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What Causes Allergies in Dogs: Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Allergy is the reaction of the immune system against an abnormal foreign substance. Unfortunately, allergies in dogs are highly common.
Discussed further are several symptoms, types, and causes of allergies along with their diagnostic processes and available treatment for dogs. Let’s dig into the details.
What Are the Types of Allergies in Dogs?
Several types of allergies can pose different types of allergic symptoms. However, the most common types of allergies in dogs are as follows:
1. Food Allergies
Occurrences of allergies are common symptoms of food intolerance caused by consuming protein or complex carbohydrates. The source generally includes raw meats, wheat or milk. Unfortunately, dogs are not able to produce enough antibodies as a response to the reactions from food allergies. So, the following effects become visible.
Effects of Food Allergies
Food sensitivities will cause multiple problems such as gastrointestinal infections that cause frequent vomiting and diarrhoea and dermatological issues like poor skin, dull coat, itchiness, and ear or foot infections.
The most affected areas by food allergies are their paws and ears. However, it could also involve ankles, wrists, muzzle, groin, underarms, between the toes, or around their eyes.
2. Allergies From Environment
There are two sub-categories under allergies from the environment. It includes:
- General Allergy: Dogs can get immune responses from environmental substances like grass, pollen, dust mites, mould etc. These allergens come to dogs through inhalation or physical contact with several plants and chemicals. The inhaled allergens cause respiratory allergies.
- Respiratory Allergy: The symptoms and causes of a respiratory allergy are similar between dogs and human beings. This type of allergy is primarily caused by inhaling allergens like dust mites or pollen from plants. If caught with a respiratory allergy, your dog will show symptoms like itchy or runny nose and frequent sneezing.
Effects of Environmental Allergies
When dogs get affected by environmental sources, they show physical signs of itchiness which will make them scratch, lick and chew themselves. Red rashes or reddish-brown stains on the fur will appear. Dogs can also have runny eyes, noses and respiratory fluctuations in this scenario.
3. Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy)
Atopic dermatitis (atopy) is another type of environmental allergy present in dogs. It poses the tendency to create an exaggerated immune response to comparatively harmless environmental substances.
Effects of Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy)
As atopic allergies are seasonal, dogs will be itching only at certain times of the year. Since the environment itself is the trigger for atopic dermatitis, these dogs will get affected by moderate to severe symptoms from this allergy. They need allergy medications throughout the year.
4. Flea or Insects Allergies
Flea or insect allergies are caused by coming in contact with the saliva of fleas or insects. Some dogs experience an immune response from flea saliva. Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) could come from fleas or insects including:
- Deer Flies
Although flea allergies can be assumed as sourced from environmental factors, flea bite results differently than other environmental substance energies. Clinical symptoms and treatments are different too.
Effects of Flea or Insect Allergies
Flea allergic dermatitis will make dogs itchy, mostly on their tail. Their skin will become inflamed, reddish and scabbed. The signs of fleas might be present in them.
What Causes Allergies in Dogs?
To put it simply, allergy is a response of the immune system to address the existence of a foreign element in the body. As a response, the immune system creates proteins which are known as antibodies. These antibodies will make the dog shield the dog against the unwanted invaders inside which can irritate and make the dog sick.
When a dog has allergies, its immune system makes antibodies to identify that something harmful is causing disruptions in the whole system. Thus, the body gives signals through physical symptoms so that it gets healing for that particular issue. It also notifies that prolonged or repeated indulgence can increase the severity.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs?
When an allergen enters a dog’s body, it initiates a direct antibody response. The response is an allergic reaction. The substances causing the response are called allergens. Depending on this, the symptoms of allergies may vary.
Symptoms of some acute allergic reactions are as follows:
- Itchy ears
- Inflamed red skin
- Chronic infection in ears
- Rigorous licking
- Runny eyes with itching
- Swollen face, lips, eyelids, ears or ear flaps
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
Unlike humans, dogs cannot communicate about their physical difficulties. Thus they will show some physical reactions through their uncommon behaviours. These aforementioned physical reactions can be a sign of another underlying disease as well. If one notices these symptoms in dogs, it is always advisable to consult a veterinary physician.
How to Diagnose Dog Allergies?
The external reactions cannot conclude what causes allergic reactions in dogs. Not to mention, one cannot understand just by looking at certain symptoms. Thus, it is highly recommended to look out for expert advice.
Doctors analyse these allergies with certain tests and trials. Veterinary physicians generally follow four techniques for testing allergies in dogs. These include:
- Intradermal Skin Testing: Intradermal skin testing is a technique in which veterinarians inject a small amount of allergen into the skin to find a reaction. They perform this method after giving anaesthesia to dogs. In addition, it also requires shaving the dog’s coat to observe the reaction. Thus, this procedure must always take place in the presence of doctors.
- RAST Testing or Radioallergosorbent Test: RAST testing only requires a blood sample of the dog to identify the underlying causes of sickness. The blood sample will be tested in laboratories and regular veterinarians can address the problem. It does not require any sedatives, anesthesia or shaving the dog.
- Food Elimination Trial: Food allergies are tested with the elimination of certain foods. It involves feeding dogs with a new source of proteins and carbohydrates for 12 weeks.
What Are the Treatments Available for Allergies in Dogs?
Most of the suggested treatments for dog allergies fall under avoiding the allergen or causes. However, apart from it, you may have to follow other methods of treatment which will differ on the basis of their types. For example, if the allergic symptoms are coming from fleas, then killing fleas will be best for the affected dog.
1. Food Allergies Treatment
For food allergies, the best treatment is to avoid those foods causing the side-effects. Veterinarians will suggest changes in diets and lifestyles. Furthermore, they will prescribe medications for allergic reactions like itching, runny nose, or skin infections which may have resulted from an internal irritation.
2. Atopic Dermatitis Treatment
The following are the treatment methods for Atopic Dermatitis:
- Allergy Medications: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Apoquel (oclacitinib), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and loratadine (Claritin) are some of the prescribed medicines for allergies in dogs. However, one should consult with a veterinary physician for proper dosage according to the severity and size of the dog.
- Cytopoint Injections: Doctors suggest Cytopoint injections to give relief from itching sensations. It numbs the transmission of itching signals to the brain. The effect of one injection can stay for 4 to 8 weeks.
- Desensitisation or Hyposensitisation: Doctors prescribe this type of immunotherapy after diagnosing with allergy testing. This therapy uses a customised serum with a dog’s allergens for desensitising. Allergy shots or hyposensitisation are common for treating dog allergies. According to research, this treatment has an approximately 50% of success rate towards improved allergic symptoms.
- Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Therapy: Anti-inflammatory drug therapy involves corticosteroids or antihistamines such as prednisone to block severe allergic symptoms. In addition, some dogs get long-term prednisone treatment in small doses from the veterinarian's guidance.
- Fatty Acid Supplements: Fatty acid supplements are beneficial to support the side effects of antihistamines and steroids of anti-inflammatory therapy.
- Pollen Removal: Pollen or other plant allergens removal is crucial to make sure that there is no possible harm from inhaling or swallowing them. Wipe the dogs whenever they come from an outside walk with a fragrance-free dryer sheet or a dog-specialised vacuum to clean pollens from their fur and coat.
- Shampoo Therapy: Dogs get relief from frequent bathing with hypoallergenic shampoo in their allergy symptoms.
3. Flea Allergy Treatment
Treatment of flea allergies deals with eliminating fleas. It involves a flea-preventive substance to keep the dog protected before they bite. The household should be totally free of fleas to prevent recurring flea allergies because only one bite is enough to get sick. If there are other pets in the house, make sure they are flea-free as well.
4. Respiratory Allergy Treatment
Veterinarians provide treatments for respiratory allergies like allergic bronchitis same as atopic dermatitis. Doctors also suggest cough suppressant medications for healing throat irritation.
What Are the Healthy Habits for Post-Treatment Recovery in Dogs?
In order to ensure the dogs never get sick after their allergy treatment, one must establish healthy habits for them. Some of the essential healthy habits for post-treatment recovery from allergies in dogs include:
- Follow a Daily Routine: Dogs grow well with fixed daily routines for feeding, resting, exercise and playing times. One should also incorporate routine cleaning and bathing habits. A fixed routine makes the dog feel secure in their environment. However, one does not need to organise a very strict routine but to be consistent.
- Make Nutritious Food Choices: Dogs require a nutritious diet containing proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals as much as humans. A balanced diet will keep them healthy and strengthen their immunity to fight against allergens. Also, the pet parent must ensure that the dog does not continue eating those foods which brought allergic symptoms earlier.
- Never Stop Training: Dogs like to be trained by their parents for learning behaviours and playing with them. As for any learned behaviour, one will forget if not practised for long. Moreover, it is fun and exciting for them as dogs love challenges. Thus, keep at least five minutes of time every day for training them.
- Never Skip Exercises: Regular exercise is not just essential for humans but dogs as well. Take them for a walk or play with them every day. These activities not only allow a fast recovery but maintain their body weight, and physical fitness while reducing their allergic reactions and other stressful elements in their body.
- Monitor Dogs’ Weight: It is crucial for dogs with or without allergic symptoms to always maintain a healthy weight. Dogs get many complex allergic reactions and other sicknesses from being overweight. Also, an overweight dog is highly at risk to fight against the allergens while recovering. Thus, keep a check on their weight to ensure a fast recovery.
- Keep Away From Dangerous Foods: Keep dogs away from dangerous allergic foods to make sure the symptoms return again. Consult with veterinarians for expert food choices for faster recovery in dogs after an allergic treatment.
- Do a Weekly Health Check: An individual can prevent allergies in dogs or other health issues with a weekly health check-up. Keep a watch for their skin and fur for signs of swelling, scabs or flakes. Check their eyes and ears for any symptoms of redness or discharge. Also, visit the veterinary physicians in a while to ensure everything is fine.
- Protect Against Fleas and Ticks: Fleas or ticks will destroy the recovery of allergic reactions. Pet parents must ensure the house or other pets in that house is free of fleas. Talk to the doctors about flea prevention products to make sure these allergic responses do not recur.
- Incorporate Mental Stimulation: Mental stimulation is highly beneficial for dogs alongside physical exercises. Mental stimulation enables them to grow well and heal faster after their treatment.