Dog allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to something it perceives as a threat when it is not. Itchy skin from something as benign as laundry detergent, sneezing from pollen in the air. There are two terms used to refer to the materials that trigger a reaction, antigen and allergen. Antigen covers anything that causes a reaction, while allergen covers only airborne or ingested causes.
You can divide antigens into three categories, what your dog eats (dyes, the actual food, additives, mites, preservatives), what your dog touches (fleas, certain soaps, fabrics, dust mites) and finally what your dog inhales (pollen, dander, preservatives from the deck, cigarette smoke, perfume, carpet pad particles). It is quite possible for a dog to have allergies from more than one category and allergies add up, meaning the more they are exposed to, the worse the symptoms become.
Common dog allergies
Flea bites are the most common cause of dog allergies and can lead to hair loss, irritated skin, and constant scratching that causes skin sores. It is actually the flea saliva that their immune system is overreacting to. Other common dog allergies include beef, wheat, eggs, rice, dairy, pollen, chicken, corn, fish, yeast, pork, soybeans, rice and lamb.
Causes of dog allergies
As mentioned earlier, it is your dog's immune system that is overreacting to something. Normally the immune system protects against foreign bodies and reacts strongly to things like harmful bacteria, but it does not react to harmless materials like wheat or other things mentioned earlier. In a dog with allergies, when the white blood cells of the immune system recognize an allergen, they release histamine. This causes capillaries to dilate and blood vessels to leak fluid, making the area itchy, swollen and hot. Treatments include blocking histamine or white blood cells.
Which breeds are more affected?
West Highland White Terrier
Older dogs are least affected because their white blood cells do not release histamine as efficiently. As a dog ages and enters its senior years, its symptoms subside well.
Symptoms to watch for
The most common symptom is itching, which causes the dog to scratch. The most commonly affected areas are the ears, feet, groin, eyes, anus and armpits. The dog may shake its head, scoot its bottom, bite or scratch its belly and rub its face. Scratching can cause skin damage and yeast can grow, leading to complications such as Malassezia dermatitis, which also has a bad odor, or ear infections, which lead to the proliferation of bad bacteria. Other symptoms include vomiting, flatulence and diarrhea.
How to know if your dog has allergies?
There are tests that can be done in a laboratory. Some are blood tests. There are also skin tests. RAST checks to see if your dog is reacting to pollen, fleas and food mites. However, sometimes the results are not easy to read. Another skin test that could be done is the intradermal skin test. You take small amounts of possible antigens. Inject them into a small area of the skin. But again, the results are not easy to interpret.
Dogs and food allergies
If you suspect a food allergy, you can subject him to a food allergy elimination study. Your dog can be put on a special diet like Hill's Z/D diet, where nothing triggers the dog's immune system. After so many weeks, you can start introducing other foods like kibble. If there is no reaction after such a long dry period, you can add another food. Slowly find the foods that trigger the allergic reaction. However, it is important not to use other foods, treats, bones, chews, etc. to administer.
Another way to do this is to prepare homemade food for your dog. He eats a protein and a carbohydrate he has never eaten before, for example lamb and carrots or deer and peas. This is its only source of food for several weeks. Then you can slowly start introducing other foods one by one.
What can you do to help a dog with allergies?
If you know what triggers them, you can try to avoid them. For example, do not walk your dog when the grass is freshly cut. You can also keep your windows closed, use an air filter, use a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner and dust with a damp cloth. Be sure to use fragrance-free detergents. Avoid smoking. Cover bedding with cotton, avoid harsh chemical cleaners and strong perfumes or fragrances. Also keep dogs with allergies away from areas like damp basements, laundry rooms, garages and dusty areas.
If he goes outside on the grass and then comes inside, his feet are clean. If pollen count is higher in the morning and evening, keep him inside. Avoid the use of cedar chips. Dog kennels made of cedar wood. Make sure food is stored so it doesn't get dusty and use glass or stainless steel instead of plastic food bowls. There are natural. Medical options. Yucca is a natural option as it is anti-inflammatory and helps with allergy symptoms. It should be given daily either with food or topically on the itch. Another way to prevent your dog's immune system from overreacting is to include more omega-3 fatty acids in his diet. There are chews or a liquid to mix with his food. However, only about 1/8 of the dogs will be helped.
For medical treatments, you can try some over-the-counter options like medicated shampoos and conditioners. Examples include Relief Shampoo, Allermyl Shampoo and HyLyt Essential Fatty Acid Shampoo.