Allergies in Dogs

Different types of allergies and their causes in dogs

Allergies are a misguided reaction to foreign substances by a body’s immune system which all living creatures suffer from. There are many different types of allergies in dogs, skin allergy, food allergy and environmental allergens. All these allergies can make detecting the specific disease very complicated, since the symptoms for all these different allergies are similar.

Skin allergy or allergic dermatitis is the most common allergy in dogs. The 3 main causes for skin allergy is flea allergy dermatitis, food allergy, environmental allergens.

Symptoms of different skin allergies:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to fleabites. Some dogs are allergic to flea saliva. This makes the affected dog very itchy, especially at the base of its tail, the skin on the rest of the body can become red, inflamed and scabbed. You may notice signs of fleas like flea dirt or the fleas too.
  • Food allergies can cause itchy skin as well. Dogs infected with food allergy generally itch their ears and paws and it is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Environmental allergens like dust, pollen and mold can cause an atopic allergic reaction or atopic dermatitis. This is a seasonal allergy and you will notice your dog itching during certain times of the year. As in food allergy the most commonly affected areas are paws and ears, wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes and in between the toes.

All skin allergies pose the risk of secondary infection since the dogs bites, scratches, licks the skin all the time, this causes an added risk of yeast or bacterial infections that may require treatment.

Food allergies are not very common. The symptoms are immense and range from skin conditions like

  • hives
  • facial
  • swelling
  • itchiness

Gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea or a combination of both symptoms. In rare cases a severe reaction resulting in anaphylaxis can occur, which is similar to severe peanut allergies in humans. When people say their dog has a food allergy, it actually means their dog has food sensitivity, also known as food intolerance. Food sensitivities unlike actual food allergies does not involve an immune response and is instead a gradual reaction to an offending ingredient in the dogs food like beef, chicken, eggs, corn, soy or milk. Dogs with food sensitivities have several symptoms like gastrointestinal signs like vomiting, diarrhea, dermatologic signs like itchiness, poor skin and coat, chronic ear or foot infections. The best way to diagnose and treat a food allergy is to consult the veterinarian who can control the dogs symptoms and help to find the ingredient causing the allergic reaction in the food.

Acute allergic reactions are most alarming as dogs like people can go into an anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen. This can be fatal if not treated immediately as in humans. Bee stings, vaccine reaction can cause an anaphylactic response in dogs. It is always good to keep a close eye if any new vaccine, drug or food item that is given to the dog. Anaphylactic reactions are rare in dogs.

Dogs may develop hives, facial swelling like face, throat, lips, eyelids or ear flaps in response to an allergen, it may look serious but the veterinarian can treat it with an antihistamine.

Symptoms of allergies in dogs may vary depending on the cause. The general signs of an allergic reaction are:

  • itchiness
  • hives
  • swelling in face, ears, lips, eyelids, ear flaps
  • red inflamed skin
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • sneezing
  • itchy ears
  • chronic ear infections, itchy
  • runny eyes
  • constant licking

Some of these symptoms could also be a sign of another condition. In case of anaphylactic shock in a dog there will be a drop in blood sugar followed by shock which is different from a skin condition. It is always good to take your dog immediately to the veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis to help your dog.

Diagnosing allergies in dogs is often a complicated process. The first thing a vet does is rule out any other condition that could be the cause for the allergy. After that if they feel it could be an allergy then they will want to conduct an allergy test to determine which allergen is causing that reaction. Food allergies are often diagnosed using an elimination diet that is a food trial consisting of feeding the dog a single source of protein and carbohydrate for 12 weeks. Sometimes it is not possible to determine the cause of an allergy with testing. Flea allergy dermatitis is the easiest allergy to diagnose. It is diagnosed by identifying fleas on the dogs body and applying a product that kills fleas before they can bite.

Treating allergies in dogs depends on the type of allergy the dog is affected with. In flea allergy dermatitis is to kill the fleas and in food allergy or food intolerance is a change in diet. The vet may also prescribe medications which will help to control the signs and symptoms associated with an allergic reaction and any secondary sign infection that might have developed due to the allergy. In case of a severe allergic reaction take your dog immediately to the emergency veterinarian hospital.

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