Allergies are common amongst people, with many of us experiencing the insufferable sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose combination. Whilst we may associate allergies with springtime however, allergens strike throughout the year, and it’s not just us who are affected.
More than ever, dogs are exposed to the symptoms of allergies, where particular breeding can result in hypersensitivities, but also the simple fact that our dogs are more domesticated than ever before. Interestingly, there is increasing evidence that people who live in communities that are wealthier and more industrialised are more likely to suffer from allergies such as asthma. I’m itching to ask the question; are we putting our pets in the same situation? Puns aside, perhaps the modern dog is subject to more allergens than before, but without the adapted immunity, just like us. So, let’s scratch past the surface and find out what exactly you can do for your dog who has allergies.
Firstly, let’s identify what the major allergens are. If we can prevent exposure, we can prevent the symptoms.
- Plants and grasses
- Some types of food including red meat, as well as grains and soy derivatives
- Fleas and other parasites. Just one flea can be enough to cause your dog great distress
- Bedding – rubbers and plastics can irritate the skin
- Harsh shampoos and cleaning products
- Damp environments where there is mould and bacteria
- Some medications – best to check with your trusted vet for advice
- Insect bites
Next, identify the symptoms. It is always important to assume a medical cause for an unwanted behaviour before you resort to it being psychological.
- Itching and scratching – paws, base of tail most commonly.
- Red, moist and irritated skin
- Infections of the paws and ears
- Vomiting and malaise
- Diarrhoea and unusual toileting habits
- General behaviour out of character
- Sometimes compromised airways – in which case immediately seek veterinary advice
If you are nodding your head at any of these symptoms, then there are many ways you can help to prevent your dog suffering from the discomfort and dangers of allergens.
First and foremost, seek veterinary advice. It is important to discuss your concerns with them, to ensure there are no other underlying causes for the symptoms.
- Ensure your parasite treatment is up-to-date and on schedule each month. You would be surprised how quickly dormant fleas can latch on to a passing dog.
- Clean your dogs bedding area regularly with a low allergen detergent
- Wipe your dog’s paws and belly down with a clean damp cloth after each walk
- Avoid areas where there is a lot of vegetation if you can
- Improve their diet. There are a range of excellent products on the market for dogs with immune sensitivities
- Some topical medications are helpful, which are antibacterial, antifungal and antipruritic. Regular bathing in these is often recommended.
- Antihistamines recommended by your vet are often helpful in preventing symptoms of discomfort in your dog. Ensure you discuss which type and what dosage before administering.
- Keep your dog’s paws dry as much as possible to prevent secondary infections, which can be very painful.
- On occasion, desensitisation can be offered by a vet, which may assist your dog’s immunity to respond more appropriately to the allergen over time. This is however an ongoing treatment and can be costly.
So there you have it, a range of treatments to the most common allergies. Whilst the cause of itching, licking and scratching is usually due to an unwanted parasite or blade of grass, it can also be an indication of a more complicated emotional state. If your dog often expresses signs of anxiety, or sometimes even frustration, these behaviours can be an indication of a deeper issue. If you suspect that your dog is not allergic to anything, but rather suffers from hyper anxiety, consult with an experienced and qualified behaviourist to look further into what’s on Fido’s mind. Like us, dogs can be a complicated species, and it pays to stop and ask them why exactly they are feeling that way. Their behaviours will always tell us the truth.