Did you know that dogs can get allergies just like we do? And they can be allergic to almost anything just like us, too! An allergy is a reaction or hypersensitivity to a particular substance. The immune system responds with the negative symptoms that many of us are used to experiencing. Allergies can be weather related, from something outdoors, or from something ingested.
What Are Dog Allergies?
When your dog is exposed to the allergen, their immune system becomes highly sensitive to it and over-reacts. Instead of just fighting off an infection, the immune system attacks the foreign substance.
The attacks can come in many forms, but common ones are inflammation like redness, swelling, and itching. These misguided reactions cause your dog pain and some suffering. The science is that protein molecules combine with antibodies and attach to a mast cell. Then, when the antigen and antibody react with the mast cell, histamines are created. These histamines are what cause the symptoms we know as allergies.
If your dog is feeling really itchy, especially in one area, allergies could be a good explanation for it. All dogs scratch to some extent, but if their itching is out of control, the cause is likely an allergic reaction. Symptoms for dogs can also be coughing, sneezing, and a runny discharge in the eyes and nose. This probably sounds very familiar if you’ve ever experienced allergies yourself.
Common Kinds of Dog Allergies
Dog allergies are very common, although what they are allergic to and to what extent does vary from pup to pup. Usually your dog will experience symptoms from about the time they’re about six months old. Some might be inherited, but there isn’t enough evidence to support that at this point. The most difficult part of allergies in a dog is discovering the actual cause of them. It’s important to work with your veterinarian in Marinette to determine what is causing the dog allergies. That way, together you can come up with the best treatment plan for your pup.
Allergies Caused by Insect Bites
Insect bite allergies are very common in dogs. These usually come with swelling, redness, and itching at the actual site of the bite. Insects that can cause allergies are fleas, ticks, mosquitos, ants, bees, and flies. Flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD, is one of the most common insect allergies. When a flea bites a dog who is not allergic to it, there will be some swelling and itching, but it will subside fairly quickly.
When a dog with FAD gets bitten by a flea, there will be severe itching to the point of hair loss and a possible hot spot could be formed. Hot spots are areas where a dog constantly itches and bites at that has trouble healing due to the constant moisture and irritation. If your dog is diagnosed with FAD, it’s important to get them on a preventative as protection.
Another variety of dog allergies is inhalant allergies. These are things like grass, pollen, ragweed, mold, mildew, and dust mites. Inhalant allergies can occur either seasonally or year-round. Ragweed and grass are considered seasonal and dust mites and mold are considered year-round. The symptoms are usually related to the respiratory system. Your dog will likely cough, wheeze, sneeze, and have runny eyes and nose when they are being affected by an inhalant allergen.
Some does to experience itchy skin with inhalants. Others will have such a severe reaction that it will cause allergic bronchitis. In order to treat these allergies your vet may prescribe antihistamines or even steroid shots to alleviate the pain. If the condition isn’t too severe, it’s possible that regular baths with oatmeal shampoo or even just wiping your dog down with a wet cloth when he comes in from outside could help.
Dogs can also experience food allergies. These are a little tougher to detect and can develop at any time in life. Some examples of food allergens are wheat gluten, dairy, beef, chicken, chicken eggs, and soy. Symptoms of food allergies include itching, digestive issues, and respiratory problems.
When your dog has a food allergy, they typically won’t respond well to medicine. The key in figuring out exactly what food your dog is allergic to is a strict elimination diet. Your vet will help you create the elimination diet, but these take eight to twelve weeks to work and there is absolutely no cheating, or you have to start completely over.
Make sure to discuss even the current medication your dog might be on for heart worms or anything else. These medicines can affect the results and give you false information. Once you know exactly what food your dog is allergic to, you will just need to change to a new food that fits their restrictions.
The last type of allergic reaction your dog could be having is called a contact allergy. These come from pesticides, wool, flea collars, and the like. This type can also become an issue at any age. If your dog experiences a contact allergy, they will itch specifically where the allergen touched. So, in some regards, it’s similar to the insect allergy. The constant itching and biting in one spot can result in hair loss and hot spots which can be painful.
Once you figure out the cause of the contact allergy, you can remove it from getting in contact with your dog and his allergic reaction should clear up and not come back. Like with food allergies, the trouble with contact dog allergies is figuring out exactly what’s causing the issue.
What to Do When You Spot Dog Allergy Symptoms
Allergic reactions in dogs are as common as they are in humans. The key signs to look for are redness, excessive itching, swelling, coughing, sneezing, and runny nose and eyes.
If you think your dog is experiencing allergies, contact our animal hospital in Marinette, WI at (715) 735-9511 or make an appointment today to discuss what the causes could be. It can take some time, but once you figure out what’s causing the problem, the solutions are usually simple. By coming up with a long term treatment plan, you will keep your best friend happy and healthy for many years.