When dogs have allergies, the reaction can be extreme. After all, they can’t pop a Zyrtec. They can’t decide to go for a round of allergy shots. They can’t even make the decision to stay out of the field that’s causing them to sneeze and scratch.
It’s up to us to pay attention and provide relief. Genetics affects the tendency toward allergies as well as where the dog lives and what the dog eats. And a dog’s breed also has a part in a predisposition to allergies.
There are many kinds of allergies that can affect your dog. Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease and is caused by dogs reacting to environmental allergens. Typical sources of atopy allergies are pollen, molds, ragweed, dust mites, cigarette smoke, feathers, cleaning products, and even perfume. Allergies that result from something your dog has eaten are food allergies. There’s also allergies from flea bites called flea allergy dermatitis and contact allergies from things like carpet, plastics, and fabrics.
How Do You Know if Your Dog Has Allergies?
In order to help your dog, you have to recognize the symptoms that indicate he’s suffering from allergies. These include:
- Increased scratching
- Constant licking
- Itchy, red, moist skin
- Itch, runny eyes
- Chewing at the feet
- Scratching or rubbing the face
- Itchy back or base of tail
- Hair loss
- Hot spots
- Ear infections
If your dog has any of these symptoms, start by taking him to your veterinarian. Allergy testing is similar to tests done on humans: substances are introduced into the skin just below the surface to see if there’s a reaction. Food allergies are tested by giving your dog a prescription diet for a few months to rid the system of allergens and then reintroducing foods to see which one she reacts to.
Treatment for Allergies
The best treatment for allergies is prevention. Once you figure out what the offending culprit is, remove it from your dog’s environment or diet.
For flea allergies, be rigorous about flea control. Fleas can actually kill your dog if left untreated because the loss of blood leads to anemia. If your dog is allergic to indoor allergens like dust, wash his bed weekly and vacuum your home at least twice a week. Bathing once a week will remove environmental allergens and pollen from his skin. (Prescription shampoos can cut down on bathing if it dries out your dog’s skin.) Some dogs may be helped by antihistamines like Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton, but be sure to consult your veterinarian for dosage.
Purebred dogs are at greater risk for allergies than mixed breed dogs, though mixed breed dogs can have allergies, too.
Here are 10 breeds that are prone to allergies:
Allergies are common in the American Pit Bull Terrier, along with other stocky, square-head dogs, including the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog and American Bully. Allergies are often caused by environmental allergens including fleas, pollen, grass, and dust. Common food allergens include beef, wheat, rice, and corn.
2. Bichon Frise
The most common allergies for the Bichon Frise are contact allergies that cause skin problems and food allergies. They are also sensitive to flea bites and airborne allergens from grass, flowers, trees, and dust.
Watch out for environmental allergies that affect their skin and food allergies. Boxers are particularly sensitive to dog food with a high grain content, including corn or wheat. Allergies from trees, weeds, pollen, and dust can affect them year-round.
4. Brussels Griffon
Skin allergies are at the top of the list for Brussels Griffon. Areas most affected are the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears. Watch for licking of the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections. Allergies manifest early, from 1 to 3 years.
5. Bull Terrier
Sensitive skin, contact allergies, and allergens inhaled such as detergents, chemicals, pollen, dust, and mildew are the most common allergies for Bull Terriers. An allergic skin disease called atopic dermatitis that causes itching, irritation, infection, and discomfort is prevalent.
6. Cocker Spaniel
The three most common allergies are food, contact, and inhalant allergies. Food allergies manifest typically as itching in the ears and feet of Cocker Spaniels. Allergies to typical inhalants like pollen and materials like wool, plastic, copper, synthetics, and sand are common.
7. German Shepherd
They are more prone to food and environmental allergies, while the short-haired German Shepherd suffers more from skin contact allergies. Skin allergies are triggered by fleas, food allergies (including beef, chicken, corn, soy, dairy and wheat), and pollen.
There are four major forms of allergies for the Golden Retriever: flea, canine atopic dermatitis, food, and contact. Irritants that affect the skin include pollen, dust, fleas, mold, grasses, and weeds. Common food allergies are soy, wheat, dairy, beef, and some poultry.
9. Labrador Retriever
Common allergies for Labrador Retrievers include food, flea, contact, bacterial, and inhalant allergies that manifest most frequently as skin problems the skin. Food allergies are triggered by common dog food ingredients like soy, eggs, beef, corn, fish, and chicken.
The top signs of allergies in the Maltese are itching, rash or irritated skin, thinning hair, wheezing, and eye, nose or ear issues. Food allergies can also manifest as gastrointestinal problems. Contact allergies can be to fabric (beds) and plastic (bowls).