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Allergies in dogs

What should you be looking out for?

We vets see a lot of allergic skin disease in dogs – and we know, as owners, it can be heartbreaking to watch them suffer with it. Allergic skin disease is very tricky to treat. The only way to cure it is to stop your dog coming into contact with whatever it is they’re allergic to. 

There are four main types of allergy in dogs: 

1. Environmental – this is hard to treat as it’s almost impossible to keep your dog away from environmental allergens like grass and pollen. 

2. Food – this is easier to manage. Once you know what your dog’s allergic to, you can change their food. 

3. Fleas and mites – follow a strict programme of flea control to help your dog with this. And don’t forget to treat your house as well – your dog may be allergic to dust mites. 

4. Contact – some dogs can be allergic to a type of carpet, floor cleaner or washing powder. Avoiding these products should cure the allergy.

How I can tell what my dog is allergic to? 

First, take a look at where they’re scratching. Dogs with flea allergies are more likely to scratch their back, whereas dogs with food or environmental allergies may scratch their tummies, ears and feet. 

If you think your dog has a food allergy, you can find out what type of food it is by following an elimination diet. Your vet will help you with this. 

If your dog has severe allergies, your vet may carry out intradermal testing. This involves injecting allergens under your dog’s skin to see if he has a reaction. Your vet may also take some blood to look for antibodies, which can give you an idea of the type of allergens to avoid. 

How can I stop my dog from scratching? 

There are a few ways to care for your dog’s allergies. But if you’re not sure, start by speaking to your vet. 

Avoid the allergen. This is the best way to stop your dog’s symptoms, but isn’t always possible. 

Treat the fleas. Even if your dog isn’t allergic to fleas, you should stick to a strict programme of flea control, using Spot On Treatments

Treat any underlying infections. By scratching and breaking the skin barrier, your dog is more susceptible to skin infections. Antibiotics and antifungals are sometimes required. 

Change their diet. If your dog’s allergic to a specific food, you might need to change their diet. Some food has added essential fatty acids (EFAs), which help promote the skin’s barrier to allergens. 

Try a different shampoo. The right shampoo can bring immediate relief to itchy skin. There are also specific shampoos that help fix the skin barrier against allergens, such as Allermyl. Antifungal or antibacterial shampoos such as Malaseb can treat any underlying infection. 

Clean your dog after a walk. If your dog suffers from environmental allergies, cleaning their feet after a walk can help. 

Give them antihistamines. Although these aren’t as effective in dogs as in humans, some dogs will respond to them, so it’s worth trying them out for a couple of weeks. 

Try steroids. Steroid tablets are a common treatment for skin allergies in dogs. However, they can have side effects so should only be used over a short period of time. 

Get your dog vaccinated. If you know what your dog’s allergic to, you can get a vaccination made up of these allergens, which has shown to improve symptoms in about 70% of cases.