An allergy is simply a reaction the dog’s body has to a protein called an allergen. Most allergens that affect dogs are from pollen, other animal dander, plants, and insects. When the dog’s body is exposed to one of the many allergens, the immune system reacts, or in most cases overreacts, and causes a hypersensitive state.
Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs
- Excessive itching and scratching
- Excessive grooming
- Mild to moderate rash on belly
- Watering eyes
- Scratching ears
- Rubbing face to itch eyes
- Chewing feet
- All areas of skin become pink and inflamed
- Hair loss
Causes of Allergies in Dogs
The most common causes for allergic reactions in dogs are the following:
- Flea allergies
- Inhalant allergies
- Contact allergies
- Food allergies
- Drug allergies
Diagnosis of Allergies in Dogs
Diagnosis begins with a complete history and a physical exam of the dog. Your veterinarian will most likely do the following:
- Skin allergy panel - Your veterinarian may wish to perform this test if your dog has persistent skin allergies. This test usually requires that your dog be sedated. A patch of fur is shaved on your dog’s side and a series of small injections of common allergens are put under the dog’s skin. Your veterinarian will then compare the reactions of these injections to a control to see which ones your dog is allergic to.
- IgE allergy test - Immunoglobulin E is a protein associated with allergic reactions that is found in small amounts in the blood. This test exposes your dog’s blood to common allergens and measures the IgE reaction. Elevated levels usually indicate an allergy.
- Food trials - Food trials are often done to diagnose/rule out food allergies.
Treatment for Allergies in Dogs
Treatment options will depend on the condition of your dog at the time of exam. These options can range from intermittent doses of an over-the-counter antihistamine to a long-standing treatment plan of allergy injections. The most common types of treatment include oral antihistamines and steroids, diet changes, flea preventive if a flea allergy is noted, a bathing schedule with medicated shampoos, and allergy injections to desensitize the dog’s body to the allergens.
Long-term management of allergies can be achieved through medications and environmental changes.
Prevention of Allergies in Dogs
If your dog has specific flea allergies, the best prevention is monthly flea control. If your dog has food allergies, the obvious prevention is a permanent diet change. If your dog has environmental or seasonal allergies, the only real prevention is the use of allergy injections that will desensitize the dog to the environmental allergens and decrease reactions.
- ALWAYS give your dog his/her medication(s) exactly as they are prescribed.
- Report any instances of vomiting, diarrhea, or change in eating or drinking behavior to your veterinarian.