Dog skin allergies are the most common type of skin problems in dogs. You can't always avoid the cause but you can manage and control the symptoms at home.
Allergies is the number one reason for vet visits costing an average of $183 for dog-parents. See here for more information on the top 10 reasons dogs go to the vets.
We all recognize the typical signs of allergies in people; sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, etc., but, did you know that allergies in dogs usually manifests as skin problems? And that the most common type of dog skin problems are related to dog skin allergies?
As with humans, there is no cure for skin allergies in dogs but, with a little bit of help, you should be able to make your pooch more comfortable in his own skin.
Having said that, there is one condition that is often misdiagnosed as an allergy as it has similar symptoms. Yeast!
Similar to allergies, yeast starts to
become a problem as soon as the weather gets warm. Yeast
loves to thrive in hot and humid conditions so tends to affects moist
areas on your dog. The most common areas are the ears, paws, anal area,
armpits, jowls and any skin folds your dog has. Luckily yeast is quite easy to deal with as long as you stay on top of it.
So, before you start treating your dog for allergies, make sure it's not yeast you are dealing with instead. Click here to see if your dog's allergies are in fact related to yeast instead and how it can be treated.
Many of the dog allergy symptoms are similar, itchy dog, scratching, rubbing their face, licking paws, etc., So, to know how to treat the cause and not just the symptoms, you need to find out what the actual cause is. If its allergies, you need to figure out exactly what type of allergy your dog is suffering from and get them on the right dog skin allergy treatment plan.
There are predominantly 4 types of allergies that dogs suffer from:
But don't worry, I can help you figure out what type of allergy your pet is suffering from and provide some good recommendations on what treatments will work for each.
Flea allergies are the most common type of all dog skin allergies. A flea allergy doesn't mean that your dog is infested with fleas, in fact, if he is allergic to fleas he will react with just one flea-bite. Itching will begin immediately and will last long after the flea(s) have gone.
The most common indicator that it's a flea problem is that he will be biting and scratching at his rump area near the base of his tail. It is also more likely in the warmer months, spring, especially.
When you have a dog with a flea allergy, you really need to make sure you are preventing them from getting bitten by fleas. Best option is to choose a topical flea treatment that kills on contact. Advantage, Advantix, Frontline Plus and Vectra 3D all do this. Other treatments, such as Program and Sentinel don't.
See here for symptoms of dog flea allergies.
To check if your pooch has fleas, stand him on sheet of white paper and brush his coat. If flea eggs and waste are present you should see white or black grains of sandy material drop onto the sheet. A vet can confirm the diagnosis quite easily by conducting an intradermal skin test but this is usually unnecessary.
If you see evidence of fleas or a flea allergy, you can treat it without a vet visit.
The best treatment is a medicated bath and Benadryl for the itching. You will also need to put your dog on some form of topical monthly flea treatment. I recommend either Advantage, Advantix, Frontline Plus or Vectra 3D.
A word of warning, stay away from those flea collars they aren't as good as topical treatments and can cause more skin irritation and even health problems.
If you do see evidence of fleas, you'll need to treat the whole environment to prevent the fleas from multiplying. See flea and tick control for more information on control and prevention.
See here for full details of a dog flea allergy treatment plan.
Inhalant allergies (also known as Canine Atopy/Atopic Dermatitis) are similar to what we think of when we get allergies ourselves. And just like ours, they are caused by inhaled allergens e.g. grasses, dust mites, molds and pollens that are either inhaled by our dogs or absorbed by their skin.
Inhalant allergies are the second most common cause of allergies in dogs. As we see with human allergies, dog inhalant allergies are most common in the warmer weather, again, springtime especially.
Unlike us though, our dogs are most likely to be itching and scratching a lot, coupled with face-rubbing and belly scratching. Inhalant allergies can begin at any age but most start to occur from the ages of one to four years old.
Over time, dogs can become allergic to more and more things which can make this allergy turn into year-round problem.
For instance, they might start with being allergic to grass and pollen and only displaying symptoms in warm weather, but as time goes on, they may become allergic to dust mites or something else in the house and will be itching all year long.
See here for a full list of all Inhalant Allergy Symptoms
To be completely sure, there are two types of tests you can ask your vet to perform that can determine what your dog is allergic to; blood tests and skin tests. Your vet can perform these tests to pin-point what your dog should avoid or at least limit his exposure to.
To be perfectly honest, and dependent on what your pooch is allergic to, avoidance is often pretty difficult.
If you do find that your dog has inhalant allergies, and suffers
quite badly, then I would advise a trip to the vets as they may be able
to prescribe something better for the symptoms. Some dogs, mine
included, cannot tolerate Benadryl as this gives them diarrhea.
See here for a treatment plan for inhalant allergies.
Dog food allergies are not as common as we may think. Most dog food allergies are to the natural components i.e. meat, milk, eggs, grains, etc.
A food allergy can develop at any time, in fact, it is likely to develop after he has been eating the same food for a certain amount of time, usually 1-2 years. Most dog skin allergies, however, are not related to food.
The symptoms are pretty similar to other allergies, except, dogs with food allergies usually develop a rash and will itch all year long. Not just in warm weather.
Another key indicator that your dog is suffering from food allergies is if the cause of your dog's itching is NOT relieved with Benadryl or other anti-itch medication.
See here for specific dog food allergy symptoms.
Food allergies, unlike inhalant allergies, cannot be diagnosed with blood or skin tests. The only way to diagnose a food allergy is by conducting a novel food trial. That basically means giving your pooch food he's never had before.
But, be warned, it is not as easy as swapping your dog's diet for a different brand. I know many dog food manufacturers claim that their diets are good for dogs with allergies, but in reality, most dog foods have similar ingredients.
Granted, the premium dog foods are way better than the cheaper brands but if you suspect your dog has a food allergy its much better to work with your vet to determine the root cause.
When you've determined that your dog does have a food allergy you can then figure out what foods are safe for your dog and which ones to avoid.
See here for more details on food allergy treatment plan.
A contact allergy (otherwise known as Contact Hypersensitivity, Contact Dermatitis)is when your dog is allergic to something that he has come into contact with. This is usually immediate and, along with itching, you'll likely see raised red bumps.
See here for symptoms of contact allergies.
If you suspect your dog has a contact allergy, you need to identify what the cause is and eliminate it from the environment. Easier said than done, I know. Luckily a contact allergy is quite sudden so you only usually need to think of what you have introduced into his environment that day.
It can be the easiest allergy to treat but sometimes requires a little bit of detective work to figure out what your dog came into contact with. Contact allergies rarely require a visit to your vets.
The most typical offenders to cause contact allergies are carpet
cleaners or fresheners, shampoos or any other product that you use on
your dog or the floors.
See here for the best treatment plan for contact allergies.
This is one of the most easiest dog skin allergies to treat as long as you can remove the cause from your dog's environment.
Although dog skin allergies cannot be cured they can be adequately managed and controlled. Early detection and preventative treatment is the key to success.
Of course, dog skin allergies are not the only cause of dogs itching and scratching.
If you don't think that the cause of your dog's scratching is related to dog skin allergies, or you just need more information, please review our other skin problems related to dog skin care