old.
Treating Dog Allergies
The key to treating allergies is determining which allergen is causing the reaction. This can be achieved by a skin test, blood sample or diet trial (these tests vary depending on clinical signs exhibited). The elimination diet trial lasts for 8-12 weeks and consists of changing your pets’ food to either a new brand with a different protein or grain content, or a hypoallergenic product. This should aid in eliminating main allergens from your pets’ diet. Keep in mind that it takes eight weeks for past products to be eliminated from the body.
If the allergen can be identified, treatment can range from medications, shampoo therapy or hypo-sensitization. Hypo-sensitization consists of weekly injections of the culprit allergen in order to desensitize the immune system. Shampoo therapy aids in the elimination of the allergen from your pets skin and fur. Contact allergens such as flea collars, pesticides and synthetics (the least common allergens) simply need to be taken away in order for your pets’ symptoms to subside. Commonly prescribed medications for allergies are corticosteroids and anti-histamines.
If your pet is exhibiting any signs of allergies, feel free to contact Aspen Grove Veterinary Care at 970-416-0232.