Signs & symptoms of a dog allergy

Updated November 21, 2016

Dogs suffer from allergies just as their human owners do, but their allergies manifest themselves in different ways. Whereas humans generally react to offending inhalants by coughing and sneezing and to food sensitivities through digestive upsets, dogs most commonly develop skin irritations regardless of which allergy he is battling. Fortunately, with your veterinarian's help, there are ways to manage your dog's allergy problems.

General Signs of Allergy in Your Dog

Coughing and sneezing are two signs of potential allergy trouble for your dog, but they not as common as they are in humans. Dogs generally react to allergens with skin problems. Allergies may manifest in your dog in one of several ways. You can suspect allergies if the condition of your dog's coat begins to deteriorate, if your dog excessively itches or chews his skin, or if he develops chronic ear infections. Please consult your veterinarian for a confirmation of allergy trouble if your dog exhibits any of these signs.

Specific Signs of Inhalant Allergies

Dogs are sensitive to the same irritants as people are. Household pollutants---such as cleaning products and strong perfumes, pollen, and dust mites---can all trigger an attack. Monitor when the problems arise. Seasonal issues could indicate a pollen allergy, whereas year-round issues may mean sensitivity to mould or dust or household pollutants. Scratching, biting, foot chewing and frequent licking are all signs of an inhalant allergy. Ear flaps may turn red and hot, with chronic ear infections. The skin may thickens and turn greasy and odorous.

Treatment of Inhalant Allergies

The best treatment of inhalant allergies is avoidance or elimination of the offending substance or substances, or at least minimising contact. Air conditioning during spring and summer months lessens the time the windows are open and reduces your dog's exposure to outdoor pollens. Installing an air cleaner with a HEPA filter will reduce the amount of indoor pollens and dust. Mold can be reduced with a dehumidifier. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and Omega-6 fatty acids found in plants contain natural anti-inflammatory agents to help the skin. Your veterinarian may also prescribe an antihistamine or corticosteroid, but any steroidal medicine comes with side effects so should be avoided if possible.

Specific Signs of Food and Flea Bite Allergies

Food sensitivities do not account for as many canine allergy troubles as inhalants do but, fortunately, they are easier to address and treat. Keep in mind that allergies develop over a period of time, and it is not unusual for a dog to "suddenly" develop sensitivity to foods that he has enjoyed for a number of years. As with inhalants, food allergies generally manifest with itchy skin. Anal itching, head shaking, ear inflammations, face rubbing on carpeting and front-paw licking are also common signs. Flea-bite allergies, in truth a reaction to the proteins in flea saliva, also manifest with severe itching. Your dog may develop "hot spots" on his skin from irritation caused by constant itching, so be sure to monitor these areas for possible infection.

Treatment of Food and Flea Bite Allergies

Treatment of food allergies typically involves trial and error-and patience-until the offending food or foods are discovered and eliminated from your dog's diet. There are many good commercial dog foods on the market that contain hypoallergenic ingredients, such as lamb and rice, that can be successfully substituted for the food your dog is currently eating. Flea-bite allergies are best avoided by maintaining a strict flea control regimen, but do not overexpose your dog to the highly toxic flea-control chemicals currently on the market. Use caution when dealing with them.

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