Dog Allergy Guide – Symptoms, Tips & Supplements
When your dog has an allergy, it can be a stressful time for you both. You know how bad it can be when a human loved one is suffering, with streaming eyes and constant sneezing, and that’s when they can tell you how they’re feeling. Our dogs rely on us to spot their symptoms and ease the discomfort.
You probably have a hundred questions that you need answering about your best friend’s allergies. Understanding how it all started and knowing how to work out what’s causing the symptoms are probably pretty close to the top of your list.
Most importantly, you’re also going to want to know how you can ease the symptoms or avoid the reaction altogether. Well, we’re aiming to give you all the answers you need in our comprehensive guide on dealing with allergies in dogs.
When the Immune System Doesn’t Like Something!
Just like us, dogs can be allergic to a whole range of substances. These can include those found in the air that they breathe, the food that they eat, and the environment in which they live. When these ordinarily harmless substances cause irritation, then they’re classed as allergens.
So, these allergens then cause the immune system to overreact and release antibodies that travel through the body. In turn, they then release the chemicals that cause the symptoms that you see in the allergic reaction.
What Am I looking for?
Diagnosing an allergy can only be done by your veterinarian, and even then, the American Kennel Club warns that testing may not reveal the cause of the allergy. That said, there are symptoms to look out for which can help you work out what might be going on.
So, if your dog always has an upset stomach, it might be a food allergy. Look at the ingredients on the food bag for an idea of what might be causing the problem. Constant itching and scratching can be a good indication it’s a skin allergy. Watch where your dog is scratching the most, it’ll help you work out what’s causing the problem.
It’s all in the Behavior
Streaming eyes and constant itching are likely to be obvious symptoms, but your dog’s behavior might also be an indicator of an allergic reaction. Allergies can cause a great deal of discomfort so your normally happy go lucky dog may become grumpy and irritable.
Allergies may also cause your dog to become more lethargic. They might not want to join in games and walks even though they’re usually the hi-light of their day. Being lethargic is a symptom of many other diseases, but if combined with other signs of allergies, it can be caused by a weakened immune system.
But Why My Poor Dog?
Why do some dogs get allergies, and others don’t? Well, the world of science isn’t too sure of the answer to that one yet. What they do know is that the environment in which they live seem to play a part.
Emma Hakanen, a Ph.D. student from the University of Helsinki, found that just like people, dogs living in homes in urban areas had more skin and food allergies than those that lead a more agricultural lifestyle.
Four Types of Allergies
Pretty much all the things that your dog can become allergic to can fit into one of four broad types of allergy. So that gives us the environment in which your dog lives and the food that they eat. Then you have those darn fleas and finally through making contact with something.
The severity of the reaction varies hugely from dog to dog. Some might be so minor that you never even realized that it was happening. Others might go off the scale and need your dog to receive urgent veterinary care.
Thinking About the Seasons
One day your dog is fit and healthy, and the next, they’re scratching like crazy. Then you remember that they had a great time rolling around in the spring grass during yesterday’s walk. Well, according to Laurie Anne Walden, DVM dogs are much more likely to have allergies that affect the skin than the respiratory system.
Seasonal allergies might include pollen, mold, insects, and grasses. But watch out, because what started as a seasonal allergy can become a year-round issue if you don’t quickly work out what’s causing the problem and stop the symptoms from getting worse.
If you’re keen to find natural treatments for seasonal allergies, this video from Dr. Karen Becker provides a good range of options.
The Problem is in the Bowl – Food Allergies
What if the symptoms don’t stop? They’re always there every single day of the year. Now’s the time to look at a little more closely at your dog’s diet. World-renowned veterinarian, Dr. Jean Dodds has identified 24 different ingredients commonly found in pet food, which could be causing allergy problems.
Did you know that feeding your dog the same food every day can create a sensitivity? And it might not be limited to just the source of protein, it can also be the grains and vegetables which are causing the problem. Watch out for food at the lower price range, which can be highly processed because that too can cause the immune system to overreact.
Even though respiratory allergies are common in people, they don’t happen that often to our dogs. If they do, then you’re going to see itchy red eyes, a runny nose, and coughing or sneezing. You might also start to hear your dog snore, and that’s being caused by their throat becoming inflamed.
When you’re trying to work out what’s causing the problem, think for a moment if you’ve used a new perfume or cleaning product. Maybe someone has been smoking around your dog, or things have been dusty during building work. All of these can be potential allergens to your dog.
When Things Get Serious – Acute Allergies
Anaphylaxis is considered to be the most severe type of allergic reaction, and it’s when your dog can go into shock. Symptoms can include difficulty in breathing and losing control of their bladder and bowels. Alison Allukian, DVM tells us that this type of response can be life-threating, so you must get your dog straight to the veterinarian for expert help.
The most common causes of acute allergies include insect bites and stings, medications, and foods, so much the same as for people. Remember though, anaphylaxis can’t happen the first time your dog comes into contact with the allergen, so don’t exclude anything which hasn’t caused a problem before!
Did you know that at least 10% of all dogs suffer from skin allergies? This startling figure has been announced by researchers from Nottingham University in the UK as part of their Itchy Dog Project. And the most common skin disease in dogs? Well, that would be flea allergic dermatitis.
The allergy is actually caused by the flea’s saliva, and once there have been a few bites, the problems can then begin. There are often secondary problems such as skin damage with flea allergies because it causes the skin to be so itchy that our dogs keep on scratching.
You Are What You Eat
Did you read our section on food allergies and find yourself nodding your head in agreement? Then now might be the time to try your dog on a hypoallergenic diet. Look for food that are based around protein sources that your dog hasn’t had before, so that might be something like ostrich, bison, or duck.
Do be aware though that Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, don’t believe that food allergies are all that common. They urge owners also to consider all the other options for the symptoms that your dog might be showing.
Battling Histamines with Antihistamines
Histamines are produced by your dog when they come into contact with something that they’re allergic to. They’re the things which cause all the symptoms which your dog is suffering from. Antihistamines are the drugs that then stop histamines from causing the problems.
Benadryl and Zyrtec are two antihistamines which can really help relieve allergy symptoms. They’re also available over the counter without a prescription, and they’re pretty inexpensive. But do still talk to your veterinarian first, especially if your dog is already on medication or if they have other health conditions
Top Supplements for Allergies
With so many supplements available, it can be pretty overwhelming. So, we’re picked out our top choices for you. Magnesium is first on the list because it can reduce allergic inflammation and also calm the nervous system. So many dogs with allergies also have anxieties, so this one provides a double benefit.
Quercetin is our next choice. It’s a plant-based compound, and it has all the critical elements needed for easing allergies because it’s an antioxidant, antihistamine and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Our third choice is coconut oil. Rub into the skin to help ease itches and dryness. You can also add a little to your dog’s food but do add it in small quantities to begin with because too much can cause stomach upsets.
The King of Supplements
Omega-3 is considered to the single most potent supplement that you can add to your dog’s diet. It can provide substantial positive effects for your dog’s health, including the reduction of inflammation. As dogs can’t make their own omega 3 fatty acids, they need you to provide it for them.
Oily fish is an excellent source of Omega-3, so foods such as mackerel and anchovies are great options. You’ll also find a whole range of Omega-3 supplements to buy, which are ready formulated, but there can be a massive variation in the quality, so do go for a well-known and trusted supplier.
Vitamins to Keep Allergies at Bay
When a dog has a more sensitive immune system, then allergies can strike. So, bolster up that immunity by supplementing their diet with extra vitamins. Vitamin A has a strong antioxidant property, so it can reduce allergic reactions. It’s also found in carrots, which many dogs love to eat as a tasty treat.
Vitamin B is a good choice as it can make your dog’s immune system less responsive to allergens. We suggest going for a complex vitamin, which includes several different types of vitamin B.
Vitamin C definitely needs to be on the list. The vet Wendell O. Belfield, was a huge advocate of its use for allergic dogs when he found that it can reduce reactions and act as an antihistamine.
When Nothing Else Works – Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy works by your veterinarian giving your dog small amounts of whatever it is that they’re allergic to. The dose is then slowly increased so that they begin to develop a tolerance to the allergen. This is usually done by injection, but sometimes it can be via drops under the tongue.
Be aware though, that this isn’t a quick fix; immunotherapy has to be continued for at least a year before it can be assessed whether it’s been successful or not.
Wrapping It Up
As you’ve seen, allergies aren’t at all unusual in our pet dogs, but that doesn’t seem to make it any easier to identify what’s causing them. When those allergens are doing their thing, and your dog’s immune system is becoming overrun, that’s when you then start to see those annoying symptoms appear.
We know that there are so many products being advertised that claim to help alleviate your dog’s allergy that it can become totally overwhelming. From vitamin supplements to antihistamines and hypoallergenic diets, the options seem never ending. And that’s without considering all the companies who are now offering allergy testing services.
It’s worth bearing in mind though, that what works for one dog, might not work for another and that you might also need to change your plan of attack if your current approach stops working.
Remember that when the health of your dog is at stake, a quick trip to your local veterinarian to get professional advice is always your first step. Your dog will thank you for it!