May 27, 2015
Allergic symptoms in dogs can be similar to humans: itchy, runny eyes, sneezing, and scratching. However, dogs can also be affected in many other ways including vomiting and diarrhea, especially in cases of food allergies. In some breeds, including terriers, retrievers, and brachycephalic (“flat-faced’) breeds like bulldogs and pugs, allergies are quite common. They can also show up at any age, which can make diagnosing them trickier.
If you think your dog may have allergies, the best person to talk to is your veterinarian. Be sure to let him or her know all of the symptoms you have observed, and for how long. Believe it or not, dogs can be allergic to grass, trees, and pollen, just like us! Seasonal and environmental allergies typically present themselves in itchy skin or hot spots (a particular area the dog scratches or chews until it becomes inflamed, often the ears, feet, or tail), noted by scabbing or fur loss. An anti-inflammatory or antihistamine may be prescribed by your vet, or they might even recommend an allergy injection. Frequent washing of the coat and feet (with a gentle product designed specifically for dogs) can also give your pet some relief. Be sure to clean floors and rugs regularly to eliminate pollen and spores tracked indoors on paws and shoes.
If your vet suspects a possible food allergy (some of the possible culprits are certain types of meat, eggs, gluten, and soy), he or she may recommend an elimination diet. This means that your dog will only eat very basic items (a single source of a protein and a carbohydrate, like chicken with white rice) for a prescribed amount of time, until all symptoms clear up. Then, one by one, new foods are introduced back into the diet to determine which ingredient is causing the reaction. Since allergies can possibly take a few days to a week or more to present symptoms, this can be be a very lengthy process. And much of the time, dogs can be allergic to more than one thing. Another avenue that your vet might recommend is to try blood and skin tests. These tests are done by a veterinary dermatologist, and are similar to the ones performed on humans.
It might sound daunting to try and determine what is causing your dog’s discomfort, but your pet will be thankful to you. Be sure to follow each step the vet recommends and take it slow and steady; your patience will be rewarded with a happy and healthy dog.
Kim is Rover-Time’s executive assistant and provides support on daily office operations. She and her husband live in Portage Park with their dog, River, and two cats, Ginger Spice and Esteban.