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Allergies in Dogs: What You Need to Know

While dogs can develop allergies like people, symptoms and causes can vary. In this post, our Ypsilanti vets discuss allergies in dogs. Learn about allergic reactions and their symptoms, and how they can be managed and treated.

Explain what is an allergie, what are the most common allergies in dogs, what are their symptoms and when one should search for a vet. Give some examples of the most common allergies.

Canine Allergies

Allergic reactions occur when your dog's immune system overreacts to a certain substance, called an allergen. While these allergens are generally harmless to most dogs and other pets, some dogs develop a hypersensitivity, leading to allergies and a variety of associated symptoms. 

The immune system typically works to fight off disease and infection. However, in the case of allergies, it misidentifies the allergen as dangerous and triggers unpleasant symptoms, such as itchy eyes, skin issues, sneezing, and more as it attempts to expel the allergen. 

Most allergens that affect a dog are proteins derived from animals, foods, insects, or plants. 

All types of allergies bring challenges for dogs and their owners. Additionally, signs and symptoms of different types of allergies can overlap, making identification, diagnosis, and treatment more confusing. 

Common Dog Allergies 

Unfortunately, our vets at Michigan Avenue Animal Hospital often see dogs with allergies. While a dog can be allergic to a wide variety of allergens, there are some common culprits that occur frequently, regardless of a specific dog's age or breed. Here are some common allergies: 

  • Dairy 
  • Lamb 
  • Wheat 
  • Eggs
  • Prescription drugs
  • Airborne allergens
  • Fish 
  • Chicken 
  • Beef 
  • Fleas
  • Dog shampoos 
  • Soy 

Does my dog have allergies?

Dogs' allergy symptoms are often similar to people's, but the most obvious signs typically appear on their skin. Excessive scratching likely indicates that their skin is itchy and irritated, which may be due to an allergy. Here are a few more signs and symptoms to watch for:

  • Red, inflamed skin 
  • Compulsive licking of the paw(s)
  • Scratching and biting their skin or coat 
  • Sneezing 
  • Stuffy or runny nose 
  • Excessive shedding 
  • Wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing
  • Chronic ear infections or red, waxy ears

Allergic Reactions in Dogs 

Allergic Dermatitis 

Allergic Dermatitis (or skin allergies) is the most commonly diagnosed type of allergic reaction in dogs. One of three things typically cause allergies in dogs: environmental factors, food, or fleas. 

Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to flea bites. Some dogs are allergic to a flea's saliva, causing their skin to become, red, inflamed, or scabby from scratching their very itchy skin. However, this is also the easiest type of allergic dermatitis to treat, as flea medication is easily available to help heal a dog's skin. 

Canine Hives 

Hives on dogs are also referred to as urticaria. Though they can be extremely itchy, hives are not a life-threatening or life-altering condition. Hives typically appear as a reaction anywhere from 6 to 24 hours after a dog is exposed to an allergen. 

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock is probably the scariest allergic reaction a dog can experience. Just like people, our canine companions can go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen.

This occurs when antibodies produced by the dog react negatively to the allergen, dropping your dog’s blood pressure rapidly and sending them into shock. This can be fatal if not treated, but luckily, anaphylactic reactions are not typically common in dogs.

This can be a response to any allergen, but most commonly occurs following a bee or wasp stings, or vaccination. This is why our vets recommend keeping a close eye on your dog after they’ve been given any new vaccine, drug, or food, as they may have an unknown allergy.

Treating Dog Allergies at Michigan Avenue Animal Hospital

The best treatment for dog allergies is to avoid the cause and allergens, although this is not always possible. The type of treatment depends on the type of allergy your dog has developed. For instance, the most effective way to treat a flea allergy is to get rid of and prevent the fleas, whereas the best way to treat a food allergy or intolerance, is to change your dog's diet.

Depending on the cause and severity of your dog’s allergic reaction, your veterinarian will have a different approach to treatment. For hives, they might suggest antihistamines, cortisones, and/or medicated shampoos. With food allergies, they might suggest fish oil or other Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. For a skin allergy, your pup may be prescribed dog-safe, anti-inflammatory wipes or shampoo to apply on the skin to offer irritation relief.

In addition to making any necessary lifestyle changes, your vet may also prescribe an allergy relief medication for your dog. This will help control the signs associated with the allergic reaction, such as itching and any secondary skin infections that might have developed.

If your dog seems to be experiencing an allergic reaction, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek emergency veterinary care as soon as possible. This will allow your pup to get the care they need until the cause of their reaction can be determined, and a plan can be made to prevent or manage their allergy for the future.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have you noticed signs of an allergy in your dog? Contact Michigan Avenue Animal Hospital today to have your pooch tested for a variety of allergens. If they are having a life-threatening reaction, visit your nearest emergency animal hospital right away. 

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