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Just like us, dogs can get allergies. And while the most common types are a little different to ours, they are no less annoying, irritating and sometimes, very painful.
It’s important to understand that allergies are lifelong conditions that can never be “cured”. It’s just part of each dog’s genetic make-up. However, they can be carefully managed using a combination of therapies recommended by your vet.
Skin allergies in dogs
The most characteristic thing about allergies is that they keep coming back:
- sometimes seasonally - for example, during spring, just like we get hayfever
- sometimes year round – for example dust mite allergies
The most common allergic reaction in dogs is a skin disease called atopy, or atopic dermatitis. It can be caused by an allergic reaction to things such as:
- pollen in the air dust mites certain foods
What are the symptoms of atopy?
Because atopy makes dog’s skin itchy, common signs include:
- scratching and chewing between their hind legs and abdomen
- scratching and chewing their armpits
- scratching and chewing their ears
- chewing between their feet
This often leads to trauma of the skin and secondary bacterial infections which make your dog even itchier. Catch 22 anyone?
How do I treat atopy?
Atopy is a life-long problem that cannot be cured, it can only be managed. Treatment would first consist of trying to remove the cause from the dog’s environment, then may consist of a variety of treatments depending on how the dog’s skin is going. With atopy, your dog may have “flare-ups” where the skin becomes much worse and more intense treatment is required. Treatments may involve special shampoos and skin creams or lotions, medication to relieve itching, antibiotics for bacterial infections and even immunotherapy vaccines to desensitise your dog to the allergens that cause the problems.
Food allergies in dogs
While food allergies are not as common as atopy, they can affect your dog at any age. Oddily enough, most allergic reactions are to foods that a dog has been eating for a long time. If your dog has an immediate adverse reaction to a new food, it’s probably not an allergy, because it takes more than one exposure to produce an allergic reaction.
Common dog allergy foods
Foods that cause most allergies include:
Common symptoms of food allergies
The signs of food allergy are very similar to those of other types of allergies. This means it is not easy to tell the difference between inhalant allergies and food allergies on appearance alone.
Signs to look out for include:
- itchy skin, especially around the face, paws and ears
- ear infections
- self-inflicted skin wounds resulting from severe itching
- unpleasant skin odour
- excessive scaling
- red bumps or pimples
- diarrhoea and vomiting (quite rare)
How can I find out if my dog has a food allergy?
Before you have expensive tests done, try a home elimination test:
- Look for reactions after your dog has eaten food more than once
- Feed your dog a diet they haven’t been previously exposed to twice
If you’re still stumped, consult your vet.