When it comes to allergies, you may be surprised to learn dogs are a little different to humans. Essentially, when your pooch comes into contact with an allergen, it kicks off an immune response to the allergen – warding it off like a dangerous intruder. Allergens can be problematic when inhaled, ingested or when they come in contact with a dog’s skin.
Dog allergy symptoms
Symptoms of a dog allergy may include:
- Watery, red eyes
- Itchy, reddened or scabbed skin
- Ear infections
Left untreated, your pet may develop a secondary bacterial or yeast skin infection as a result, which can cause hair loss, scabs or crusts on the skin.
What is your dog allergic to?
There are many potential causes of dog skin allergies. Common allergens include:
- Tree, grass and weed pollens and/or dander
- Mould (specifically, the spores) and mildew
- Dust mites
- Cleaning products
- Fleas and flea-control products
- Perfumes, cigarette smoke and other products that produce fumes or smoke
Food can also be the source of the problem, which can be difficult to diagnose. A food allergy will typically cause a wider range of symptoms, including gastrointestinal upset, and will require the help of your vet to diagnose, as a strict elimination diet is the only way to be sure what is causing it and it will need to be followed closely. Once diagnosed, your vet can help you develop a healthy diet that will suit their needs without causing a reaction.
And while any breed or age of dog can develop allergies, they appear more commonly in terriers, setters, retrievers, pugs and bulldogs.
How can I help my dog with allergies?
It can be tough to pin point the allergen, however fleas, dust mites, pollens and grasses are a good place to start. Allergies can also be seasonal, so an allergy may only require targeted treatment or intervention at certain times of the year.
If the allergen is not immediately obvious, your vet is the best person to help get to the bottom of the issue and recommend treatments for your pet. This is likely to include a thorough check up and a look at their medical history. If the cause cannot be easily determined, they may recommend diagnostic tests.
If they determine symptoms are caused by an allergen that is impractical to remove or your pet to completely avoid, they may recommend a medication to use when their allergies flare up. They may recommend antihistamines, allergy vaccines, or in severe cases, steroids.
However, ideally, we would like to improve the function of the skin as a barrier, so allergens aren’t allowed in in the first place! By adding fatty acids to their diet, and focussing on skin repairing shampoos and conditioners, we can start to rebuild the health and strength of the skin.
In terms of flea allergies, prevention is better than cure. Choose a treatment product (these are widely available through vets, pet stores and supermarkets, and your vet can advise you on what works best for your pets) and stick to the schedule. Set an alarm in your phone or put a note in your calendar to ensure you don’t forget and treat all animals in your home.
Natural remedies to remove dog allergens from the home
There are a wide range of natural remedies you can use to remove allergens from the home. Given dust and mites are a common cause – for humans as well as dogs, regularly washing bedding in hot water (once a week is ideal if you can swing it), and at least a weekly vacuum of all floors and couches will help.
Furniture and window surfaces are another spot dust loves to settle, so a weekly wipe down with microfiber cloths can be helpful (and use non-toxic cleaning agents around your home.) If time is short, keeping surfaces free from clutter will mean less dust collectors on offer. Also pay special attention to your pet’s fave spots and keep them as free from allergens as possible, and clear air filters and air-conditioning filters regularly.
Easy ways to improve dog skin health and function
Bathing your dog can keep their hair and skin free from allergens but talk to your vet first about a regime that won’t dry out their skin – different breeds and skin types can tolerate different frequencies of washing and products. There are a variety of hypoallergenic shampoos that may help prevent skin irritation, so select a dog shampoo specially formulated for inflamed or sensitive skin. A daily brush will also help remove allergens from the great outdoors, as may wiping down their feet to prevent them tracking allergens into the house.
In terms of diet, ensure their immune function is at its optimum level with a well-balanced diet, free of unnecessary fillers and animal by-products. Maximising the intake of essential fatty acids can also go a long way in both improving the function of the skin as a barrier, and reducing inflammation that can cause itchiness. Dogs that are highly susceptible to seasonal allergies may benefit from a diet low in grain content, as foods rich in carbohydrates may trigger and worsen inflammation – this can be discussed with your vet for advice specific to your pet.
At the end of the day, the key to treating your pet’s allergies at bay is to work on trying to improve skin health as well as try and eliminate the cause (including keeping dust at bay – something the human hay fever suffers will appreciate as well!), and if you’re having no luck, get in touch with your vet for further help and recommendations.
PAW NutriDerm® Replenishing Shampoo
An innovative, advanced way to wash and care for your dog’s skin. A sulphate-free, moisture rich, oatmeal pet shampoo it is suitable for dogs and cats with normal, dry and itchy skin.
PAW NutriDerm® Replenishing Conditioner
An innovative, advanced way to moisturise and provide key nutrients to your dog’s skin as well as leaving the coat silky smooth and fresh. Containing advanced Cerasine® skin nutrient complex this product is suitable for dogs and cats with normal, dry and itchy skin.
- PAW Dermega® Omega 3 & 6 Oral Supplement
Containing omega fatty acids, it aids in the treatment of allergic and inflammatory dermatological conditions responsive to polyunsaturated fatty acids in dogs..