Dog Allergies: How to Help Your Dog
If you’ve ever had bad allergies, you understand how uncomfortable they can be. They are equally uncomfortable for pets, but in their case, they can’t voice their discomfort or reach for a Zyrtec to relieve the symptoms.
To find relief from itching, your dog might groom excessively, licking and scratching at his or her eyes, ears, and tail. This can make their skin raw and cause hair loss. And if your dog injures herself from excessive scratching, she risks getting an infection too (if not treated properly).
If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from allergies, here’s your guide to diagnosing and treating this issue.
Understand Common Causes of Allergies
Before you can help your dog, you must understand what’s causing their allergic reaction. Common factors that lead to allergy symptoms include:
Fleas are common parasites in both cats and dogs, and their saliva can cause an allergic reaction. This leads to dogs scratching almost nonstop. Dogs sensitive to flea saliva might get intense itching scratch at their skin until it becomes raw. If you suspect a flea infestation or see fleas on your pet, you can get a flea control prescription from a veterinarian to help get rid of fleas and to prevent them in the future.
Remember, you need to get this medication from your vet, and you shouldn’t give your dog one without having a prescription first. Some dogs can be allergic to certain medications, so you should never give one pet’s medication to another pet (e.g., giving a cat’s meds to a dog). Instead, seek your vet’s advice about your pet’s specific problems.
Mites are another common parasite that causes itching. Your dog can get mites from spending time outdoors, from dust, mites living in furniture, and more.
Luckily, mites can be treated with topical or oral medication in most cases. Make sure to keep your home clean to prevent any critters from moving in and consider wiping your dog down or bathing them after spending extended periods in rougher terrain like hiking trails or dog parks. This can help prevent your dog from catching mites.
Some dogs can also be allergic to their food. Even if your dog has been eating the same food for years, they can still become allergic, especially if it includes dairy.
If you suspect a food allergy, talk to your vet about doing a food trial to help them pinpoint what ingredient is causing the allergy. A food trial places your dog on a restricted diet, excluding certain foods and ingredients for periods of time to determine if they have an allergic reaction to specific ingredients.
Your vet can then help you find a new diet to avoid triggering your dog’s allergies.
Seasonal & Environmental Allergies
Environmental allergies may begin as seasonal problems during the spring or fall, when there’s a lot of pollen in the year. However, dogs can also have allergies year-round if they’re allergic to indoor allergens like dust.
These environmental canine skin allergies may start slowly but progress over time if not treated. Dogs can also be allergic to plastics in turf, chemicals in cleaning products, certain plants, and scent diffusers, so it’s important to investigate these items around your house when finding the source of your pup’s allergies.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from dry skin. This can be caused by a variety of reasons - for example, if you live in a dry climate, your dog’s skin may dry out quickly. Dry skin can also be a symptom of nutritional deficiencies.
The solutions you use for your dry skin should not be used on your canine friend. Your vet can help you find the right pet-friendly treatment for your pup.
Some dogs exhibit compulsive behaviors such as excessive self-grooming. Such compulsive behavior can be a way for them to self-soothe feelings of anxiety. If your dog is scratching at their skin or grooming to the point of irritation, they might need help managing their anxiety.
In this case, the issue is not allergies – though you may mistakenly think that the scratching is caused by allergies.
Treating Allergies in Dogs
Once you’ve determined the cause of your dog’s allergies, your next aim should be to find a solution that relieves his or her symptoms and prevents worsening of the symptoms or development of other conditions. A few ways you can help your dog are:
Your vet might prescribe steroids to relieve your dog’s allergies. Steroids help ease skin inflammation and can relieve your dog’s irritation. If your dog has created a wound in his skin, he may need antibiotics to prevent or resolve a secondary infection.
Your dog may also be given anxiety medication if they have a compulsive grooming habit.
If your pet is experiencing itchy skin because they’re not getting enough of the nutrients they need for a healthy skin, your vet may prescribe supplements. These supplements typically include vitamins such as Vitamin A, E, or Biotin, and fatty acids such as omega-3, to help soothe dry skin and keep it from drying out.
Addressing Psychological Issues
As we’ve mentioned, your dog’s excessive scratching might not be due to a physical issue. Some dogs have psychological problems that lead to excessive scratching - they may even groom themselves to decrease boredom.
Providing your dog with an enriching environment is a great way to mentally stimulate them and distract them from scratching their skin. It will also help them stay mentally and physically healthy, which can reduce compulsive behaviors.
What Else Can Cause Allergies in Dogs?
There are many reasons for itching, so it’s important to communicate with your vet when you notice this behavior in your dog. Your vet will likely inspect the itching behavior, ask questions about your dog’s behavior, and run tests to rule out signs of illness or fleas that may be causing the itching.
In more extreme cases, your vet may give you a referral to a veterinary dermatologist, who is able to diagnose more complex skin conditions. A vet dermatologist can carry out more specialized testing, provide focused treatments, and help with developing allergen-specific immunotherapy for your dog’s specific allergic needs.
Testing for Skin Infections
When you take your dog to the vet, he or she will likely test for signs of infection. There are a few tests they might conduct, including:
Biopsy: Biopsies take small, circular samples of your dog’s skin which are submitted for review. To collect a sample, your dog must be sedated or anesthetized to make the process easier for them. You will then have to care for the wound at home.
Allergy testing: Vets may also choose to perform intradermal allergy testing, which can help identify the allergens triggering your dog’s itchiness.
Caring for Your Dog at Home
Once you understand what is causing your dog's itching and allergy symptoms, your vet can give you a treatment plan at home. After that, it’s up to you to help your dog by following the instructions given to you by your vet.
With the right veterinary care and at-home engagement, you should be able to effectively diagnose your dog’s underlying issue and manage their allergy.
Author: Ashley Nielsen
Ashley Nielsen earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration Marketing at Point Loma Nazarene University. She is a freelance writer who loves to share knowledge about general business, marketing, lifestyle, wellness, and financial tips. During her free time, she enjoys being outside, staying active, reading a book, or diving deep into her favorite music.
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