The Pet Owner's Guide to Dog Allergies

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It happens every single night: lick, chew, scratch. And again: lick, chew, scratch. Damn!

The licking and chewing are driving me crazy! It’s driving my dog crazy too!”

“Honey, I can’t sleep! The damn dog sneezing all night long is driving me crazy. Take Oscar to the vet, please!”

Sound familiar?

It's the horror of dog skin allergy problems. Imagine yourself as your dog. How would it feel to need to scratch, lick, chew, rub your butt, and shake your head all the time? Unfortunately, all across the world, allergies afflict many of our furry friends.

In fact, over 50% of dogs in the US suffer from some sort of allergy.

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Common Signs of Dog Allergies

Dog allergy symptoms manifest in a variety of ways.

Whether the culprits are fleas, mold, dust, or food - dogs suffer.

Common signs of dog allergies are:

Other issues may cause some of the problems listed above. But, allergies should definitely be at the top of the list.

“What should I do?” you exasperatedly ask your vet.

“Change his food to one for dog food allergies?” Nope! Still itching.

“Give Benadryl?” Oscar sleeps all day.

“Give him a bath?” His skin gets dry and he still itches.

Are you frustrated yet? I bet you are. Your last resort is a visit to the veterinarian for treatmentTreatment of dog allergies is a complicated source of frustration for both you and your dog. Management is the only solution.

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You Don’t Have to be a Veterinarian to Diagnose Dog Allergies

Your dog itches. But, all dogs itch, don't they?

Dogs itch because they have allergies. Allergies are very common in dogs. In fact, itching, sneezing, and coughing due to allergies drive the business of veterinary medicine.

Most veterinarians would agree the number one reason clients seek veterinary care is because of some type of allergy. If allergies are so common in dogs, then how do you know what type of allergies your dog has? Follow the symptoms.

7 Common Dog Allergy Symptoms

The seven most common dog allergy symptoms are:

  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Itching
  • Licking (especially the feet)
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Vomiting

If your dog itches, gets chronic skin or ear infections or licks his feet, your dog definitely has allergies. A few other ailments could cause similar symptoms, but your dog is probably allergic to something.

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Other Allergy Indicators

What are some other hallmark, yet less common indicators?

Allergy Indicators #1: Time of the Year

According to Dr. Marc Smith, PET | TAO co-founder and practicing veterinarian, spring and fall are target pet allergy times. "In the spring and fall, I can honestly say 70% of the dogs I see in my practice suffer from allergies," states Dr. Smith.

The environment changes dramatically in both spring and fall. Different pollens emerge, the dust increases, and if there's humidity, molds become active. Additionally, fleas hawkishly seek the first blood meal out of anything alive. Such a scenario is a recipe for a massive outbreak in your beloved dog, the outbreak of disease we term “allergies.”

Do you suffer from hay fever? Dogs do too. Sneezing, coughing, and eye drainage are all common allergy symptoms for dogs in the spring and fall.

Allergy Indicators #2: Dog Food Allergies

Dog food allergy symptoms are fairly common. A dog with food allergies frequently displays all the signs above. Plus, food allergies cause vomiting and diarrhea. Most of the time affected dogs act normal. Yet, they itch, scratch, vomit and/or have diarrhea.

Food allergies are not seasonal. Dogs with food allergies exhibit signs throughout the year independent of seasonal changes. The distinguishing factor: constant signs without seasonal change. Constant symptoms regardless of the season mean your dog has food allergies.

Skin or environmental allergies occur most often during the spring and fall. Food allergies are different. The reason is because food, not the environment, cause the allergy symptoms.

Which dog food ingredients are the allergy culprits is debatable. The scientific community claims the cause of allergies is due to certain proteins in the diet. Corn, beef, dairy and chicken are the main suspects. The recommendation is to change the diet to a novel protein source such as venison, bison, or rabbit.

Others claim the culprit is massive processing and overfortification of dry dog food. The take-home message is, yes, you can diagnose your dog’s allergies without a veterinarian if you pay attention to symptoms. If you open your eyes and notice the symptoms, you too can “see the forest through the trees” just like your veterinarian.

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6 Most Common Causes of Dog Skin Problems

Imagine feeling like you have poison ivy all over your body. Your skin swells, turns red, and itches much worse than any mosquito bite you’ve ever had. Fido suffers similar discomfort day after day. Dog skin problems and allergies are one of the most common issues faced by pet owners, veterinarians, and, most importantly, dogs.

Itchy canine skin issues include:

  • Hair loss
  • Hot spots
  • Rashes
  • Scabs
  • Bumps
  • Scaly skin

Skin issues are frustrating and a cause for concern. Because a dog’s skin health is a sign of overall health, poor skin condition means poor health. Approximately 160 different skin disorders affect dogs of every age, size and breed.

Dog skin disorders stem from 6 basic causes.

#1 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Fleas

All dogs have fleas.

“But not my dog! I have NEVER seen a flea on my dog! Fluffy gets a flea bath every week… how can she have fleas?” asks Mrs. Jones.

Sorry, Mrs. Jones, but there is a good chance Fluffy has fallen victim to a flea bite. Just because you haven’t seen a flea doesn’t mean your dog doesn't have flea bites. Many dogs suffer severe reactions from fleas jumping on, biting, then immediately jumping back off.

The above scenario is common in flea allergy dermatitis. Nevertheless, fleas are more of a problem for some dogs than others.

If your dog is allergic to fleas, one little flea bite can result in hotspots and hair loss all over its body. One flea, due to flea allergies, can make a dog miserable. Dog lovers worldwide fail to completely understand the relationship between fleas and itchy dogs.

FACT: Fleas running around over your dog’s body is not what makes your dog itch. What really makes your dog itch is an allergic reaction to a flea’s saliva after a flea bites your dog.

When a flea bites your dog, the flea’s saliva thins your dog’s blood. Then, some of the flea’s saliva enters your dog’s bloodstream and causes a reaction, much the same way a mosquito bite affects you.

Signs of flea allergy include:

  • Itching over the tail head
  • Loss of hair in the flanks
  • Licking between the back legs

The product Dr. Smith uses and recommend to prevent fleas is NexGard.

#2 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Seasonal Allergies

Dogs suffer from seasonal allergies just like people. Congestion, draining eyes, skin rashes and irritation are all common symptoms of dog allergies..

Signs of seasonal allergies include:

How to treat seasonal allergies:

#3 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Skin Infections

Skin infections are the sequel to seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies cause your dog to have itchy skinItchy skin causes your dog to lick and scratch, creating a wet damp mess on your dog’s skin. Bacteria and yeast soon colonize and create a skin infection.

Signs of skin infections include:

  • Red, damp areas of hair loss
  • Sour smell
  • Pain and sensitivity over the affected area
  • Itching

How to treat skin infections:

Treatment depends on the invading pathogen:

  • Yeast or fungi require antifungals, most likely Ketoconazole
  • Bacteria is usually treated with an antibiotic like Cephalexin

#4 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal skin disease resulting in hair loss. Ringworm can spread from dogs and cats to humans.

Signs of ringworm include:

  • Hair loss
  • Pruritus
  • Young animal

How to treat ringworm:

  • Antifungals
  • Medicated baths

#5 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Food Allergies

Food allergies cause rashes, bumps, and pustules all over the skin. If your dog is allergic to a food he eats, his body manifests a hyperimmune response. Clinical signs appear anywhere on the dog, including the skin and digestive tract.

Signs of food allergies include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin lesions
  • Soft stool
  • Itching

How to treat food allergies:

  • Stay away from the allergen
  • Switch to a specialized, novel protein diet
  • Switch to a hydrolyzed protein diet

#6 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Mange

Mange is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites primarily affecting young dogs. Two types of mange exist, demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange. Demodectic mange primarily affects young dogs and is not contagious. Some demodectic mange cases resolve without treatment. Sarcoptic mange causes intense itching and is very contagious.

Signs of mange include:

  • Hair loss
  • Intense, unbearable itching

Demodectic mange can be difficult to cure.

How to treat Demodectic mange:

· Off label use of Ivermectin

  • Mitaban Dip
  • Amitraz

Sarcoptic mange is easy to cure.

How to treat Sarcoptic mange:

  • Advantage Multi
  • Off label use of injectable Ivermectin
  • Revolution

Skin disorders are either curable or incurable. You can control, but not eliminate, incurable skin diseases. Veterinarians often recommend some very effective home remedies to treat dog skin allergies. Veterinarians also prescribe antibiotics or antihistamines to control itching and treat allergic reactions.

One of the most effective allergy treatments is food therapy. The food a dog eats directly affects its skin health, skin problems, and allergies. Food is one of the most important factors in a dog's overall health and skin and coat health. A natural dog food made with fresh ingredients and without fillers or preservatives is very important. Proper diet often improves and even eliminates irritating skin issues.

Herbal and dietary supplements are also effective in treating allergy issues. Veterinarians who practice Eastern medicine prescribe allergy-relieving herbs.

Vets can prescribe topical products to help treat certain skin problems. Having a veterinarian-recommended flea treatment program in place is always important.

You should also be aware of practical steps for preventing dog skin problems and allergies. Keeping your dog’s coat clean and brushed is always important. At the same time, you should keep your pet’s living quarters clean. You should also provide a balanced, safe environment and schedule for their dog. Your schedule should include time for proper exercise, play time, rest, sleep, and interaction with people and other pets.

A healthy, balanced lifestyle will help prevent stress and boredom, a definite cause of skin problems. Dogs often itch, chew, and irritate their skin out of frustration, stress, habit and similar factors. Lick granulomas are lesions caused by dogs licking due to frustration.

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Action Items

Complete the following action items, and you'll be well on your way down the path to better health for your pet!

  1. Learn more about dog allergies and how to do a food trial, download our free ebook: “Dog Allergies 101: How to Stop the Itching, Scratching, Licking and Painful Vet Bills.”
  2. Try the food trial.
  3. Try a fish oil supplement.
  4. Try a vinegar bath or vinegar rinse for skin allergy flare-ups.
  5. Always consult with your veterinarian before making changes to your dog's diet and exercise routine.