You may have noticed some abnormal symptoms in your dog and cannot point a finger on exactly what the problem is. If your pet is itchy, swollen on the face, lips or ears or is licking its body more than usual, the cause might be an allergy. Just like humans, dogs have allergic reactions to certain foods, insect bites, vaccines and environmental allergens like dust or molds. All dogs are susceptible to such allergies, but they mostly develop from the age of six months to three years.
Types of allergies
Skin allergies also referred to as atopic dermatitis, are the most common type of allergies in dogs. The major causes of these are flea bites, environmental allergens and food. Some dogs react to proteins contained in flea saliva and often become itchy as a result. One single bite sometimes causes a dog to itch for days.
Environmental allergies are mostly caused by grass and pollen, as well as dust mites. Reactions can also come from elements found in the house such as molds, storage mites and carpet fibers. Ten percent of all allergies in dogs are caused by food. The most reported food allergies in dogs (34%) are caused by beef, followed by dairy products (17%), chicken (15%) and wheat (13%), according to a review conducted by BMC Veterinary Research.
Diagnosis and treatment
The first step towards identifying an allergy in your dog is obviously to spot the correct symptoms. Flea allergies are identified by extreme itchiness as well as scabbed or inflamed skin. The presence of fleas is also an obvious indicator. Food allergies cause itchiness, especially in the ears and paws but may also induce vomiting or diarrhea. Environmental allergies are also generally characterized by itchiness, but they are seasonal so they might only manifest at certain points of the year.
If you identify any of these symptoms, it is important to involve a certified veterinarian for testing and treatment. There are two main types of testing. Blood allergy testing is the more common type, where blood is drawn from the animal and then tested for a reaction against potential allergens e.g. pollen or mold. Skin allergy testing involves sedating the patient, shaving a part of its skin and then injecting specific allergens to analyze reactions.
Your veterinarian will prescribe the correct treatment depending on the diagnosis. Treatment for various allergies varies from food supplements to various types of therapy including anti-inflammatory drugs and antihistamines. Ultimately though, the best way to treat any allergy is to entirely avoid the allergen, if possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassidy Dale is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for animals and animal welfare. When not working she loves to travel with her family, which includes two lively labradors.