Dog allergies can cause your pup a lot of discomfort, and yet, they’re not often discussed. Many pet owners don’t even realize their dogs (and cats too!) can suffer from allergies. They are actually quite common in dogs of all breeds, often appearing after six months of age. I’ve had personal experience with this issue and know firsthand the importance of properly identifying and treating pet allergies.
In an effort to start a dialogue around this important topic, I want to take a closer look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment of canine allergies.
Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Common Allergens
To start, an allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Under normal circumstances, the immune response protects your dog against infection and disease. However, with allergies, the immune response can actually harm your pet.
Canine allergies can be related to either food or the environment. Common allergens include pollens, mold spores, dust mites, shed skin cells (which are similar to “pet allergies” for humans), insect proteins (like flea saliva), and even some medications.
The most common symptom for dogs is inflammation, both localized (one area – a “hot spot”) and generalized (all over the body). This inflammation may present itself through redness and swelling, both of which can lead to itching. Other signs include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and runny discharge from the eyes or nose. In some cases, allergies may impact the digestive system and cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Your pet will rarely be affected by a contact allergy. This reaction occurs when your dog or cat is in direct contact with an allergen, such as pyrethrins in flea collars, pesticides on the lawn, or wool in a dog bed. If your dog suffers from a contact allergy, there will be irritation and itching only at points of contact, usually the feet and stomach. Fortunately, identifying and removing the allergen usually fixes the issue.
If you’re concerned about your four-legged friend, ask your veterinarian to perform an allergy test. Depending on the results, they may instruct you to avoid certain food or environmental allergens. Additionally, they may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids (steroids) to give your pup some much-needed relief and block the allergic reaction. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, an antibiotic will be prescribed. Other treatment options include anti-inflammatory therapy, shampoo therapy, and hyposensitization therapy.
It’s important to note that allergy symptoms can be confused with other disorders and/or occur alongside more serious health issues. Do not diagnose your pet without professional help. At your appointment, be prepared for your dog to receive a full diagnostic evaluation, which typically costs between $300.00 and $500.00. If an allergy is found, the entire family must follow your vet’s advice in order to ensure that your pet feels better.
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