Itching, sneezing, coughing, skin rash, scooting, chewing on paws? – it’s allergies. Yes, dogs can have allergies just like humans. It is quite common actually with skin and allergy issues being one of the most common reasons for a visit to the vet. Dog allergies act very similarly to human allergies and symptoms can be present year-round depending on what your dog is allergic to. If your dog is an allergy sufferer or you suspect she might be, here are the symptoms to look for, the potential causes and some treatments to help your fur baby stop suffering.
Like allergy symptoms in humans, canine allergy symptoms can vary. There are the symptoms you would typically associate with allergies like itching, sneezing and runny nose. However, dogs exhibit some symptoms and behaviors that are classic canine. If your dog is chewing on her paws, scooting across the floor, obsessive licking or shaking her head, she likely has allergies. Skin rashes and ear inflammation are other very common sign of allergens.
Environmental factors like dust, pollen, grass, flowers, fleas, trees and molds are common triggers. However, ten percent of allergens in dogs are caused by allergies to food. Chicken, beef, soy, fish, corn, wheat and dairy are all common food triggers. It can be difficult to determine the cause of the allergies. For environmental factors, your vet can do allergy testing just like in humans. This can narrow down the causes. Food allergies can really only be determined by food trials. In a food trial, the vet would have you take your dog off all food and put her on a limited ingredient dog food for 6-8 weeks. Then you will slowly re-introduce a single food and watch the reaction. If, after a few days to a few weeks, there is a reaction you know it is an allergy to that food. According to Pets.WebMD, it is common in food-allergic dogs to suddenly develop allergies to a food they have eaten for years.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to narrow down the cause of the allergen, like a food allergy, you can eliminate exposure to the allergen. However, it is very difficult to do that with environmental factors as your dog will always spend some amount of time outdoors and if there is a dust allergy, it will not just be a seasonal malady. With most allergens, it is not possible to cure the allergy, just control it.
Your vet can also prescribe medication like antibiotics to treat any infections that have developed and corticosteroids. The corticosteroids, like prednisone, can be very effective for allergy-sufferers but have a lot of side effects and should not be used for long periods of time. Cyclosporine is another very effective medication and has fewer side effects than steroids but it is significantly more expensive. Antihistamines like Benadryl can also be effective at controlling itching in many cases. Consult your vet for dosage information for your dog.
Allergy shots can be very effective in relieving long term allergy suffering just like in humans. This would mean your dog would have to go through allergy testing to determine what environmental allergens are triggers for her. According to Dr. Nicole Eckholm, a California Veterinary Dermatologist, “allergy shots are the only effective method to stop the progression of allergies.”
There are also non-pharmaceutical options that can help relieve symptoms and bring your fur baby some comfort. Frequent baths using an oatmeal or medicated shampoos, conditioners and rinses are an important part of allergy therapy and can help with itching. Using supplements like biotin or omega-3 can help improve their coat and ease itching.
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