Most definitely! Just like humans, an allergy in a dog is their own immune response to something the dog’s system views as bad, foreign or irritating.
It’s a natural reaction to something in the dog’s environment that its body just doesn’t like. Allergies present themselves in different ways, and at different levels of severity. So what should you be on the lookout for if you think your dog has an allergy?
Because the genetic makeup of each dog is different, an allergic reaction may elicit different responses, both in terms of symptoms and how your dog behaves when experiencing an allergy to something.
**Please remember anything that affects your dog’s breathing if a life-threatening issue, and a severe allergic reaction needs emergency treatment immediately. A dog’s make-up is similar to humans, in that once a throat swells to restrict air flow in and out, it’s an extremely serious situation. If your dog is having trouble breathing, please get help straight away.**
Some of the very common reactions when your dog has an allergy include:
- a lot of sneezing and/or runny eyes
- itching and the constant urge to scratch
- skin disorders, such as moist, inflamed or scabby patches
- frequent licking or chewing of the paws
- stomach upsets such as vomiting or diarrhea
So what are some of the most common causes of dog allergies? A bit like us, perhaps the most common is grass, seeds or weeds! Lookout for doggie hay fever…it’s usually the pollen that gives rise to the allergy, so dogs are more likely to be more affected during warm, humid weather – basically spring and into summer, when plant species are growing and shedding a lot of pollen.
But what else commonly causes reactions in our beloved pets?
- fungal spores, such as mold and mildew
- dust and house mites
- certain ingredients in food
And another big one – synthetic chemicals.
Man has a lot to answer for, including the design and manufacture of chemicals that dogs were never meant to cope with. Some common examples include
- those in cigarette smoke
- perfumes and cleaning products, including those especially marketed for our canine friends
- man-made fabrics
Triggers and identifying them
One of the important things to remember, is a dog can develop an allergy at any age and at any stage in it’s life. A severe allergy may reveal itself after a once-only exposure to a substance; but a milder allergy may only come to light after a build-up of exposure over a longer time frame.
The point is, always be on the look out for allergy symptoms and don’t rule out an allergy to something just because your dog has never shown any signs before. As I said above, it could be that a cumulative exposure is the trigger.
That being said, a slower-to-act allergic reaction, can make it harder to identify what the allergy is actually in response to. This is often the case with food allergies – it can take a long time to identify and eliminate something that causes a reaction in your dog’s food!
It’s also a good idea to highlight that a reaction in the gastro-intestinal tract can manifest itself in other ways – step on stage skin rashes, itches and ear infections. Another difficulty with food, is an allergen can be present in different forms – for example, if a dog has an allergy to chicken, anything containing chicken protein could set it off, not just the chicken itself!
IT COULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO KEEP a diary…
If you suspect your dog has an allergy, try and keep a diary of when the symptoms are worst and try and nail down any common factors over time. Some questions you can ask yourself:
Has my dog lain down in the same place often?
What is your dog lying on – a new bed, sofa or carpet? Then that could be the culprit.
Are the symptoms developing or worsening, over a similar time frame since he/she lay there?
Is the allergy manifesting after a walk?
Where did you go?
What plants was your dog in contact with?
It could be a hay fever type reaction? Or perhaps someone has used a spray on their plants, giving rise to a reaction to the chemicals.
Does my dog have symptoms most of the time?
Have you changed their food or treats recently?
Or are you applying a topical chemical? Dog shampoo, deodorizer, flea collar etc. (Our German Shepherd is intolerant to some flea collars, for example. The chemical combination sends him completely loopy! )
Are you washing their bed or blankets with a particular laundry detergent/fabric softener?
What about treatment?
If you can easily identify the cause and eliminate exposure to the allergen, then happy days. I’m sure your dog will be super happy.
However, we all know that things are rarely this simple!
If your dog is experiencing symptoms most of the time, chances are they will be feeling miserable and you may well need a vet’s help. They can take blood and/or skin samples to help identify the trigger or triggers. They may also be the best source of getting on top of the immediate symptoms too.
It’s amazing how similar some of the treatments are to what humans take for allergies. Medicines such as anti-histamines, allergy injections or in severe cases steroid treatments. Your vet will be able to give you the best advice on what is needed for your individual dog.
What are your own experiences of dog allergies? Share them in the comments section below.