What are “allergies”?

An allergy is when the body’s immune system overreacts to a particular substance (this substance is called an allergen). This is the same process that occurs in humans with “hay fever”, though it more commonly affects the skin of dogs rather than the respiratory system.  Allergic dogs can have itchy skin (pruritus), inflamed skin, secondary skin/ear infections, and eye irritation. Dogs with allergies may chew at their paws, scratch their belly/groin/armpits, rub their face on the ground, shake their head, and itch their ears.

What type of allergies are there?

There are many things that can be an allergen to dogs. The most common allergy that we see in dogs that are not on flea preventative is allergy to flea saliva. Even the bite of one flea can cause intense skin irritation and itchiness. Other common allergens include pollen, food ingredients (chicken or beef most commonly), dust mites, and molds.

How do I know what my pet is allergic to?

Finding out what your pet is allergic to can be complicated. The timing of your pet’s symptoms can provide a clue. If your pet shows symptoms seasonally, it is more likely to be an outdoor allergy (pollen, grasses, trees, weeds, etc). If your pet show symptoms all year round, it is more likely to be an indoor allergy (dust mites, mold, etc) or a food allergy. There are a few tests that can be performed to narrow down what your pet may be allergic to. Blood testing and intradermal skin testing can be performed, but they each have their limitations. To determine if your dog has a food allergy, a hydrolyzed protein diet trial is recommended.

How can allergies be treated in dogs?

There are many options for treating allergies in pets, and some may work better than others for different dogs. The methods listed below break allergy treatment down into specific steps.

Limit exposure to the allergen If your dog’s exposure to the allergen is limited, this can decrease the allergy symptoms that your pet experiences.

  • Bathe your pet regularly to remove pollen and other topical allergens
  • Vacuum and wash bedding regularly to remove pollen and dust mites
  • If your dog has a food allergy, feed a hydrolyzed protein diet

Prevent immune response Once your dog is exposed to a substance that he or she is allergic to, the immune system overreacts to it. There are multiple medications that are able to decrease or prevent the immune system from creating the allergy symptoms that we can see in our pets.

  • Over the counter anti-histamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Claritin (loratadine)
  • Prescription medications that disrupt the immune response such as Apoquel, Atopica, or steroids
  • Prescription monoclonal antibody injection (Cytopoint) that targets a specific step in the itch process

Treat secondary infections Allergies disrupt the skin barrier and cause scratching which can lead to secondary skin infections with bacteria or yeast. These infections can add more itchiness to an already itchy dog.

  • Topical therapy can include medicated shampoo/spray for skin infections as well as medicated ear ointments/drops for ear infections
  • Oral therapy can include antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-parasitic medications

 There are numerous options for allergy diagnosis and treatment available; this is not a comprehensive list.
Please contact Country Hills Pet Hospital for more information!