Dogs are just as prone to allergies as humans, but, unlike us, they can’t verbalize their discomfort. Many dogs suffer needlessly because their owners don’t have a clue they have an allergy. Fortunately, in most cases, the symptoms are easy to spot, so if your pet is showing some unusual symptoms and you suspect something is wrong, there is treatment available.
The following signs indicate your pet may have an allergy or sensitivity. If you notice any of them, take him to your veterinarian for a check-up and tests. If the tests come back as positive, your vet will be able to recommend an appropriate treatment.
Different Types of Allergy
There are different types of allergies, but the most common ones are pollen, fleas, and dust. Some pets are also sensitive to certain ingredients commonly found in big brand dog food. Grains are a major culprit, but your pet may also be sensitive to protein such as chicken and beef.
Hair loss is a common sign of contact allergies. Bald patches are abnormal and should always be investigated. They usually occur when a pet rubs the body part against carpets or furniture to try and alleviate intense itching. If you notice any bald patches on your pet and the area looks red, sore and inflamed, he could be allergic to dust mites, pollen, dust, fleas, or cleaning chemicals.
Discharge from Ears
An allergy to pollen, mites, fleas, and household chemicals can also cause recurrent ear infections. Look out for itchy, red and sore ears. Affected dogs will rub their ears against any rough surface to try and scratch the itch.
Crusty, Scabby Skin
Does your dog lick and chew at the skin on his belly or sides? If he does, he could have an allergy to something. Repeated licking and chewing usually causes hair loss, sore spots, and crusty, scaly skin. If left untreated, a secondary infection will set in and the area will become even more inflamed.
Relentless Chewing of Paws
Contact allergies, in particular, grass pollen, often affect the feet on afflicted dogs. Paws will be red or brown from excessive licking and the skin around the pads will become sore and inflamed. Some dogs do lick and chew their feet, but if your dog does it all the time and his feet are sore, he needs medical attention.
Dogs do suffer from flatulence. It’s perfectly normal and your dog isn’t sick, but if he has excessive flatulence and can clear a room in 2 seconds, he may have a dietary intolerance or sensitivity. Food allergies are less common than contact allergies, but nevertheless, they do affect around 15% of dogs. Sensitive stomach dog food may cure your dog’s flatulence, but if he shows other symptoms, have him checked out by a vet.
Unexplained weight loss should always be checked out by a vet, as it is a strong indication of an underlying medical problem. Dogs with sensitive stomachs will not metabolize their food as efficiently, so they often lose weight over time. If his weight loss is combined with itchy, sore skin and bald patches, it is a strong indicator he has an allergy to something in his diet or environment.
Dogs vomit quite easily, so occasional vomiting is not a sign anything is wrong. However, if your dog regularly throws his dinner up, he probably has a sensitivity to something in his food or environment.
Regular diarrhea, like vomiting, is not normal. Dogs do suffer from diarrhea from time to time, usually when they have eaten something particularly noxious, but a dog with the runs most days needs to visit the vet for a check-up.
If you suspect your dog has a food intolerance, try switching him to a special dog food to see if it makes any difference to his symptoms.
Treating Pet Allergies
There is no cure for allergies in pets, but you can manage the symptoms and make your dog’s life more tolerable. Firstly, you need to find out what is causing the symptoms in your dog. This is a job for your vet, so let him run some tests to determine the underlying cause.
If your dog is allergic to pollen and other environmental allergens, the best way to control your pet’s symptoms is to limit exposure. If pollen is the culprit, try to keep your pet indoors when the pollen count is high (early morning and evening are the peak times for pollen). Wash his feet when he comes back from a walk so he doesn’t paddle pollen indoors.
Keep the interior of your home as clean as you would if you had a child who was allergic to pollen, dust, etc. Vacuum floors and furniture regularly, preferably using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
Wash your pet’s bed regularly to kill dust mites and let him sleep in a room with a hard floor so dust is kept to a minimum.
If your pet’s diet is the problem, switch him over to a diet free from whatever ingredients are causing him gastrointestinal distress. If you are not sure what to feed him, ask your vet for advice. Make sure you avoid giving your pet treats, as these are just as likely to cause an allergic reaction as his food.
Antihistamines are effective in humans, but less so in dogs and other pets. However, you can try giving your pet dog Benadryl to see if he responds. Medicated shampoos are more effective when used on dogs with contact allergies. A medicated shampoo designed to relieve itching will soothe sore skin and relieve the irritation caused by an allergic response.
If the itching and inflammation is severe, your vet may recommend steroid injections and topical ointments. Topical steroid creams are safer than injections, as they are less likely to cause side effects.
A severe allergic response can cause anaphylactic shock and death, so always seek advice from your vet if your pet dog displays any of the above symptoms.