Allergies can be a common and unwelcome problem for humans – an immune system overreaction to substances that are usually harmless which can cause sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes and itching. Allergies can also affect our pet dogs. Our four-legged friends can be allergic to all sorts of things, from chemicals in cleaning products to pollen, dust, fleas and even smoke from cooking.
Some of the most common causes of allergies include:
- Fleas – caused by flea bites, specifically flea saliva (yuck!)
- Dust mites
- Household cleaning products
- insect bites
- Flower and tree pollen
- Certain foods – just like humans, some dogs may develop an intolerance to gluten, which is found in grains. However, there are key differences between intolerances and allergies when it comes to foods. Many owners think their dogs have a food allergy but, in reality, it’s an intolerance. Allergies involve the immune system whereas intolerances don’t. Find out more here
Signs that reveal your pet could have an allergy:
- Rashes and itchy skin
- Broken/sore skin
- Patchy fur loss
- Frequent licking or biting in one area
- Itchy/runny eyes
Severe allergic reactions
Some dogs can have severe reactions to things such as insect stings and certain foods. Sudden, extreme allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, can include:
- Swollen muzzle and/or eyes
- Sudden gasping and trouble breathing
- Rapid-onset diarrhoea or vomiting
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, get them to the vet immediately. Anaphylaxis can be fatal.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some people recommend giving your pet human antihistamines. However, these may contain chemicals that can be fatal to pets, so it’s just not worth the risk. It’s far better to get any medication from your vet.
Treating pets with allergies
Your vet can investigate your pet’s allergies and offer tailored advice. They will start with a complete health history and physical examination and ask you questions about your dog’s diet and environmental factors.
If your vet is able to determine the cause of your dog’s allergies at your first visit, they will prescribe a simple treatment plan. If things aren’t quite so straightforward, your vet may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist for more extensive testing. The dermatologist will conduct an intra-dermal allergy test (similar to the human ‘scratch test’) or blood tests to identify allergens and lead to more effective treatment.
If your dog’s allergies are more severe, the vet may recommend further intervention to treat symptoms. Common treatments include:
- Anti-inflammatory therapy. Treatment with antihistamines or corticosteroids can block the allergic reaction. These drugs are often prescribed for dogs with seasonal, environmental allergies to allergens that are near-impossible to avoid.
- Medicated shampoo to treat secondary sores and infections.
- Hyposensitisation therapy, or allergy jabs. If your dog goes through allergy testing, a series of injections can be given to help desensitise their immune system.
How to help your allergic pet
Once the cause is established, you can help your pet avoid triggers in future. For example, if your canine chum is allergic to grass pollen, avoid walking them through fields when the pollen count is high. When they return from a walk, brush any dust or grasses off their coat or rinse them off. Here are some more simple steps you can take:
- Keep your pets well groomed, to prevent knots of hair that trap dust, grass seeds or pollen
- Vacuum regularly to reduce dust and mites
- Feed a good quality food
- Treat all the pets in your home for fleas every month with a product recommended by your vet
- Use a household flea spray to kill any fleas and help control dust mites too
- Wash bedding frequently with non-biological washing powder and rinse well to prevent your pet from reacting to any of the chemicals
- Consider switching to all-natural household cleaners
- Avoid carpet and soft furnishing deodorisers as these can irritate your pet’s skin
- Avoid beds and blankets made with wool, down or feather-based materials, as these are more likely to cause allergic issues – opt for 100% cotton
- Avoid using scented candles, air fresheners and essential oils – some of these are highly toxic to dogs
PDSA Vet Care has a range of products to help dogs with allergies that you may like to try, including:
- 3-in-1 Dog Shampoo that combines antifungal and antibacterial agents with coat conditioners, to cleanse, soothe and prevent the development of some skin diseases.
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