Combating Your Dog’s Skin Allergies
Have you noticed your pup licking incessantly, chewing, or scratching itself? They may be suffering from dog skin allergies – a complex issue that many pet-owners face.
Allergic reactions are an overactive immune response towards a substance known as an allergen. Your dog’s body is trying to look after itself, but its oversensitivity to the allergen can actually do more harm than good.
How do you know what’s causing your pup’s irritation? And once you’ve figured that out, how can you help them? To answer these questions for you, we’ve compiled a handy guide to dog skin allergies.
Let’s start by looking at the main causes of skin allergies.
What Causes Skin Allergies In Dogs?
Skin allergies, or allergic dermatitis, are caused by three main things: i) flea allergy dermatitis, ii) food allergies, and iii) inhalant allergies.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
This type of skin allergy is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva of fleas. Most dogs will experience a small amount of irritation and itchiness from a flea bite, but a dog with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) will experience severe local itching and will desperately scratch and bite the area – sometimes to the point of removing sections of fur. Preventing fleas is always a good idea, but especially for a pup with flea allergies!
True food allergies are actually an immune response. Most dogs actually have food sensitivities or intolerances. These are a gradual reaction to an offending ingredient and can develop at any age.
Sensitivity to various foods can also cause itchy skin for your dog, and most commonly develop in response to the protein components of food such as chicken, beef, dairy products, lamb, soy, or wheat gluten.
Food sensitivities are usually visible on their ears and paws, and sometimes are accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms including: drooling, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, bloating, vomiting, and dehydration.
Unfortunately, food sensitivities don’t respond well to most medical treatments, including corticosteroids. Instead, you need to identify what is causing their reaction and then eliminate that from their diet. Improvements will usually only be seen after eight to twelve weeks of their new diet, so patience is key!
Similar to the way some people get hay fever in the Spring, some dogs have seasonal allergies that are caused by allergens such as grass pollens and weed pollens. Others have year-round allergies caused by mildew, mold, dust, and dust mites. Exposure to these environmental allergens causes atopic (Greek for “strange”) dermatitis (inflammation of the skin).
Signs of this type of allergy include your dog rubbing their face, licking their feet, or scratching their ‘underarm’ area.
Since the causing allergens are environmental, a cure is seldom possible. This means that treatment will focus on reducing the symptoms of the allergy, and can include the following:
- Shampoo Therapy. Treatment involves frequent bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo, which may or may not contain anti-inflammatory ingredients. This not only soothes itchy and inflamed skin, but rinses off allergens that are present on the coat or on the skin.
- Anti-Inflammatory Therapy. Treatment involves inflammatory drugs such as antihistamines or corticosteroids which block the allergic reaction.
- Hyposensitization/Desensitization Therapy. Treatment involves allergy shots or allergy injection serum. If an antigen is identified to be the cause of your dog’s allergies, trace amounts of it are injected weekly. This allows your dog’s immune system to become desensitized to the offending antigen.
- Biologic or Immunosuppressant Drugs. Treatment involves injections of monoclonal antibodies like Cytopoint and Apoquel. These medications work in tandem to suppress and block the enzymes of an overactive immune response caused by atopic dermatitis in dogs.
The biggest problem with dog skin allergies is that your dog’s scratching and biting can break the surface of their skin, making them susceptible to secondary infections caused by bacteria or yeast. These require antibiotics to be cured and can leave your poor pup feeling even more under the weather than before!
Symptoms Of Allergies In Dogs
The most common symptom of a skin allergy is incessant itching. You’ll notice your dog constantly:
- continuously licking (this may be a specific part of the body, or all over)
- rubbing against the wall or floor
- chewing or biting the skin
- shaking their head (particularly with ear itchiness or discomfort)
- scooting their hind end on the floor
- using their paws to scratch their body
Most dogs will display a combination of these signs, depending on where they are itching.
It’s important to note that most dogs will exhibit these behaviors even when they don’t have a problem, and they are only cause for concern when they become repetitive, incessant, or you can tell your dog is desperate.
Combat Dog Skin Allergies With All Aboard Animal Hospital
Whether your dog is struggling with the pollen in the air or with a certain part of their diet, skin allergies are not fun for them to go through… We know that watching them struggle is no fun for you either!
Our experienced and compassionate Veterinarian knows exactly how to spot and manage a skin allergy. Additionally, our team will take the best care of your furry best friend.
If you’ve noticed your dog displaying any signs of a skin allergy, contact All Aboard Animal Hospital today to set up an appointment and get your pooch back to feeling their best!