Have you been deep in dreamland only to be suddenly woken up by the entire bed shaking? No, it’s not an earthquake… it’s your dog aggressively scratching themselves. It’s hard to be mad at that sweet face under normal circumstances, but it’s especially hard when you see on their face how uncomfortable they are.
Dog allergies are no joke, whether they are seasonal or seem to flare up out of nowhere. Because we all love dogs at WINPRO Pet and want them to be as comfortable and content as possible, we wanted to do more than just scratch the surface of the issue. What causes dog allergies, what are the common symptoms to look out for, and how can they be treated?
The Causes Of Allergies In Dogs
Much like allergies in humans, allergies in dogs can be a complex issue to try to “solve.” In fact, the trigger of allergies can really be just about anything… There have even been dogs who have tested positive for being allergic to humans or other dogs!
When it comes down to the more common allergy issues that happen to dogs, they are usually divided up into three different categories:
- Dog skin allergies: Dog skin allergies are the most common type of allergies dogs deal with and are frequently referred to as allergic dermatitis.
- Dog food allergies: While there are very few true “food allergies,” food sensitivities can also cause serious issues in dogs. They often show up as frequent GI issues (think: nausea, vomiting, and gas), chronic ear and/or foot infections, and itchy skin.
- Acute allergic reactions: For most of us dog owners, acute allergic reactions are by far the most dramatic and scary. These can even potentially be anaphylactic, although that rarely happens. More commonly, acute allergic reactions show up as hives and swelling (usually of the face) after exposure to an allergen.
Seasonal Dog Allergies
Allergens can really be anything, at any time. Just like humans with pet allergies or hay fever, dogs with allergies can be triggered by a variety of stimuli. If your dog’s body decides that whatever it’s encountering is strange enough to react to, an allergic reaction can occur.
Allergens can come into contact with your dog in multiple ways, like through the air, through their skin, and in their food. The way that your dog comes into contact with it influences the types of symptoms that they show, which is a good place to start.
Here are just a few of the more common allergens for dogs, including some of the ones most likely to trigger dog seasonal allergies:
- Household cleaning products
- Cigarette smoke
- Fleas or flea saliva
- Dairy products
Regardless of how the allergen reaches your dog, the resulting reaction in its body is essentially the same. The immune system gets triggered by the allergen, and it reacts by releasing histamines into the body. Those histamines cause inflammation, and the area where the allergen enters the body is usually where the symptoms show up.
What Are Common Signs of Dog Seasonal Allergies?
Normally, when we talk about dog seasonal allergies, we’re talking more about the pollen side of things (just like we deal with as humans). With these specific types of allergies, the dog allergy symptoms that you see are far more likely to be respiratory or skin-based, so we’ll focus on those.
Itching, for instance, is often cited as the most common sign that you’re dealing with dog seasonal allergies (or allergies of any kind, really). This itching can occur all over the body (which is seen the most in dogs dealing with flea bite allergies) but occurs most frequently on the face, feet, front legs, ears, and belly. They may even have itchy eyes or an itchy nose.
If your dog has suddenly started digging at their ears, their feet, or their face, it’s worth a trip to the vet. If left untreated, dogs can develop skin infections, bald spots, and scaling.
Also, just like in humans, dogs can develop sneezing and breathing problems like a stuffy nose, nasal congestion, or difficulty breathing. Any breathing issue should be taken very seriously and can get worse before it gets better.
Are Certain Dogs More Likely to Develop Seasonal Allergies?
Any dog can develop seasonal allergies, but certain breeds are more known for dealing with them than others. These allergies usually start to show up between six months and three years of age.
Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Dalmatians, Labrador Retrievers, Shih Tzus, and Boston Terriers are just a few of the breeds most known for developing allergies.
What You Can Do About Dog Seasonal Allergies?
If you’ve noticed that your dog is starting to exhibit those telltale signs, you don’t have to just sit around and watch them suffer. With a few small changes and a little bit of information, you can help at least ease their symptoms while you wait for allergy season to pass by.
Change Up Your Dog’s Exercise Routine
Dogs still need physical activity during allergy season, but that doesn’t mean that you can approach it the same way. While every area is different, pollen levels tend to be the highest across the board in the early morning and the late afternoon. If this is when you usually walk your dog, you may want to try a different time of day.
It’s also a good idea to avoid big fields or areas with many plants, especially if you can physically see the pollen in the air. If your dog’s seasonal allergies are bad enough, it might even be a good idea to invest in a few days at a doggie daycare so that they can get their energy out without having to be outside.
When you get back inside, try wiping your dog off with a damp washcloth, paying special attention to their feet. This helps get any excess pollen that may have followed them inside off of their skin, reducing the likelihood of allergy symptoms.
Try Supportive Supplementation
Because the trigger of the vast majority of seasonal allergy symptoms in the body is the inflammation caused by the release of histamines, helping your dog’s body support itself better may be useful. There are a few that are more commonly suggested, but you can always check with your veterinarian before starting any new supplement.
A few key ingredients to look for (like the ones we’ve used in our Allergy formula here at WINPRO) are fish oil, omega-3 or -6, and/or Bromelain. Each is known for helping to either reduce irritations and support overall health in your dog. Our Allergy formula here at WINPRO works differently than nutritional supplements by traveling through the circulatory system to deliver powerful healing antibodies to those inflamed areas in your dog’s body.
Change Your Air Filter
One of the best ways to take care of your pet’s health (and your own) is by making sure to change the air filters in your home regularly. Even with the best intentions, it’s impossible to stop outside allergens from making their way inside.
If your air filter is clogged from not having been changed often enough, those allergens will just continue to float around your house, triggering dog seasonal allergies and even your own! You’ll want to switch them out at least once every other month and even more often during the height of allergy season just to be safe.
Baths Are Essential
Bathing your dog regularly is important, no matter what time of year it is. However, during allergy season, making sure that your dog gets regular baths can make a difference. Choose a shampoo that is made to be both gentle and hypoallergenic (look for oatmeal as a main ingredient), and make sure to really let it soak into your dog’s fur.
Once you’re done, make sure that you’re also washing your dog’s bed to remove any pollen or other allergens that have collected there before they have a chance to get back onto your dog and cause symptoms. Hot water is best for laundering your pet’s bedding, but use lukewarm water for bathing your pet.
Dog Skin Allergies 101
As we said, dog skin allergies are usually referred to by a medical name… allergic dermatitis. In general, three triggers can lead to issues with your pup.
Although food allergies are their own category, it’s also important to talk about how they can impact your pup’s skin. In addition to the more traditional GI issues food allergies cause, you may also see your pet frequently chewing on their feet or scratching at their ears, underarms, wrists, ankles, muzzle, and groin. Food allergies can also create skin that is so red that you can see it from across the room, especially the inside of the ears.
As opposed to true allergies, food sensitivities don't involve an immune response and are instead a gradual reaction to an ingredient in your dog’s food. For instance, beef, chicken, eggs, corn, yeast, wheat, soy, or dairy products can cause a gradual disruption in the gastrointestinal of your pup, causing vomiting, diarrhea, or dermatologic symptoms.
While environmental allergies include the seasonal triggers mentioned above (like pollen), dogs can also be allergic to dust and mold. These allergies can trigger intense skin itching (especially of the ears and feet) alongside their other side effects.
One of the most common skin conditions in dogs with dermatitis is atopic dermatitis. In this case, the cause of the redness and itching comes down to allergies. Typically, dogs begin to show their allergic signs between 1 and 3 years of age. Unfortunately, just like us, our pups can be allergic to nearly anything: foods, pollen, shampoos, household cleaners, and even other dogs!
That can make it really tricky to be able to narrow it down. Breeds that may be more likely to develop atopic dermatitis include Chinese Shar-peis, Golden retrievers, most Terriers, Irish Setters, Dalmatians, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and West Highland White Terriers (or Westies). Dogs are most likely to start showing signs between six months and three years old.
Atopic dogs are prone to secondary infections. Skin infections, ear infections, and Malassezia (yeast infections) often occur with those who have sensitive skin. When a dog has atopic dermatitis, the immune system reacts too strongly to common environmental allergens that are absorbed through the skin, such as mold spores, dust mites, and grass. Therefore, flea control, careful bathing, and rinsing should be done regularly.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
The other most common type of dermatitis in dogs is flea allergy dermatitis (or FAD). Many dogs are simply allergic to the saliva in a flea’s mouth so, when they are bitten, it triggers an even bigger reaction than the normal itching and scratching.
For dogs with FAD, the reaction can start as soon as just 15 minutes after the bite happens, but it can also take up to 48 hours to show. And, just because you don’t actually see fleas on your precious pup doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Mange is another cause of dermatitis in dogs and possibly one of the most dreaded for many pet owners. You may also have heard it referred to as scabies. Nothing triggers the feeling of bugs crawling all over you than a mange diagnosis.
There are actually two different types of mange: sarcoptic and demodectic. The major difference between the two is where they live on your pet’s body, sarcoptic being in the skin and demodectic in the hair follicle. Sarcoptic mange is also something you can get from your pet, but luckily demodectic mange is by far the most common.
Acral Lick Dermatitis
Acral lick dermatitis often gets confused with hot spots, but there are some differences. Instead of just being a run-of-the-mill skin issue, acral lick dermatitis can get pretty complex. In some cases, it can actually start as the result of boredom or anxious feelings.
Some professionals even consider it to be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). German Shepherds, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and Labrador Retrievers are a few of the breeds that tend to be more likely to develop this condition.
What Symptoms Should I Look For With Dog Skin Allergies?
Obviously, the only way to get your pet diagnosed with dermatitis is to make a trip to your veterinarian for skin testing. We’re not diagnosing anything here, but we did want to point out a few symptoms that should trigger you to jump into action. If you notice any of the things we’re about to mention, schedule an appointment right away.
It’s also a good idea to keep a symptom diary until your pup’s appointment. It could actually help you to narrow down what may be causing the issues! Think of it like doing a little detective work.
The symptoms of dog skin allergies can vary depending on what is triggering them. However, we wanted to present a few of the most common, so you know what exactly to look out for.
- Excessively licking the feet for long periods of time
- Shaking the head (which is a way for them to “scratch” their ears)
- Gnawing or biting at the skin
- Red, irritated skin
- “Hot spots”
- Hair loss
- Runny nose, sneezing, Itching
- Ear infections scratching one or both ears
You may even notice some hair loss in pups that have been dealing with dermatitis for a longer period of time. It’s also important to note that not only can our dogs not talk to us and tell us what’s going on and why they’re itchy, they also have a natural tendency to want to hide when they’re not feeling good.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary, especially when it comes to the skin, it’s a sign you should schedule your dog a vet appointment as soon as possible. Don’t wait until their allergies become a bigger issue because there is definitely the potential for secondary skin infections any time your dog is excessively scratching or chewing at their skin!
How to Manage Dog Skin Allergies
Much like symptoms of dog skin allergies vary depending on the trigger, so does treatment and management. The first and most important step is making sure to get your dog evaluated by their veterinarian.
This can help you narrow down the cause, which can then help you avoid it (if possible). And, as a tip to any new dog owners out there, establishing a veterinarian before trouble strikes is one of the most important things you can do.
Treatment for skin allergies in dogs really depends on the trigger. For instance, you wouldn’t treat a pet dealing with dermatitis by giving them a flea bath, right? That’s why it’s essential to let your vet know what’s going on so that they can help the right way with the right treatment options.
Once your pet is as good as new again, you’ll want to do everything you can to prevent flare-ups from happening. Whether that means you’re willing and able to do full allergy testing or starting your pet on supplements or the proper dose of flea and tick medication, follow your vet’s advice and be consistent. Lowering their stress level can help too, as stress can also negatively affect the immune system!
WINPRO’s Allergy supplement also contains a powerful blend of clinically-proven blood proteins which target the source of the problem rather than topically treat the symptoms you see (i.e., scratching, skin irritation, blotchy fur, etc.). Working at the biological level, blood proteins are one of nature’s best ways to fight inflammation which we all know can cause damage.
If WINPRO Allergy doesn’t seem to be enough for your dog’s situation, know that sometimes, gut health issues can present with allergy-like symptoms. The most powerful combination we have to fight allergies is our Allergy product paired with our Gut Health product.
How To Keep Your Dog As Healthy As Possible
Knowing the right tools that you can turn to if you’re experiencing an issue is only half of the battle. Keeping your dog as healthy as possible can help reduce the likelihood that you’ll have to turn to those techniques in the first place, which is why we focus so much on pet health and wellness here at WINPRO Pet.
It all starts with a focus on maintaining a healthy diet. Feeding your pet the right food in the right amount can help prevent obesity and tummy troubles before they start. And as always, supplementing with supportive products that address your pup’s specific needs may also be recommended.
Paying close attention to your dog so that you know when things are out of character for them is also extremely helpful. Those small changes, like sleeping more or drinking more water than normal, may not be noticeable to other people, but they are easily spotted by a loving owner.
Things like hip discomfort aren’t as obvious as you might think, especially in the early stages, so catching them before they get more advanced can also increase the ways they can be treated and the success you’ll have. Never feel bad about taking your pet to the vet, even if you aren’t sure it’s a big deal. Vets love pets just as much as you love your dog, so they’ll be happy to check them out and relieve your concerns!
Dog skin allergies can be a frustrating part of being a pet owner. Trust us, we’re all dog lovers here at WINPRO Pet too, and we’ve been there.
Learning a little bit more about why they can happen, what symptoms you should be on the lookout for, and what you may be able to do to potentially help out your precious pet can give you the edge in giving them the boot. While we can’t always help our pet avoid their allergens, we can be prepared to help keep them as calm and itch-free as possible.