Seasonal allergies in dogs
Seasonal allergies in dogs
You may have noticed that your dogs starts scratching or licking more than usual at this time of year. Skin allergies can be an annoying and frustrating problem for both you and your dog as their scratching can keep you both up at night or cause other problems that mean a trip to the vet. Understanding why your dog is itchy is the first step to finding the best way to help them.
What are the common allergies in dogs?
Just like people there are many allergies in dogs. The most common types that may cause you to take your dog to the vet are flea allergies, food allergies and seasonal allergies (atopic dermatitis). It can be difficult to know which type of allergy your dog may be suffering from, and it’s always best to seek veterinary advice to help guide you through the process of solving the puzzle of your dog’s itchy skin.
Seasonal allergies in dogs (atopic dermatitis)
This time of year, however, the number of itchy dogs needing to see their vet increases dramatically. As you and your family start sneezing with hay fever, you may notice your dog developing a few symptoms of seasonal allergies, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis is common in Australia and is worse over Spring and Summer as pollen counts increase.
This all sounds great, and there is no doubt that we all want the best for our pets. But it isn’t that straight forward, and feeding your dog a raw food diet comes with a long list of challenges.
How is atopic dermatitis diagnosed?
There is no specific test for atopic dermatitis and this common allergy is diagnosed by a combination of clinical signs, response to treatment and identification or exclusion of other allergic conditions such as flea allergy dermatitis and food allergy dermatitis. Your vet will develop a diagnostic plan to determine if your dog is suffering from atopic dermatitis.
Common environmental allergies in dogs
It’s impossible to rid the environment of all the possible allergens that may affect your dog. Common causes of environmental allergies in dogs include grasses, pollens, dust mites and moulds that are found in the air. These allergens are air borne and come into contact with your dog’s skin and airways triggering a reaction.
Common signs of allergies in dogs:
- Itchy skin: itchy dogs don’t always scratch. You may notice your dog licking or chewing between their toes or rubbing their stomach along the carpet. Your dog may rub their face and eyes or shake their head.
- Ear infections (otitis): Ear infections are one of the most common signs of allergies in dogs. Itchy ears can quickly become hot and moist and create a perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to overgrow.
- Hair loss: Your dog may develop bald spots where they have been licking or chewing their fur, or from secondary skin infections.
Common myths about allergies in dogs
Understanding why your dog is itchy might take a bit of detective work because the underlying cause isn’t always clear. It can sometimes be hard to see the connection between your dog’s symptoms and the cause of their allergies. Here are a few myths that might mislead you when trying to understand why your dog is itchy.
- He doesn’t have fleas: Fleas aren’t the only reason your dog might be itchy. Dogs can develop itchy skin for many different reasons, even if they have excellent flea control.
- We don’t have any grass in our garden: Atopic dermatitis is caused by inhaled allergens that are blowing around in the environment. It isn’t possible to stop your dog being exposed entirely.
- I haven’t changed his diet: Dietary allergies can develop at any time and are usually associated with something your dog’s immune system has already been exposed to.
- I feed grain-free: Grain allergies as a major source of itchiness in dogs is a common misconception. While it’s possible for your dog to be allergic to grain, it’s a relatively uncommon cause of allergies in dogs.
What breeds are most commonly affected by seasonal allergies
Unfortunately, while there are some breeds that are more susceptible to developing allergies, in Australia allergic skin disease is common in many breeds due to high environmental pollen and the warm, dry climate.
Dog allergy treatment
The good news is there is help available to treat your dog’s allergies. Your vet can make your dog more comfortable by reducing the itch and work to find out what the underling allergy might be.
Treating allergies in dogs has three main aims:
- Treat secondary infections: Secondary infections are common and must be treated to help the skin recover. This may involve medication, cream, sprays or shampoos depending on the location and type of infection. Your vet will examine your dog’s skin and ears
- Treat underlying allergic response: Your vet may prescribe tablets, creams, sprays or injections to help calm your dog’s overactive immune response and ease their symptoms.
- Desensitisation (Immunotherapy) to reprogram your dog’s immune system and reduce future allergic responses: Some dogs may benefit from a specialist dermatology referral. A veterinary dermatologist can test your dog to discover the allergens they are most reactive to and create a series of desensitisation injections. These typically take around 12-18 months to have full effect but can improve the quality of your dog’s life in the long run.
Can allergies in dogs be cured?
There is no cure for allergies, but they can be managed to keep your dog comfortable and improve their quality of life.
Our vets are here to help you get to the bottom of what is making your dog itchy. We have a wide variety of treatments available to help them feel better and get through the allergy season. Understanding the cause of your dog’s allergies may take a little time, but it’s worth the investment for both you and your dog.
Director at Port Road Vet Clinic, Dr Kevin Murnane, holds a Bachelor of Veterinary Science from Massey University in New Zealand and is a member of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA). He is a member of the Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia (VSBSA). Raised in rural Ireland, Dr Kevin is a regular attendee to the Webinar Vet and is passionate about providing pet lovers and their pets with friendly veterinary care. He has a special interest in diagnosis management and nonsurgical treatment of unusual serious diseases.