Allergies in dogs & what to do about them
If you have ever suffered from hay fever, chronic sneezing or a sensitivity to gluten, you’ll understand just how annoying and uncomfortable allergies can be. But allergies aren’t the sole domain of humans; it’s possible for man’s best friend to suffer from them too.
If your dog frequently gets itchy skin, ear infections, bald patches or hot spots, he could be allergic to something. But figuring out what’s making him so uncomfortable is easier said than done.
I Think My Dog Has an Allergy - How Can I Be Sure?
If your dog is allergic to something, he might be suffering from dry, itchy or irritable skin, scratching or licking, paw chewing and swollen paws, bald patches, ear or skin infections, or hot, moist, red, inflamed and sensitive ‘hot spots’ that are caused by repeated licking, chewing and scratching.
Just because he’s showing some signs, doesn’t mean he’s allergic to something though. Unfortunately many symptoms of allergies like sneezing, diarrhoea and vomiting could be caused by something else. If you’re worried about your dog’s health and really want to find out what’s making your dog so uncomfortable, a trip to your vet is your best bet.
What’s Causing My Dog’s Allergic Reaction?
If you’ve ever been bitten by a flea, you’ll know just how itchy the bite can be. Flea bites are the most common cause of allergic reactions in dogs; even just one or two can result in itchy and annoying bites that could last for weeks at a time.
Natural environmental allergens like pollen, dust, mould, dust mites from around the house and even feathers could also cause your pooch to come out in an allergic reaction. In more severe cases, he could also be allergic to man-made environmental allergens like perfumes, cleaning products, rubber, plastic, even cigarette smoke.
Food-related allergies aren’t common in dogs (only about one in 10 allergies have something to do with what they’ve eaten) but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. The most common foods or additives to cause an allergic reaction are beef, egg, dairy, soya and wheat.
How Can I Get My Dog Tested?
If you think your dog is allergic to an environmental allergen, your vet may suggest a blood test. When it comes to food-related allergies, though, a blood test is much less reliable. An exclusion diet might be the best option instead.
An exclusion, or hypoallergenic, diet is one that avoids the most common dietary triggers, including beef, egg, dairy, soya and wheat. If your dog responds well to an exclusion diet after a few weeks, start to re-introduce each excluded ingredient slowly and one-by-one. If his symptoms reappear after eating one of these ingredients, it may very well be the culprit. Before putting your dog on an exclusion diet, always talk to your vet first.
How to Treat Allergies in Dogs
How you treat your dog’s allergic reaction totally depends on what they’re allergic to. For example, if he’s allergic to dust, vacuuming your house more often might be the answer. If he’s reacting to flea bites, stay to date with his flea control treatments. If he’s allergic to a certain ingredient or food group, keep a close eye on what he’s eating (particularly those snack times between meals).
If the culprit is food, this means you need to keep a much stricter eye on what your dog is eating than you might do otherwise. A specially-formulated diet designed for your dog is a great place to start. CPK’s dog food is made from low allergy products, no grains , so what you feed your dog will be completely different to your neighbour’s. If your dog is allergic to a certain ingredient, like wheat for example, it’s easy to exclude it from his diet altogether. If cutting out wheat doesn’t look like it’s helping, you can also choose to exclude all grains.
Keep in mind that a total improvement might not happen overnight - but it will happen. In fact, it can take up to three months for your dog’s allergies to completely disappear after a reaction, so if you make any changes to his diet make sure you stick with them - even if they don’t seem to make a difference at first.
What Else Can I Do to Ease my Dog’s Symptoms?
If your dog is obviously uncomfortable, it’s important that you do something to help him feel better. Weekly baths can help ease itchy, scratchy skin, while dietary changes could help improve the situation from the inside out.
Solving the cause of allergies and treating their symptoms isn’t the easiest of tasks, but the happy wag of your dog’s tail when both are sorted is well worth the effort. If you’re concerned about your dog’s health, your first port of call should always be your vet. For help with his diet, contact the CPK team today.