Every dog owner's nightmare is to see their pooch itching, scratching, licking, biting, rubbing, chewing, gnawing, and in the end, ending up with some nasty infection caused by some allergy. The most important question is what exactly causes an allergic reaction in the first place?
Well, allergic reactions in dogs can be triggered by a number of environmental allergens (grasses, pollen, mold, dust mites, feathers, chemicals, pests), food ingredients (specific proteins, grains, additives), fleas and ticks, as well as medications and shampoos and even cats! All these allergens are real trouble makers, and they should not be overseen.
Unfortunately, just like us, dogs develop some type of allergies in high percentages over their lifetime, but typically a time of onset is always between 1 and 2 years of age. A perfectly content pooch will become itchy, inflamed, have an upset stomach, irregular bowel movements when encountering a substance they are allergic to.
The immune system responds and creates histamines that trigger the allergic reaction that we see as itching, licking, chewing, vomiting, diarrhea, and other issues. The main goal is to identify which allergens create the problem and avoid exposing your dog to them. In case of food and med allergies, a veterinarian can run a testing experiment and determine the main reason for your pooch's problem.
In this article, I will present to you a comprehensive dog allergies list that can help you keep an eye on your pup and notice when something is off. So, let's start.
Types Of Allergies In Dogs
As already said, allergies are a reaction of your immune system to foreign substances present in your body.
There are a few different types of allergies in dogs, such as allergies to fleas, food allergies, and environmental allergens. All these allergies can pose real challenges for dogs and owners since the symptoms of all these different types of allergies can overlap and make things worse.
Skin allergies, also known as allergic dermatitis, are the most common type of allergic reactions in dogs, and there are three main causes that trigger skin allergies in dogs:
- Food sensitivity
- Environmental allergens
Flea dermatitis is an allergic reaction to flea bites and flea saliva. Dogs that are affected by this allergy are extremely itchy, especially at the base of the tail.
Their skin may become inflamed, red, and scabbed, and also you may notice signs of fleas.
Some food allergies can cause itchy skin. The difference is that most dogs that suffer from food allergies will become itchy around their ears and their paws; plus, in most cases, these symptoms will be accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Atopic allergic reactions are also caused by environmental allergens, such as dust, pollen, and mold.
Usually, these allergies are seasonal, so you will only notice your dog itching and scratching during certain times of the year when the allergens are present.
Commonly affected areas are always the paws and ears, but it also affects ankles, muzzle, underarms, groins, and around the eyes.
The problem is that all skin allergies pose the risk of secondary infection. Your dog can't resist scratching, biting, and licking the affected skin, so he risks opening up the skin to yeast and bacterial infections. This requires immediate medical attention.
First off, it's important to know that there's a big difference between food intolerance and a real food allergy for dogs. Food intolerance is when a dog has a hard time digesting a certain ingredient, while true food allergy triggers an immune response.
These immune responses can range in symptoms from skin conditions (facial swelling, itchiness, and hives), gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea), or a combination of both. In rare cases, a severe reaction results in anaphylaxis.
Some breeds are more prone to food allergies than others. The following breeds are the most commonly linked with the search term "food allergies," so let's see if your little one is among them:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Shih Tzus
Seven most common causes of food allergy in dogs
One of the most common food allergens is proteins, mainly coming from beef. Beef is one of the most common food ingredients in almost all pet foods, and this is the main reason why it's so common as an allergen.
You must be aware that feeding your dog a single food for years increases the potential that your pooch will develop an intolerance or allergy to that ingredient. One of the best ways to avoid this scenario is to feed a raw diet and rotate meats every week.
Apply the same rules apply here as they do for proteins from beef; chicken protein is always present in pet food at least in 5%, but usually in higher amounts. Just because we all know that good old plain chicken is a light and healthy food choice, it doesn't mean your dog can't be allergic to it.
Like already said, most commercial dog foods use proteins from chicken or beef. So lately, lamb is considered a good option for dogs that experienced allergies while eating food that has beef and chicken in it.
However, it is also possible that your dog can have an allergic reaction to protein from lamb meat. If your dog is allergic to lamb, switch to venison or fish.
A good portion of dogs is allergic to eggs, more precisely to a protein from egg yolk. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to avoid eggs in dogs' diets, so most dog owners are not even aware that their pooch might be allergic to eggs.
Always check the labels and see if there is an egg yolk protein in it so if your dog experiences any weird reaction to a new food, you can suspect that your pooches immune system is triggered by it.
Do not be surprised, but some dogs have a hard time digesting lactose. Precisely this is more of an intolerance than an actual allergy, but it can complicate your pooches life significantly. Of course, there are cases where dogs are truly allergic to dairy, but these cases are sporadic.
Lactose intolerance leads to gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. The tricky part is that a true dairy allergy and dairy intolerance have the same symptoms, so it's hard to know if your dog is suffering from an allergy or it is just an intolerance.
But luckily (if you can consider this as a bit of luck), there is one important distinction - a dairy allergy will in time manifest as skin itchiness and other similar symptoms, while lactose intolerance is always all about digestion issues.
Lately, wheat is targeted as a food allergen for dogs, but many more dogs are allergic to carbohydrates that come from other grains (rice, for example) more than the one coming from wheat. Also, it's much more common for dogs to have allergies to meat than grains.
Still, some dogs do have an allergic reaction to wheat.
Soy is labeled as a very no-no ingredient in dog food since some studies have shown that eating soy can cause various health issues for your pooch, including reproductive and growth problems, thyroid and liver disease, as well as allergies.
Dog Food Allergen
Percentage of Dogs With Reported Reaction
All these food allergies manifest in the same symptoms, so here I will present to you the list of most common signs of food allergies in dogs.
These are the skin signs you'll see most often with a food allergy:
- Pruritus or itching
- Itchy paws
- Skin rashes
- Hot spots and hives
- Scaly and oily skin
- Pigmented skin
- Weird leathery skin texture
- Hair loss
- Eye discharge
- Red eyes
- Ear infections
- Secondary yeast or bacterial infections of skin and eyes as well
The following list, I will rank the body parts that are most often affected by food allergies, and your dog will itch and scratch them mercilessly:
- Ears are the number one and involved in 80% of the time
- Paws and between toes with 61%
- Inner thigh and belly 53%
- Eyes 33%
- Front leg area 33%
There is also a list of gastrointestinal symptoms in dogs, but only 10 to 30 percent of dogs with confirmed food allergies have gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. A food allergy almost never causes sudden and short-lived gastrointestinal symptoms, but on the other hand, some food allergies can cause certain chronic symptoms.
- Diarrhea with or without blood
- Mucus in stool
- Straining to pass the stool
- Abdominal pains
- Weight loss
The next symptoms aren't as common as those above but may occur in some dogs, and they are classified as rare; still, some dog may experience them, so keep an eye on:
- Nasal discharge
- Breathing issues
- Secondary urinary tract infections
It would help if you also looked for behavioral patterns that are linked to discomfort from the symptoms listed above. Those are:
- Frequent scratching on furniture, for example
- Biting paws, tail, and rear end
- Frequent shaking of ears
- Reduced interest in playtime
- Food refusal
What about those dogs that are on special hypoallergenic dog food regimes?
What most people think when they say that their dog suffers from a food allergy is that their dog has a specific food sensitivity.
Food sensitivities do not involve an immune response, and they are a gradual reaction to an ingredient in your dog's food that is just not compatible with your pooches tummy.
The safest way to diagnose and determine if it is a food allergy or intolerance is to work with your veterinarian. But, you can also do it on your own and use some of the home allergy test kits; I highly recommend using 5strands tests since they are one of the best currently available on the market.
Environmental allergies typically occur between ages 1 and 3. The reaction occurs when a dog's immune system is extremely sensitive to a substance, and most environmental allergies are usually genetically predisposed.
Also, certain breeds are more prone to environmental dog allergies tose are :
- Irish Setters.
The most common environmental allergens for dogs are following:
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Animal dander
Some of these are seasonal, and some are more aggressive during certain times of the year. Since dogs spend a fair amount of time outdoors, it's nearly impossible to avoid contact with some of the allergens, so you better test your dog to the most common environmental allergens and make sure he is in the best order.
Symptoms are usually manifested as atopic dermatitis. Since a dog's body tries to reject the allergens, some skin-related symptoms will occur and result in atopic dermatitis. Atopy is skin inflammation and extreme itchiness caused by allergens.
As a dog becomes uncomfortable, he will try to relieve himself by excessive chewing, biting, and licking. These actions can cause hair loss or open wounds that may become infected if left untreated.
The areas that are typically affected by Atopy:
- Between the toes
Prescription drugs and medicated shampoos as allergens
Allergies are very unpredictable, but what is most unpredictable is when giving your dog something that is supposed to help them, such as meds and medicated shampoos, and they end up having an allergic reaction to it.
Prescription meds are a common practice for treating a range of health issues, and sometimes your dog will react badly to the medication itself or an ingredient that is with the med or shampoo.
Anaphylaxis may occur when a dog is allergic to some medication, and you will recognize it as having trouble breathing, and it also manifests in low blood pressure. Other less severe symptoms of med allergies can include hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, appetite loss, lethargy, and respiratory complications.
Shampoo reactions always happen shortly after exposure and increase in intensity the longer the dog is exposed. Symptoms can include hives, itching, bald patches, and swelling.
Usually, topical antihistamines are used for treating these symptoms, but if the reactions won't calm down, take your dog back to the vet and see what else you can do.
Acute allergic reactions
The most alarming type of allergy in dogs is acute allergic reactions. Dogs can go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen, and this can be fatal if not treated on time.
Anaphylactic response in dogs can be caused by bee stings and vaccines; that is why it is always a good idea to keep an eye on your dog following the administration of any new medication. Luckily, anaphylactic reactions are very rare in dogs.
Diagnosing Allergies In Dogs
If you have ever undergone allergy testing or have seen one, you know that diagnosing allergies can often be complicated. However, you can always choose first to test your dog at home using some of the home allergy test kits for dogs.
The next step is to take your dog to the vet and schedule a regular allergy testing where your vet will be able to rule out any other condition that could be causing your dog's symptoms.
Keep in mind that it may not always be possible to determine the cause of an allergy with testing, no matter how accurate they are.
Food allergies are often diagnosed using an elimination diet.
This food trial consists of feeding a dog a novel source of protein and carbohydrate for a period of 12 weeks and see how he or she reacts.
Flea and tick allergies are typically the easiest ones to diagnose.
It is usually diagnosed by identifying fleas or ticks on your dog's body and applying a product that kills fleas and ticks before they cause any major skin problem.
Intradermal allergy testing on a dog is similar to the test performed on humans where small amounts of allergens are injected under the skin, and the vet looks for an allergic response to one or more of them.
The best way to treat an allergy is avoidance of the allergen, but this may not always be possible. For example, the best way to treat flea allergy dermatitis is to kill the fleas. At the same time, the best way to treat a food allergy or food intolerance is a change in diet and avoidance of the allergen at all costs.
Once the allergen is determined, hyposensitization therapy is usually the next step you will need to take. This means regularly giving the dog small shots of the allergen to desensitize the immune system. This type of therapy can take from six months to a year to work, but unfortunately, this therapy is effective in only 60 to 70 percent of dogs with allergies.
Your vet can also recommend over-the-counter antihistamines or corticosteroids to help reduce and lessen the itching, scratching, and discomfort. Also, prescribed allergy relief medication for your dog will help control the signs associated with the allergic reaction and keep any secondary skin infections as far as they can.
In case your dog has a severe allergic reaction, your best course of action is heading to the closest emergency veterinarian station since some of the allergic reactions can end up fatally.
Let's Wrap Things Up
For the end, a million-dollar question. How do dogs avoid getting allergies?
Well, this is a tough question. If your pup is predisposed to developing allergies because of its inherited genes, there is not much you can do about it. The only thing you can certainly do to minimize the effects of any inherited allergic reaction is by keeping your dog away from the offending allergen.
Take all possible precautions so if your fur baby is allergic to something in the environment, simply keep him away from that allergen, food allergy - change his diet completely. If he is allergic to mold and mildew, keep him inside as much as possible on rainy days high with humidity.
If those precautions are not possible, do everything you can to minimize the effect of the allergen. Use antihistamines, special shampoos, steroids, immunosuppressive meds, and special types of foods; this will usually help to keep the reaction at its minimum.