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If you suffer from allergies, you probably dread the coming of spring when cleaning your house releases clouds of dust and pollen starts to cloud the air outside. While you may be very familiar with your own allergies, or those of your family, you may not realize that dogs can suffer from allergies as well. In fact, dogs can suffer allergic reactions to most of the same substances that cause your own allergies to act up. Below you will find an overview of some of the most common signs of allergies in dogs as well as a discussion of the substances that can trigger allergies in your pet.
Common Signs of Allergies in Dogs
Allergies occur when your dog’s immune system starts to recognize a certain substance as harmful or dangerous. In response, your dog’s body will produce an allergic reaction – it will begin to fight that substance. Your dog can be exposed to allergies in all of the same ways that you can. He might come into contact with them directly through the skin, he could breathe them in through the air, or he could ingest them in food. Below is a list of the most common symptoms of allergies in dogs:
- Inflamed or irritated skin
- Itching and scratching
- Runny, itchy eyes
- Intense itching at the base of the tail
- Sneezing and coughing
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Licking or chewing at the paws
- Hair loss and/or scabs on the skin
Different types of allergies present with different symptoms. Allergies to food often present with gastrointestinal symptoms, but they can lead to skin problems as well. Allergies to airborne particles can cause itching and runny eyes, as can contact allergies. All dogs are prone to developing allergies and it can happen at any point in their life. Some of the breeds which tend to be most at-risk for developing allergies, however, include retrievers, setters, terriers, and flat-faced breeds like bulldogs and pugs.
Types of Allergies in Dogs
As it has already been mentioned, dogs can develop allergies at any point in their lives and they can be allergic to all of the same substances that people can. Some of the most common allergens known to affect dogs include:
- Pollen from grass and weeds
- Dust and mold spores
- Feathers and dander
- Cigarette smoke
- Prescription drugs
- Food ingredients like wheat and corn
- Perfumes and dyes
- Cleaning products
- Certain fabrics or materials
The allergies that affect dogs can be divided into several main categories. Atopy is the most common type of allergy seen in both dogs and cats. Other categories of allergies include flea allergy dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and food allergies.
Atopy in Dogs
This type of allergy is generally seasonal but it can happen during any season of the year. Dogs that are allergic to substances like pollen typically exhibit symptoms in the spring while dogs allergic to ragweed have allergies during the fall. Dust mites are another common allergen that often cause the most severe reactions during the winter when your dog spends more time indoors. Common symptoms of atopy include constant licking, chewing at the feet, rubbing the face, ear inflammation or infections, hot spots on the skin, and wheezing. The best way to treat these allergies is to limit your dog’s exposure to the problem substance.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Also known as flea bite hypersensitivity, flea allergy dermatitis occurs when a dog has an allergic reaction to flea bites. The dog isn’t actually allergic to fleas, but to the saliva that is transferred to the dog’s skin during a flea bite. Any dog can develop flea allergy dermatitis, but this condition is most likely to affect young dogs under 5 years of age. Common symptoms of this condition include intense itching and scratching, hair loss, scabs on the dog’s skin, and anemia. Topical flea and tick preventives are the best way to deal with flea allergy dermatitis because they kill fleas in all stages of life. Spot treatments can also be used to mitigate the symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis and to deal with secondary infections resulting from intense scratching.
This type of allergy results from physical contact with a certain allergen. Some of the allergens most likely to cause contact dermatitis include household cleaners, plastic, carpets, certain fabrics, perfumes, and more. This type of allergy typically results in symptoms like itchy bumps on the skin, intense itching and scratching, and hair loss. Again, the key to dealing with this type of allergy is to limit your dog’s exposure to the problem substance.
Food Allergies in Dogs
About 15% of all allergies in dogs and cats are related to food. In many cases, dogs with food allergies also have allergies to dust, pollen, and other substances. Some of the most common food allergens affecting dogs include dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, fish, eggs, corn, soy, and wheat. Symptoms of food allergies in dogs may not be limited to gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs with food allergies can also develop itchy skin (especially on sparsely-furred areas), chronic ear infections, excessive scratching, hair loss or hot spots, and recurrent skin infections. If your dog has a food allergy, you need to switch to another food formula that doesn’t contain the allergen as an ingredient.
By now you should be able to understand just how common and how serious allergies in dogs can be. While you may not be able to prevent your dog from having an allergic reaction to certain substances, once the allergy is identified you should take precautions to avoid letting your dog come into contact with it. For example, if your dog has a food allergy you should switch to a different formula that doesn’t contain the allergen. If your dog is allergic to pollen, avoid taking your dog outside on days when the pollen count is high and on particularly windy days. For tips on preventing exposure to allergens, consult your veterinarian.