allergies in dogs
Dog health

Allergies in dogs, what do you do about them?

allergies in dogs

Does your dog have an allergy?

Allergies in dogs can be a real problem in all kinds of areas. Whether they’re caused by something in the environment or something they eat, your dog can suffer some pretty uncomfortable stuff without your help. If your dog has an allergy, you’ll want to get it under control quickly.

Environmental allergies

Environmental allergies can be triggered by grasses, pollen, insect bites, or something else your dog comes in contact with. The result could be watery eyes and maybe itchy skin. If they receive an insect bite that causes a reaction, they might have a swollen or red area.

These symptoms usually end shortly after you remove whatever the allergen is. Many times, an environmental allergy is related to season or location. In insect bites, the symptoms are temporary and don’t return unless the dog is bitten again.

One of the things that are supposed to help with skin irritation is coconut oil. Read more here,

Food allergies

Food allergies in dogs are triggered by something that they eat. If they keep eating whatever that is, the allergy continues indefinitely until you make the necessary changes in their diet.

Managing a food allergy can be tricky. Locating the problem takes more detective work since many times, ingredients are mixed together, especially in previously prepared food.

What does it look like when my dog has a food allergy?

Your dog might have symptoms similar to those from environmental allergies or issues that don’t immediately seem like allergies. Since the allergy comes from something that they ate, it can affect the whole body.

Here’s a list of some of the symptoms you might notice

  • Itching paws, specific areas, or all over. Can develop into hot spots.
  • Skin rashes, scaly or leathery skin, skin discoloration
  • Eye discharge or red eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Chronic, frequent ear infections
  • Secondary yeast or bacterial infections
  • Digestive issues like vomiting, chronic gas or diarrhea

The chances are that you’ll probably see a combination of symptoms instead of just one. While you can treat the symptoms as you see them, they’ll just keep coming back unless you remove the problem.

allergies in dogs

What do you do about allergies in dogs?

While these issues aren’t usually life-threatening, they can make your dog really miserable. The first thing to do is to visit the vet to rule out other issues that need treatment. Once the big problems are ruled out, you and your vet can put together a plan for moving forward.

If you or your vet suspect allergies, you’ll need to figure out the culprit or culprits. In order to do that, allergy tests or food trials can be used to help identify the problem food so it can be eliminated. Where do you start?

Diagnosing food allergies in dogs

The most common method for diagnosing a food allergy in dogs is to perform a food elimination trial. This involves taking all possible allergens out of your dog’s diet and maintaining a routine of simple ingredient foods. This would be a handful of foods that have no added flavoring, chemicals, or other substances that would subtly affect your dog. No other treats or supplements with flavorings are allowed.

These diets generally last for several weeks, until your dog reaches a baseline. A general time frame might be 8 weeks. Once your dog is free of allergy symptoms, you would slowly reintroduce a new food, one at a time. As each food is added, you observe your dog for several days for symptoms.

Studies show that the likelihood of having allergies in dogs is influenced by genetics. Since there is a genetic predisposition, if a dog has one allergy, it is much more likely they’ll have others as well, so don’t assume that only one food is the problem.

If you’ve carefully limited your dog’s diet until your dog is symptom-free, you can test a suspected allergen. If your dog is allergic to it, the symptoms will come back and you’ll know it’s a problem.

Other tests can also be used to identify an allergen, like a blood test or a patch test. Although these tests might seem like the quickest way to identify the problem, they aren’t as conclusive. That’s why, as complicated and time-consuming as it is, a food trial might be more effective.

Most common allergies in dogs

While all foods can have the potential for allergies, some are more likely to cause them than others. The top five culprits seem to be

  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Chicken
  • Wheat
  • Soy

The more common the food is, the more exposures your dog might have to it. Frequent exposure to a potential allergen can make an allergic reaction more likely. In addition, foods with a higher protein level tend to affect allergies in dogs because of the way your dog’s body reacts to proteins.

Allergies usually develop with time. Each exposure builds on the one before. You might feed your dog a certain food for quite a while without seeing a problem. But eventually, if your dog is allergic to it, the reaction will be large enough that you’ll see it.

Helping your dog live with a food allergy

Allergies in dogs can’t be cured. That means that you and your dog have to manage them instead. If you watch diet and add new foods carefully, your dog might eventually be able to eat a fairly normal diet. Despite any remaining limitations, they’re going to feel a whole lot better. The end result will be a happy, healthy dog.

We’ve had a couple of dogs that had some serious food sensitivity or allergy problems. While it was a challenge, with work and patience, we were able to help them feel better eventually. Read more here.

To read more about food allergies and your dog, check out Caring for a dog with food allergies from WebMD. You can also read some of my posts, 

Dog food. What should you feed your dog? 

What can fish oil do for my pets?

Chronic chewing; why does my dog do it?

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