How To Detect and Manage Dog Allergies

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Just like humans, dogs can be susceptible to allergies. Whether seasonal or an allergic reaction to food, dog allergies can cause a number of symptoms including sneezing, coughing, itching and vomiting.

Allergies can occur in all breeds of dogs. However, since your dog can’t exactly tell you if they’re having an allergic reaction, you have to be ready to look out for the signs and symptoms!

So how do you know if your dog’s symptoms are a result of an allergic reaction? Here, we look at common dog allergies, what the symptoms are, and how you can manage these symptoms. 

What are dog allergies?

An allergy can be described as an overreaction or hypersensitivity to a particular allergen. An allergen can come in the form of plants, pollen, mould, dust, insects, animals or foods. If a dog is allergic to one of these allergens, their body will develop an immune reaction resulting in common allergy symptoms such as sneezing or itching.

Over time, exposure to an allergen further sensitizes the immune system and can cause an overreaction in subsequent exposures. This results in a dog that consistently experiences allergy symptoms whenever it’s exposed to the particular allergen he/she is allergic to. 

Common symptoms of dog allergies

The most common allergy symptoms in dogs include:

  • Puffiness around the face
  • Watery/or swollen eyes
  • Runny nose 
  • Skin rash or irritation
  • Hives
  • Constant licking
  • Sneezing and/or wheezing
  • Digestive issues such as vomiting and diarrhoea in some cases (if your dog is vomiting, call your vet straight away as it might indicate an anaphylactic reaction)

Some of these symptoms may also indicate another underlying health problem. As in any case where you notice unusual symptoms or behaviour in your dog, it’s always best to consult with a vet to rule out any serious medical condition. 

Diagnosing a dog allergy

The only real way to determine if your dog has an allergy is to bring him/her to your local vet. 

Your vet will first rule out any other condition that may be causing your dog’s symptoms. They will also likely ask if you’ve noticed these symptoms in your dog before, whether they occur in certain environments or after consuming a particular food, and for how long the symptoms have been lasting. Your vet will then propose an allergy test if they believe the symptoms are a result of an allergen. The dog allergy test is a simple skin prick or allergen-specific test that can help determine the allergen causing your dog’s symptoms. 

Food allergies are often diagnosed through an elimination diet. Whereas flea or grass allergies are generally easier to diagnose with a quick inspection of the skin.

How to treat a dog allergy

Managing dog allergies can be easier once you know what allergen is causing your dog’s symptoms. Once you’ve established your dog’s allergy with an allergy test, you can then take steps to minimise their exposure or consider the use of medication.

Humans take antihistamines to manage seasonal allergies – and the same applies to dogs too! There are some over-the-counter allergy medications that are safe for dogs, as well as canine-specific topical and oral medications to manage skin irritation caused by allergies, including an allergy vaccine known as immunotherapy. Always consult your vet prior to purchasing or starting any medication.

If your dog is suffering from dry, itchy or inflamed skin after contact with an allergen (such as grass or pollen), there are dog medicated shampoos and rinses that you can use at home to manage inflammation and repair the skin’s barrier. 

One of the simplest ways (aside from medication and a healthy diet) to manage your dog’s allergies is to always check their fur and skin after each play session or day out. Inspect the skin for any redness, flakiness or parasites and bathe and brush your dog frequently to remove any built up dirt and irritants. 

You can also manage dog allergies by keeping a clean environment in your home. Dust and clean often to remove dust mites, dander or mould spores and use an air purifier to filter out any allergens to keep your pet and your family allergy-free.

If you find your dog often itches, scratches, licks and sneezes, he/she could be suffering from a dog allergy. While humans often outgrow allergies or simply take oral medication to manage it, dog allergies can often worsen over time. The best thing to do if you notice any allergy symptoms is to take your dog to the vet and get an allergy test. From there, it’s just a case of managing and treating symptoms before and when they appear. Treat your dog’s allergy as you would a human allergy. For example, do your best to keep them away from any known allergens and bathe them after they’ve come into contact with an allergen or start displaying an allergic reaction. If your dog’s allergy is severe, you can manage symptoms with medication as prescribed by your veterinarian.

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