Most allergies in domestic dogs are exaggerated immune (hypersensitivity) reactions to flea or tick bites, contact or airborne substances or some particular ingredient in food. |
Allergies to fleas, which are extremely common in dogs, are caused by an immune reaction to flea saliva which causes irritation and itchiness at the site of the bite, increasing the risk of bacterial infection and localized hair loss. Common contact and inhalant allergens include seasonal pollen, trees, bushes, grasses, weeds and flowers, as well as any number of chemical or other products. These allergies, in dogs and people, are often referred to as "hay fever." Food allergies can be a reaction to almost anything in a dog's diet, but common food allergens include beef, dairy products, corn, wheat, eggs, chicken, lamb and soy.
Preventing Allergies in Dogs The best way to prevent allergic reactions in domestic dogs is to prevent contact with whatever is causing the hypersensitivity. For example, flea bite allergies are best avoided by removing the allergen – fleas – from the dog's environment. There are a number of good topical products to keep fleas off of our pets, including medicated collars and topical liquid treatments and preventatives, among others. To prevent hay fever, owners should keep their dogs away from whatever seasonal allergen is causing the problem, to the extent that they can. Food allergies can be prevented once the causative component of the dog's diet is identified, which can be done through an elimination diet supervised by a veterinarian. Many commercial kibbles containing novel protein sources, such as venison, duck or fish, are available for dogs that are allergic to more common protein sources.
Flea Allergies Allergic reactions to flea bites are very common in companion animals. Affected dogs have an immune reaction to the flea saliva, causing irritation and itchiness at the bite site with an increased chance of hair loss and secondary bacterial infection. As with all causes of allergies, flea bite allergies are best prevented by removing the allergen – here, the flea – from the dog's environment. There are a number of good topical products to keep fleas off of our pets, including collars, liquid medications that are put onto the skin and other products that your veterinarian can recommend. With regular management, flea bite allergies are quite preventable.
Hay Fever Dogs can develop allergies to seasonal pollen, trees, bushes, grass or flowers. In people, we call this "hay fever," and the clinical signs are similar in dogs. Sneezing, redness of the eyes, itchiness and lethargy are common signs of seasonal allergies. Again, the best way to prevent these allergies is to prevent your dog's exposure to the causative allergen. Your veterinarian can help you identify which particular things your dog is allergic to.
Food Allergies Dogs also commonly develop allergies to components of their food – especially in commercially available kibble diets. Food allergies can present with vomiting, skin rashes or other skin lesions, and pruritus (intense itchiness). The way to "prevent" (or manage) these reactions is to use an elimination diet, which your veterinarian can explain to you in detail. Essentially, an elimination diet involves strictly regulating your dog's diet, usually starting with boiled rice and chicken, and then adding other ingredients one at a time and assessing whether the dog has an adverse reaction to the new ingredient. There are a number of commercially available kibble diets that have unique ingredients (like duck, venison, sweet potatoes, etc.) which can successfully be fed to dogs with allergies to more common protein sources, such as beef, lamb or pork.
Canine allergies can be difficult, but not impossible, to diagnose and manage. Veterinarians use a combination of a thorough medical history, a complete physical examination, blood and/or skin tests and assessment of the dog's response to treatment to identify and manage allergic reactions. Strict owner compliance with the diagnostic and treatment protocols recommended by their veterinarian is critical to the success of managing allergies.
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