All About Dog Allergies

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There are few issues that make canines (and their veterinarians) tear their hair out like pores and skin allergy symptoms. Pores and skin circumstances are the highest trigger for veterinary visits in the USA, and most of these pores and skin issues are signs of allergy symptoms. Canine allergy signs embody itching – referred to as pruritus – redness, hair loss, and broken and contaminated pores and skin. Vomiting, diarrhea, and weight reduction are different however much less widespread results and are typically related to meals allergy symptoms. 


Within the easiest phrases, allergy is the results of an immune system gone awry. When it’s functioning because it ought to, immune system brokers patrol the physique, checking the identification (because it had been) of each molecule within the physique. The immune-system patrollers enable the physique’s personal molecules and innocent international substances to go about their enterprise, however when they’re working correctly, they detect, acknowledge, and assault doubtlessly dangerous brokers resembling viruses and pathogenic micro organism.

When a canine develops an allergy, the immune system turns into hypersensitive and malfunctions. It could mistake benign brokers (resembling pollen or nutritious meals) for dangerous ones and sound the alarm, calling in all of the physique’s defenses in a misguided, one-sided battle that finally harms the physique’s tissues or disrupts the physique’s normal duties. Or the immune system might fail to acknowledge regular brokers of the physique itself and begin a biochemical conflict in opposition to these brokers (an “autoimmune” response).

Allergic reactions may be very irritating to diagnose, handle, and deal with. Simply as in people, allergy symptoms are normally a lifelong situation with no treatment. Administration is targeted on figuring out the causative allergen(s) (typically by way of in depth testing), eliminating the allergen(s) from the canine’s surroundings when potential – or, if not potential, decreasing the canine’s publicity to the allergen(s) as a lot as potential, and treating secondary results of allergy symptoms, resembling infections and discomfort. 

In idea, that is quite simple; in actuality, it may be troublesome and irritating. Any breakthrough in controlling the canine’s publicity to the allergens (assuming they even may be decided!) can result in itching and infections. At any time when I’m counseling an proprietor on managing a canine’s allergy symptoms, I begin with the caveat that we are going to by no means treatment the allergy. We’ll solely maintain it underneath management.

Select Correctly; Be An Knowledgeable Proprietor

I want that extra canine house owners had been conscious of their most popular breeds’ genetic predisposition to allergy and deliberate accordingly when shopping for or adopting. 

Breeds to contemplate as notably susceptible to allergy symptoms embody West Highland White Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Shar-Peis, Lhasa Apsos, Shih-Tzus, Boston Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, and Bulldogs. There are various others as nicely, so completely analysis any breed that you’re excited by proudly owning. If potential, ask in regards to the dad and mom and different offspring which have resulted from the identical matings; if the dad and mom or siblings have extreme allergy symptoms, chances are high higher than even that the puppies will develop them, too.


Many canines with allergy symptoms lick and chew their toes, inflicting uncooked swollen irritated pores and skin and secondary infections.
Picture Credit score: Raquelsfranca/

So how are you aware in case your canine has allergy symptoms? Allergic reactions typically manifest as dermatitis – which means pores and skin irritation. Specifically, pores and skin infections are referred to as pyoderma, which means “pus pores and skin.” A one-time pores and skin an infection that responds to remedy just isn’t a motive to suspect allergy symptoms. That may occur to any canine! It’s when infections recur many times that makes allergy symptoms the prime suspect because the underlying trigger. 

Allergic reactions and pyoderma are a vicious cycle. When a canine is uncovered to no matter substance(s) to which he’s allergic (whether or not it’s fleas, meals, or an environmental allergen like mud mites), his first and most intense symptom can be itchy pores and skin. (In distinction, the commonest signs of allergy in people are sneezing and an itchy, runny nostril and eyes.) In consequence, the allergic canine will scratch and chew at his pores and skin, damaging the pores and skin’s protecting barrier. 

As soon as the pores and skin is damaged, opportunistic micro organism, notably Staphylococcus (which generally lives harmlessly on the pores and skin in some quantity), enter the broken space and colonize it. This stimulates the immune system to launch white blood cells to struggle off the invaders. The white blood cells launch inflammatory substances to kill the micro organism – however additionally they irritate the encircling tissue and trigger extra pruritus. The itching continues, the canine continues to scratch, and extra micro organism enter the damaged pores and skin. The cycle continues.

Intense itching and discomfort, redness, and pores and skin infections that recur regardless of applicable remedy are the hallmarks of allergy symptoms. Within the case of extreme allergy symptoms, it could be onerous to distract a canine from the maddening itch. 

Recurrent ear infections will also be related to allergy symptoms. Or your allergic canine might scratch behind his ears, alongside his stomach, or chew on his toes. The pores and skin is usually moist and crimson and should have a yeast-like odor. Epidermal collarettes – small, flaky circles – could also be seen; these are most frequently famous on the stomach, the place there may be much less hair. 


If you take your canine into the veterinarian for itching and crimson pores and skin, an preliminary pores and skin work-up can be completed. This consists of three vital steps: a pores and skin scrape, tape cytology, and pores and skin impression. This may decide if there may be an simply treatable trigger for the discomfort and if pyoderma is current. Mite infections can result in these signs and are straightforward to deal with. 

For a pores and skin smear, a glass slide is pressed in opposition to the contaminated space, dried, stained, and examined underneath a microscope. 

A pores and skin tape cytology is comparable. A bit of acetate tape is pressed to a spot on the canine’s pores and skin in an contaminated space or the place a pustule is seen; then the tape is eliminated and examined microscopically. The veterinarian is in search of the presence of mites, yeast, or micro organism to find out the trigger and remedy for the an infection. 

If mites usually are not suspected to be the trigger and none are discovered on the scrape, the veterinarian will deal with the an infection primarily based on the pores and skin cytology and impression.

If micro organism are discovered, a topical shampoo with antibacterial results could also be used. Chlorhexidine shampoos are cheap and available in most veterinary clinics. Alternatively, if the an infection is widespread and/or extreme, an oral antibiotic like a cephalosporin could also be extra applicable. 

If yeast can be current, a topical shampoo or mousse remedy with an antifungal agent can be wanted. In some instances, oral antifungals resembling itraconazole are additionally used. 

A one-time pores and skin an infection doesn’t point out allergy symptoms, however when infections recur – particularly in inclined breeds – allergy symptoms are the almost definitely analysis. At that time, it turns into essential to attempt to determine what substances the canine is allergic to. 

We’ll talk about meals and substances which might be inhaled or that come into contact with the pores and skin (resembling mud mites, pollen, grass, mould, and different widespread environmental substances) that generally trigger canine allergy symptoms in upcoming points. Under, we’ll talk about the commonest canine allergy: Flea allergy.


Flea combs have wonderful enamel which might be very shut collectively. When you comb by way of the coat of a canine who has fleas, it’s possible you’ll or might not seize a flea between the wonderful enamel; flea really spend solely a small period of time on the canine, and hop off shortly after feeding. However in case you see darkish specks like these seen on this picture of some comb, you’re looking at flea “filth” – the feces of the flea, which comprises dried blood.

As vexing as they could be, fleas are the only explanation for canine allergy to diagnose and deal with. The offending agent is the flea’s saliva: Once they chunk right into a canine, they inject a small quantity of saliva into the canine’s pores and skin, and the canine’s immune system responds to this materials. 

Flea allergy usually develops when a canine is between the ages of two and 5 years, although canines who’re as younger as 1 yr or are senior canines may develop flea allergy symptoms. 

Some canines are so intensely allergic to flea saliva that one flea chunk can result in widespread, extreme itching and self-trauma, organising the pyoderma cycle. (These canines particularly have to be saved on flea prevention yr spherical in most elements of the USA. Fleas is usually a yr lengthy drawback in lots of elements of the USA that keep heat or have heat days in the course of the winter.)

If you’re doubtful, drop these specks in a saucer of water. If the water turns a rusty crimson, it’s flea poop – and you should handle the flea infestation STAT.

Usually, diagnosing flea allergy is pretty easy. It presents with signs within the “flea triangle”– the bottom of the tail, rear legs, and inside thighs. There’s hair loss in these areas, the place fleas are inclined to congregate. Typically, dwell fleas may be seen crawling round in these areas, however not at all times.

Your veterinarian might use a fine-toothed comb (referred to as a flea comb) to detect and expose residing fleas. Whether or not or not fleas are discovered with a comb, she can even conduct a pores and skin scrape, tape, and cytology as outlined above to find out what infectious brokers could also be current. The pruritus brought on by fleas results in the vicious cycle of pores and skin trauma and pyoderma, in order that should be handled at the side of eliminating fleas. 

It’s vital to keep in mind that simply since you don’t see fleas doesn’t imply that they aren’t current. Fleas stay on a canine for just a few minutes to an hour whereas they’re feeding. As soon as they feed, they return to their surroundings. By the point you start seeing dwell fleas crawling in your canine, the infestation is extreme. It’s common for house owners to make sure that their canine can’t have fleas, only for us to make use of a comb and discover a number of dwell ones. (We veterinarians name this “fleanial.”) 


Remedy clearly entails killing the fleas. (See “Fast, Make Fleas Flee,” web page 14 of this difficulty.) 

Along with recommending merchandise that kill the fleas, your vet might also prescribe a medicine to assist with the itching. Older drugs like oral steroids are very efficient however do include vital unwanted effects resembling elevated consuming, urinating, panting, restlessness, and the danger of inducing diabetes with long-term use. Some canines additionally expertise non permanent behavioral modifications. Steroids are very cheap, and generics can be found. 

Newer drugs resembling Apoquel (oral pill) and Cytopoint (injectable) particularly goal the components that trigger itching, are safer, and are extraordinarily efficient with out the unwanted effects of steroids. They’re additionally extra pricey, as no generics are but out there. 

However the pyoderma brought on by self-trauma should even be handled. That is referred to as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Remedy entails both topical shampoos or mousses and/or oral drugs, relying on what the veterinarian finds on microscopic examination. 


In case your canine has flea allergy symptoms, contemplate your self (considerably) fortunate! Of the three primary causes of allergy symptoms in canines, flea allergy is the best to deal with and handle. With cautious consideration to preventives, sustaining a flea-free home and yard by way of common remedies, canines with FAD can dwell a cheerful and itch-free existence. 

It’s far harder to determine meals and environmental allergens that will plague your canine and, particularly, to restrict your canine’s publicity to them. We’ll talk about these challenges in upcoming points. 

The submit All About Canine Allergic reactions appeared first on Complete Canine Journal.

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