|A microscopic look at the pollen grains from several plants. |
(Photo: Public Domain/Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility)
Just as humans can suffer from allergies, dogs can also have adverse reactions to things around them. Allergies may be triggered by certain foods, by airborne particles or by things which come into contact with their skin. Caring for your dog to the full includes being able to recognize the symptoms of allergies, and then giving your dog relief by treating those allergies.
Knowing your dog and his behavior will help you to recognize when he is not feeling himself, and when certain behaviors are not typical. Many allergies are as a result of your dog inhaling something to which he has a reaction, or as a result of fleas. The common symptoms include excessive itchiness resulting in your dog chewing or biting, in particular on his tail, his stomach or his hind legs. He might also chew on or lick his paws. If a substance has been inhaled, it will likely result in sneezing, coughing, and possibly watering eyes.
If your dog vomits or suffer diarrhea, he may have eaten something to which he has had a reaction. If your dog develops a rash or breaks out in hives or some other form of canine dermatitis, he may also have an allergy to something.
The first possibility is to think about the season and what allergens may be present. Typically, allergies which are as a result of inhaling a substance occur in the spring or fall. Allergies as a result of flea or other insect bites tend to develop during the summer. Take your dog to your veterinarian if he exhibits any of the above symptoms, and your vet should be able to assist in establishing the cause of the problem. If your dog suffers from vomiting or diarrhea, then seek assistance from a veterinary professional, since these may be symptoms of more serious conditions than allergies.
Many dog food products contain things which your dog may have an allergy to, including beef, corn, wheat, soybeans, and dairy products. If you suspect that your dog may have a food allergy or sensitivity, discuss with your vet or canine nutrition specialist the possibility of putting your dog on a special diet to establish which allergen is causing the problem. Your vet might also recommend that you try food allergy tests to determine which food to eliminate from your dog's diet so that he does not suffer further allergic reactions.
If your dog has a tendency to cough and sneeze, you might suspect that he is inhaling something which is triggering an allergic reaction. He might also have developed itchy skin. Take particular care to dust and vacuum your home more frequently, and limit the use of chemicals around the house in cleaning. Inhalants which trigger reactions include dust, pollen, mold spores, many air fresheners, carpet cleaners and other household cleaning products.
Help to ease your dog's discomfort by giving him a cool bath. Warm or hot water may make the situation worse, so use cool water only. Shampoo him clean and rinse with either oatmeal or aloe vera to soothe any itchiness he may be suffering. If you seek assistance from your vet, he may suggest drugs or antihistamines to treat the itchiness whilst the skin heals.
As part of a regular grooming program, check to see whether your dog has any fleas or flea droppings. He may well be having an allergic reaction to a flea's saliva, and be suffering flea bite dermatitis. Once again, seek assistance from your vet, who will be able to recommend specific products to treat fleas and allergies to them. There are a number of sprays, shampoos and pills which specifically target fleas. Couple this treatment with a soothing bath using aloe vera or oatmeal to treat any itchiness.
There may be a number of other reasons why your dog may be suffering an allergy, so think about what things he comes into contact with on a regular basis around your home. He may be allergic to his bedding, to his plastic food bowl, or even to the grass outside in your garden. If you find that your dog develops acne or any rash on his chin, then switch his plastic feeding bowl to either steel, glass or ceramic.
A Few Tips
Your dog need not be covered in fleas to suffer an allergic reaction. One or two bites is sufficient to trigger an allergy.
Some breeds of dog are more likely to suffer from allergies than others. Allergies are also inherited, so if you purchase a purebred dog, inquire as to whether the parents have any allergies. Advanced knowledge will help you to be prepared if and when your dog develops allergies.
If your dog does suffer from an allergy he will likely scratch and chew on the itch in order to get relief. Secondary infections in his skin may develop if his condition is not treated quickly. Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible in order to treat the allergy quickly and provide relief to your dog.
Do not apply flea treatment products directly onto broken or irritated skin, since the chemicals in the products may cause further irritation.