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If you have ever suffered from allergy symptoms, you know how miserable they can make you feel. The world is foggy, your brain is dull, your eyes and skin itch incessantly, your sinuses are like a dripping faucet, and you are tired and lethargic. In a word, allergies make you feel miserable.
Dog allergy symptoms are very similar and they too can suffer from allergies and feel miserable. Although they can’t tell you what’s wrong, you can usually detect a problem when they start scratching. This is the first sign that your dog is suffering from symptoms that are often an allergic reaction. The difference between scratching as an allergic reaction and normal scratching is the frequency and intensity of the scratching. If your dog seems to be scratching without relief from the itch, it is most likely that it is an allergy symptom. Normal itches are relieved with a simple scratch. Note that in the case of allergies, the scratching is also often accompanied with continuous licking. These are the most common and obvious symptoms of a dog allergy. You may also notice that your dog is less energetic than usual – the canine version of the foggy blur experienced by humans.
Essentially, dog allergies fall into five categories:
The most common of all canine allergies is Atopy, a condition caused by house dust, outdoor pollens, and human dander, in other words, possibly anything your dog comes into contact with in his environment. Because the possible causes of inhalant allergies are so many and complex, allergies in this category are also the most difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include relentless scratching and obsessive licking all over the body. You may notice patchy bald areas from all the scratching and itching as well. However, these same symptoms could indicate another allergen as well. Therefore, it is best to rule out all other allergens first and then, if the symptoms persist, consult your vet for Intradermal Skin Testing.
Fleas are a major problem. If your dog has fleas, your home will soon be infested as well, so whether or not your dog is allergic to the fleas, you will certainly want to be rid of them. The flea is not the actual allergen; rather it is the flea’s saliva that causes the terrible discomfort for your dog. Symptoms of a flea allergy include persistent scratching, in particular, around the tail area. Often it is also accompanied with loss of hair. The best way to beat an allergic reaction to fleas is to first, get rid of the fleas, and second, take preventative measures to ensure that the fleas never come back. Medications and flea collars are best for this purpose.
A very common dog allergen is food. The symptoms of food allergies are both gastro-intestinal and skin irritations. If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, or if he is scratching incessantly, consider first his dog food. Dogs are most likely to be allergic to any of the grains commonly found in dog food including corn, oats, wheat, or whey. They can also be allergic to the dairy products or to any of the meats such as beef, chicken, pork, lamb or fish. Although dogs can be allergic to any of these food ingredients, the most common are corn and wheat. These ingredients are often used as fillers in dog food, so you can try a food that doesn’t have either corn or wheat and see if the symptoms go away. If, after approximately 2 months, the symptoms are gone, you will know that he was suffering from corn and/or wheat and you can steer clear of these ingredients in the future.
Contact allergies are reactions to something the dog has directly touched. The most common causes are topical medications, fabrics on bedding or furniture, plastic toys, food bowls or even flea collars. Your dog could even be allergic to other pets in the family or, worse yet, you! The symptoms of a contact allergy include reddish skin, often with pimple-like protrusions that seep pus. Unfortunately, the only real solution to contact allergies is to remove the culprit from the dog’s environment all together. The good news, however, is that contact allergies are the least common of all dog allergies.
All dogs have some sort of Staph bacteria on them. This is normal. What isn’t normal is when, on occasion, a dog develops an allergic reaction to the bacteria. When this happens, your dog will suffer hair loss in small random patches all over his body. These patches can become raw from scratching and then they become infected. The only way to treat bacterial allergies is with antibiotics.
Dogs are certainly not immune to allergies. The most common symptom of an allergy is scratching. If your dog is scratching more than normal, start paying close attention to the triggers listed above. In most cases you should be able to diagnose the problem on your own and then take appropriate measures to protect your dog from the allergens that most affect him. If you are not able to figure it out on your own however, you should consult your vet for a skin test that will be able to tell you for sure what your dog needs to avoid in order to be healthy, comfortable and happy.