Note: Thank you to Victoria from Bling Bling Puppy for writing this post. My mutt Ace lives with allergies, and the majority of his symptoms went away when I switched him to an all-natural, grain-free dog food.
Allergies can be a real pain to deal with when your dog is being afflicted with them. Usually the first sign is your dog will scratch herself more then usual. The first thing owners will usually do is check the dog’s skin for fleas or ticks. If you detect no biting insects, then the culprit is usually an allergy (though some allergies are caused from insect bites).
Some dogs are more prone to skin allergies than others. These dogs are usually ones that have either double coats like an akita or a chow or that have very thick fur like a poodle or a bichon. That does not mean that short-haired dogs are immune to skin allergies. Many dogs suffer from this condition, and there are a number of factors that contribute to it.
Common symptoms of skin allergies in dogs:
1. Excessive biting, licking and or scratching of the skin
2. Red and swollen skin
3. Flaky and dry skin
4. Chronic ear infections
These symptoms will increase or decrease depending on exposure to what is causing the allergic reaction. Many times it can be as simple as a common household item. These can be household cleaning chemicals, perfumes, chemicals in a new carpet or air fresheners. Other times it is something they pick up from being outdoors. It can also come from something in their diet that does not agree with their body chemistry.
Eliminate the source of your dog’s allergies
The first step is always to try to eliminate the source of the allergy. You can start by trying to eliminate products one by one that could be causing the problem until you find what the problem is.
If your dog has had a recent change in her diet, that is usually the first place to start. Avoiding commercially processed foods, especially ones with bread or grain fillers, is a good way to control most diet-based skin allergies. Look for organic dog food or grain free dog food or even raw dog food.
If you do go with store bought foods, go with brands that have the fewest ingredients possible and have a high meat content with possible vegetables like carrots and peas.
Our dog suffered from food allergies and a diet change helped get rid of them. It turned out that the added ingredients like guar gum were the culprits to his allergies. Once we changed his diet, the problems ceased. We were mostly certain his problems were diet related since he wasn’t exposed to chemicals or changes to his environment.
If your dog’s skin allergy goes untreated for too long she can develop bacterial infections, so it is best to get treatment early. If left untreated your dog can wind up very sick and develop dangerous illnesses that can even threaten her life. The dog could also develop ugly sore spots that get inflamed from over chewing, scratching or licking.
Allergy testing for dogs
If you do take your dog to the vet, the vet may suggest a simple blood test to determine the problem. Although cheaper, a blood test is nowhere near as accurate as an intradermal skin test.
The dog is usually (but doesn’t have to be) sedated during an intradermal skin test. The vet will shave an area on the dog’s body and inject small amounts of different allergens into the dog’s skin in patterns. This allows the vet to determine if any of the potential allergens cause your dog to react and identify the true culprit.
Be prepared to pay $300 or more for an intradermal skin test. Not all vets are trained to do allergy testing, so you may have to make an appointment with a specialist.
As a temporary allergy relief, many vets will prescribe Benadryl. This helps reduce the itching at the price of causing drowsiness in the dog. Benadryl helps ease your dog’s suffering until the source of the problem is identified, but it should not be used as a long-term fix for more than a week or so.
If you suspect your dog has allergies, make sure to visit your local vet to get your dog treated while the symptoms are still early.