Allergies that commonly affect dogs include dog skin allergies (canine atopic dermatitis), dog flea allergies (flea allergy dermatitis), contact dermatitis, and dog food allergies. It is essential that dog parents learn about the different forms of canine allergies; why dogs develop allergy symptoms; and what treatment options are available.
Is your dog constantly scratching, chewing, and licking? If so, there is a possibility that he may be suffering from some form of allergy.
In recent years, the number of dogs suffering from dog allergies has increased dramatically. At the same time, many dogs have been mis-diagnosed as having allergies when in fact they are suffering from something else. For example, dogs suffering from hypothyroidism frequently have skin infections which are often mis-diagnosed as canine atopic dermatitis. Because of the mis-diagnosis, they are being put on the wrong medication (usually corticosteriods) and sometimes suffer from side effects of such medication.
A proper diagnosis is therefore very important before any treatment is given to our dogs.
It is equally extremely important that we dog parents educate ourselves as much as we can about canine allergies as they seem to affect our dogs more frequently now than before.
On this page, you will find information on the following topics:
Canine allergies are basically symptoms manifested as a result of a dog's immune system working hard to get rid of outside substances. These substances - allergens - can be anything (natural or artificial, organic or inorganic), and they can be found in a lot of places and things, such as food, in our homes, and in the environment. They can cause allergic reactions after being ingested, inhaled or absorbed.
Usually, canine allergies are manifested in three ways. The most common is itching and inflammation of the skin which can either be limited to one area (localized) or all over the body (generalized). Another manifestation involves the respiratory system and may result in coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. Nasal and/or eye discharge may also be present. Finally, sometimes dog allergies involve the digestive system, resulting in vomiting or diarrhea.
Allergies in dogs come, first and foremost, from the "inside", rather than from outside allergens. These days dogs are exposed to a lot of allergens. However, not all dogs develop symptoms of allergies. Those who do are often pets with problems from the "inside", for example, dogs with an already weakened immune system, hormonal imbalance, bacterial or fungal infections, or those with emotional stress due to boredom, a lack of exercise, etc. When exposed to outside allergy-causing factors, (such as fleas, poor quality food, environmental toxins, over vaccination), these dogs are more prone to develop symptoms of dog allergies.
If your pet shows dog allergy symptoms, it is very important that you consult your vet and ask that a thorough check-up (skin and blood tests) be carried out to identify the "inside" cause of the allergy. Finding out the inside "root" problem and getting rid of that problem will strengthen the overall health of your dog, making her more resistant against the outside allergens.
The hallmark symptoms of common dog allergies include itchiness and inflammation of the skin. These symptoms occur when the dog's allergen-specific IgE antiboides release some chemicals that cause the symptoms. The exact mechanism is rather complex. Here is a simplified explanation:
When a dog is exposed to an allergen (e.g. fleas, pollen), IgE antibodies are formed by the dog's white blood cells. The IgE antibody attaches to a mast cell (mast cells are important tissue cells that form part of the immune system). The next time the dog is exposed to the allergen, the allergen attaches to the IgE antibody-mast cell combination. When that happens, the mast cell sort of "explodes" and releases chemicals within the cell and cell membrane. These chemicals include, among others, histamine and various prostaglandins which are responsible for causing the clinical signs of common dog allergies including itching and inflammation.
Common dog allergies include:
One of the most common dog allergies is canine atopic dermatitis, aka canine atopy. Canine atopic dermatitis is a genetic inflammatory skin disorder, in which the dog becomes sensitized to environmental allergens (such as pollens, molds, house dust mites, etc.) Depending on the allergens, canine atopy can be seasonal (e.g. pollen allergies) or it can be year round (e.g. house dust mites, molds, etc.) Allergies usually occur within 1 to 3 years of a dog being exposed to continual environmental allergens.
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Flea allergy dermatitis, aka dog flea allergies, used to be one of the most common dog allergies. However, with more flea control products available to dog parents, the incidence of flea allergies in dogs has decreased substantially.
The cause of flea allergy dermatitis is the saliva of the flea which contains a number of chemicals that can induce an allergic response in dogs.
(Visit Flea Allergies for more information.)
Compared to canine atopy and flea dermatitis, true food allergies in dogs are rather rare, accounting for less than 10 percent of cases referred to veterinarians.
Canine food allergies result when a dog develops allergic reactions to one or more ingredients in his food. It causes intense itching to the allergic dog.
Suspect dog food allergies if your dog shows allergy symptoms all year round and does not respond to anti-inflammatory and anti-itching medications such as corticosteroids.
To diagnose dog food allergies, you need to feed your dog an "elimination diet", the purpose of which is to ban all protein that the dog has eaten before in order to isolate and identify the allergen.
(Visit Food Allergies in Dogs for more information.)
Contact dermatitis is rare in dogs and is caused by direct skin contact with an allergen. Contact dermatitis usually causes sudden onset of skin reactions such as itching, rashes, and hair loss.
Common culprits that may cause contact dermatitis in dogs are chemicals found in some flea collars, soaps and disinfectants, weed killer, fertilizers, and insecticides. If your dog shows symptoms such as hair loss, redness, and/or inflammation around the neck shortly after beginning to wear a flea collar, chances are she is allergic to the collar. Soaps and gardening chemicals can cause allergic reactions on the skin that can easily contact the ground, such as the "armpits", and the stomach and groin areas. Sometimes, the dog may also develop mouth lesions if she licks the affected areas.