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Published on August 26th, 2014 | by Debbie Martin


Allergies – dogs can have them too

Snuffling and sneezing your way through hayfever season with red, streaming eyes or suffering from food allergies is never fun, but did you ever stop to think that it’s not just humans who suffer from allergies? Man’s best friend can be affected too and the underlying trigger is the same for both species. Antigens in your body affect your immune system, which reacts to protect your body from toxins, bacteria and other harmful substances. In an allergic response, your body reacts in this defensive way to harmless proteins. The protein which causes your immune system to respond like this is known as an allergen.

What types of canine allergies exist?

Just like humans, canine allergies come in a variety of different forms and a number of different factors can trigger an allergic response. Here are some of the more common types of canine allergies:

Food allergies

Did you know that 15% of dogs with allergies suffer from food allergies? Wheat, corn and soy, fillers often used in many popular commercial dog foods, can trigger sensitivities in many dogs. Some dogs can be sensitive to pork, chicken or beef. You should also watch out for best-before dates and food that has been stored too long for possible mould growth. If your dog is affected by food allergies, they may have softer stools, diarrhoea or more frequent bowel movements. They may also scratch their feet and limbs or face.

Pollen allergies

Just like humans can be affected by hayfever during the spring and summer months, causing red, watery eyes and sneezing, dogs can also have seasonal pollen allergies. Dogs are more likely to develop red, itchy skin in reaction to pollen allergies, which can often go undetected. Severe itching can cause loss of fur and may need treatment.

Flea allergies

Of course, the best way to prevent your dog from flea allergies is to ensure they are regularly treated for fleas. Flea allergies can cause severe irritation. Mild allergies can cause skin irritation and minor itching but in more severe cases, dogs can chew their skin surrounding the flea bite and they will end up losing their fur as a result.

Mould allergies

Mould is not only hazardous to human health, causing respiratory illness, it can affect man’s best friend too. In damp locations with poor ventilation, mould spores can affect dogs. Dogs don’t have the same reaction as humans though and instead of suffering from respiratory tract problems, they’re more likely to develop skin problems in reaction to mould allergies.

Other animals

Did you know that dogs can be allergic to people just like people can be allergic to dogs? Just as humans can be allergic to dogs and cats, many dogs are allergic to human dandruff, made up of shed skin cells and saliva. Some dogs are allergic to other dog and cat dandruff too.

What types of dogs are most susceptible to allergies?

Heredity definitely has a part to play in determining which dogs will develop allergies – the same is true for humans. If you are the owner of a flat-faced breed such as a Boston Terrier, Bulldog or Pug, you may notice they are more susceptible to allergic reactions. In retrievers, terriers and setters, skin allergies are a frequently inherited problem which can cause distress not only for the dog but for their owners too. Vets recommend that owners do not breed dogs that show signs of allergic reaction, but this advice is not always followed.

How are canine allergies treated?

If you suspect your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction, you’ll need to visit your vet, who can carry out tests to confirm canine allergies. Treatments for canine allergies vary and will depend on the type of allergy your pet has. All pets should be given a regular programme of flea control, which can help to prevent flea allergies. For dogs suffering an allergic reaction to food, dietary changes will be needed.

Dogs that are sensitive to mould spores or dust can benefit from changes being made around the home. Little things like dusting or vacuuming more frequently can help, whilst ventilating damp environments can make a real difference to your dog’s health and happiness.

Just as with humans, it is possible for dogs to be given allergy shots if your vet is able to identify which allergens are causing the reaction. Whilst these shots can be one of the most effective ways to prevent allergy symptoms, they usually take a few months to start working and it can be difficult for vets to pinpoint the allergen causing your pet’s distress.

Owners who suspect their dog may be suffering from allergies should monitor their symptoms closely. Remember that your dog can’t communicate with you about how he is feeling, so he is relying on you to spot signs of allergies. Efficient observation is essential and if allergies are causing your pet obvious distress, booking an appointment with your vet should be your first step towards getting them happy and healthy again.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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