Skin allergies are common among dogs, and some dog breeds are more prone than others. For example German Shepherds, Labradors, Boxers seem to be particularly susceptible to allergic reactions.
There are three main types of allergic diseases seen in dogs, and these are:
- Food allergies or intolerance: this is a reaction to some thing in the dog's diet
- Atopic dermatitis, which is a reaction to environmental substances
- Contact allergy, which is a reaction to dyes, cleaners or shampoos
It is possible for food allergy and atopic dermatitis to occur together and it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other. For contact allergy, its only the part of the skin that is in contact with the cause of the allergy that is affected or inflammed.
Before testing a dog for skin allergies, it is absolutely essential that the dog has been checked for other causes of dog skin problems, particularly parasites and other skin infections first, and any occurrence removed or controlled.
Skin allergies caused by reactions to food are uncommon in dogs. It is wrongly believed that dogs only react to a change of diet. However, vets recognise that reactions are just as likely to occur after a dog has been fed on a particular diet for several months or even years. If a dog is suffering from intolerance to a particular food, then there's likely to be vomiting or diarrhoea, but not always.
Do consult your vet for advice. Usually the only reliable way to diagnose food allergy is by feeding the dog a trial diet for at least six weeks. If the dog shows improvement from being fed the trial diet, then this new diet should become the dog's normal diet.
The most commonly accepted causes of food allergies in dogs are beef, cereals and dairy products.
This is a reaction by the dog, to environmental substances, commonly called allergens, that are harmless to other dogs. Common allergens include:
- house dust mites
- pollens or moulds
The specific allergen causing the problem for your dog can be identified using skin or blood tests. It is possible to treat this condition, but it will not go away, and must be controlled for the life time of the dog. The best treatment for this type of skin allergies is usually a combination of treatment options, that is preventing parasite infection and treating any secondary infection quickly.
Avoidance and Treatment of Allergens
Where possible, the allergens should be avoided. It's not an easy task, particularly as these allergens occur naturally. There are however some basic guidelines that could be followed to keep the occurence of allergic reactions to a minimum and avoid discomfort for your pet and you.
There are a number of treatments for allergic dogs available, but it is advisable to discuss the best option with the Vet.
This is a reaction to man made substances such as cleaners, dyes, soaps, caustic liquids, some shampoos, especially human products and other substances such as cement and concrete. The best way to treat this type of reaction is to remove the dog from the environment that has caused the reaction, for up to a week. If its not possible to remove the source of the allergen, then treatment could include the use of steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs.
As always, we recommend that you consult your veterinary surgeon for a clinical diagnosis of any of these dog skin problems.