Three Most Common Dog Allergies


The Dog Daily



By Dr. Jessica Vogelsang for The Dog Daily

Three Most Common Dog-related Allergies

Spend any amount of time in a veterinarian’s waiting room, and one sight will be sure to greet you on a consistent basis: a dog perched on his haunches, merrily scratching and chewing away while his frustrated owner tries to get it to stop.

Allergies are one of the leading causes of visits to the veterinary office: They account for up to 25 percent of visits, according to some estimates. Allergic disease in dogs has three primary causes: fleas, food and the environment.

Flea Allergies
Any fleabite will itch, as you probably know if you have had to deal with them yourself. But many dogs have a true allergic reaction to flea saliva, which causes them to experience levels of itchiness disproportionate to the amount of fleas on their body. These dogs can be miserable with only one or two fleas on their body. This fools many people who assume that unless a dog is visibly infested, fleas couldn’t be the issue.

Topical flea treatments — such as Advantage, FRONTLINE and Vectra — have been the main form of treatment for the past decade, but oral flea preventives — such as Comfortis — have been an additional help for pets who cannot tolerate the spot-on treatments.

Food Allergies
Food allergies in dogs are sneaky. Often, they will manifest as a chronic ear infection, persistent red feet, or a low-grade itch that just won’t go away. For this reason, food allergies are often overlooked or confused with other problems.

The only way to accurately diagnose a food allergy is to perform an elimination diet, when a dog is put on a prescription or homemade hypoallergenic diet for a period of eight to 12 weeks. Blood tests, although available at some veterinary offices, are not considered a reliable way to diagnose the allergy. Once the source of the allergy is pinpointed, dogs can be transitioned to a diet without the offending allergen.

Environmental Allergies
Environmental allergies are the most common form of allergic disease in dogs. Like people, dogs can be allergic to a wide variety of irritants — from grass to pollen to mites. This can be diagnosed with blood tests or skin tests, or simply from a high index of suspicion on the part of the veterinarian.

Lucky dogs respond to simple and inexpensive antihistamines, such as Benadryl. Severely affected dogs may require stronger prescription medications, such as steroids or Atopica. Because these suppress the immune system, it is vital for pets using these medications to be taken to the veterinarian for follow-up visits regularly. Another option for your dog is to get allergy shots at your veterinarian’s office. This is the same process used for people and has similar levels of efficacy as the drug regimen.

Allergic disease is a complex medical condition to manage. Dogs with any form of allergic disease often have a secondary bacterial or fungal infection, which may need treatment that is separate from the allergy medications. The earlier an allergic pet is diagnosed, the better chance one has to minimize frustration with this chronic disease. If you think you have an allergic pet, talk to your vet sooner rather than later!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang is a small animal veterinarian and pet aficionado from San Diego, Calif. When she’s not at work or with her family of two and her four-legged creatures, you can find her blogging about life with pets at Dr. Vogelsang’s articles have previously appeared in The Dog Daily.

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6 Responses to Three Most Common Dog Allergies

  1. Sue says:

    i have been giving my dog interceptor for 13 years now and every year she start scratching and biting herself till she looses hair and bleeds with sores. i have not given her the interceptor this year, ususally start in may and stop in sept. she has not had any sign of allergy. are there dogs allergic to interceptor. i really believe this has been the culprit. i feel awful i have been giving this to her all this time and making her miserable.

    • Natalie Lester says:

      Sue, Oh no! Allergies can be scary things for us and our pets. We aren’t vets so I hesitate to give you medical advice. Be sure to talk to your dog’s veterinarian to discuss possible causes her reactions. Thanks for reading! :)

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  3. Kam Misch says:

    An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system has an exaggerated reaction to a usually harmless substance. The most common allergens (substances that trigger the allergy) are dust mites, molds, pollen, pets with fur or feathers, stinging insects, and some kinds of foods.

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  5. Dog Allergies says:

    Like humans, dogs and cats can suffer from various allergies: dog allergies can come from food, allergic contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis caused by environmental allergens or allergy dermatitis flea bite.

    Skin problems and other disorders resulting from these allergies should be diagnosed and treated as early as possible, at the onset of symptoms.
    Healing happens every time with good involvement from the master … and his entourage.

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