Allergies are one of the top causes of veterinary visits for dogs. Between environmental allergies, food allergies and allergies from flea bites, dogs are at risk of developing an uncomfortable group of symptoms that can be difficult to pinpoint.
One of the most common of these symptoms is itchiness of the skin. Unfortunately, this symptom could potentially be tied to any of the typical types of allergies, making it even more difficult for its root cause to be discovered.
If you suspect your dog has allergies, the best thing you can do is visit a veterinarian, who can help you determine what kind of allergies your dog has and test for specific allergens. However, there may also be a few ways you can try to narrow down the potential allergies your dog is suffering from ahead of time to make the identification and testing processes easier.
Allergy symptoms: Do they make a difference?
Unluckily for you and your pet, allergies tend to manifest in very similar ways. All dogs will have a slightly different reaction to different allergens, as all immune systems are slightly different, but the major symptoms tend to be the same.
Allergy symptoms typically include:
- Small, red bumps on the skin
- Itchiness of the skin
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
- Watery eyes
Skin allergies are most common in dogs, although some will also experience gastrointestinal upset.
Both types of symptoms—skin and gastrointestinal—can manifest for different kinds of allergies. That being said, gastrointestinal problems are more commonly linked to food allergies, rather than skin allergies.
Considerations for your dog’s allergies
Because symptoms can be attributed to multiple allergy types, you shouldn’t assume that an upset stomach indicates food allergies while skin problems indicate seasonal allergies. More information is needed to really determine what is causing your dog’s immune responses to go haywire.
Think about the following things to help you narrow down the cause of the issue.
When did they start?
Identifying when the allergy symptoms began may help you narrow down what caused them. Did they occur randomly one day in the middle of winter, or did they manifest right at the start of spring or fall? Was there something your dog had contact with that it normally doesn’t and manifested allergy symptoms soon after that?
Are they routine, seasonal or random?
Similar to the question above, when do your dog’s allergies occur? Have you noticed that your dog gets itchy every spring or summer, but its symptoms clear up during winter? If so, seasonal allergies are more likely. Are the symptoms random and sporadic? Perhaps your dog is allergic to a particular table scrap you feed it or is allergic to a household or uncommon substance.
Did you recently switch your dog’s food?
Sometimes, a recent change in food can help pet parents discover their pet’s allergies. If the new food has a different type of carbohydrate or protein than the previous food, and your pet is allergic to that particular ingredient, food allergies may manifest seemingly out of nowhere.
Be mindful, however, that food allergies can develop over time, as well, so your dog may become allergic to the same food you’ve been feeding it for years.
Does your dog have fleas?
Sometimes, fleas go undetected on dogs until they start displaying more serious symptoms. Dogs can be allergic to flea saliva that is transferred from flea bites, so the allergies may not stem from environmental allergens or food at all.
Get veterinary care
Of course, consideration of these allergy-related questions can only get you so far in determining what kind of allergies your dog suffers from. The best way to get answers is to visit the vet and have your dog examined and tested.
One thing to remember is that some allergy symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses, meaning your dog may not have allergies at all. Visiting the vet is the only way for you to rule out those other, potentially more serious health conditions to come to a conclusion of allergies.
From there, your vet may ask you similar questions to those above to help narrow down the scope. Having the answers to those questions is a good way to make the testing process easier.
Your vet may decide to start your dog on a food trial to see whether its food is causing the problem. During this food trial, your dog will need to eat food with a novel (new) protein and carbohydrate, and you’ll need to observe its symptoms to see if they go away.
If food allergies are determined to not be the problem, your vet may do a “skin prick” test to test your dog’s reactions to small quantities of various allergens and pinpoint the exact cause of its symptoms.
By working with your vet, you should be able to narrow down the root of your dog’s allergies and find solutions to keep your dog safe, healthy and comfortable year-round.