Dog allergies can show up in several different ways. Typical stomach and intestinal responses are chronic gas and diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Dogs can also be allergic to grass and pollen, which may show up as itchy feet and bellies. Dogs can also be allergic to airborne chemicals like cigarette smoke and air fresheners, or even their own medicated shampoo.
Causes of environmental allergies differ from dog to dog. Some of the allergy triggers are cigarette smoke, cleaning products, perfumed items, some fabrics and insecticidal shampoo.
Dogs often have itchy eyes, sneezing, snoring and an irritated patch of skin at the base of their tail. Dust can also make your dog’s skin allergy worse.
Because they’re always scratching, dogs with environmental allergies may also have bacterial infections and yeast skin infections. These infections are caused by contaminants buried under the raw skin surface during bouts of heavy scratching.
Exposure to cigarette smoke can lead to a chronic form of cough like bronchitis. Second-hand smoke is as dangerous for nearby non-smokers as the smokers themselves. So DON’T smoke around your dog!
Food sensitivities can also show up in the skin and coat. You may notice bald patches, constant scratching, an itchy backside, and paw biting. If your dog has developed an ear infection that won’t clear up, it may be from an allergy.
Many of the main ingredients in dog food can also be the cause of the allergic reaction. The top foods dogs react to include corn, wheat, soy, beef, chicken, lamb, fish and dairy. These same food products are staples in many forms of dog food.
Determining the Source of the Allergy
The first step to take to relieve your dog’s symptoms is to work to prevent skin irritation. If you can get them to stop scratching, you can reduce the risk of infection. If you are in a flea prone area, start a flea control program early in the spring and maintain it through a good hard frost. Launder your pet’s bed at least once a month and vacuum all carpets in your home every week to cut down on dust exposure. Consider a weekly bathing routine to soothe your dog’s skin and remove all environmental irritants from their fur.
If symptoms persist, your dog may have a food allergy. Dogs are often fed the same product day in and day out. Chronic food allergies can develop yet seem to have sprung from nowhere. Food allergies develop over time. Stress can cause these allergies to show up suddenly. Is your dog stressed after big home changes? Have they been boarded for a while? Something like this can cause allergies to flare.
To test for this, your dog will need to be on an novel protein diet for three months. Novel proteins are proteins your dog has never eaten before. These can include game animals and exotics such as ostrich, bison, duck, kangaroo and alligator. At the end of this time, you can determine if the dietary change has helped your dog. If your dog is doing better on the novel protein diet you can continue to feed your dog this protein. It is also advised that you test one novel protein at a time. Test until you have 2 or 3 different proteins that work for your dog. You can then rotate to a new, proven protein every 3 to 4 months. This is better for your dog.
It’s also important to limit the amount of carbohydrates, specifically grains, in your dog’s food. They often react to the carbs as often as the proteins. Do not just change the protein source, change the carb source as well to test where the allergy is coming from.
If you prefer to make your own dog food to determine the source of your dog’s allergy, consider starting with pet treats. You can make your own wheat-free, carob dog treats with rice flour as a non-reactive treat for your sensitive dog. With this project, you can reduce the amount of wheat your dog is eating. You can also determine how much of your time and resources you can dedicate to preparing your own dog food.
To make your own dog food you will need to handle a lot of meat. Some choose to do raw feeding, so it could be raw meat. Storage may also be a concern unless you have a spare freezer for the meat you’ll need to keep handy.
Medications and Other Therapies
There are many medication options that are like human treatments for allergies. Injections, antihistamines, and cortisone can help a dog in severe distress. However those treatments don’t work on everything and may be too harsh to use long term.
Other options include dog-specific treatments such as fatty acid supplements to reduce skin irritation. If your dog has developed a chronic skin infection, there are shampoos specifically formulated to treat the infection and they won’t damage the the skin further. There are sprays designed to soothe irritated skin. Some of these include products with aloe and oatmeal to give your dog some relief.
If your dog undergoes treatment for allergies and tries the novel protein diet and the skin conditions continue, something else is at work here. Are you using dry food with the new protein? Dry food is often the cause. Consider using a wet food if you are unable to cook or create meals for your dog. If your dog can’t tolerate wet food, consider supplementing dry dog food with digestive enzymes. Probiotic dietary supplements can also help your dog fight off the miserable symptoms of allergies.
Dog allergies can make their humans worry a lot. The skin irritation, paw licking and tail biting can be hard to handle. If you can’t soothe your dog enough to get them to stop such destructive behaviors, you both pay a price. Dogs with food allergies are just trying to get some relief. Late night scratching and paw biting and licking can be very disturbing when both you and your dog need some rest.
There is help out there. Don’t give up. Your dog’s health and comfort as well as your own are on the line!