Just like people, your pet can have allergies too. Rex has them, and it caused a lot of problems when he was just a pup. How did I know? He constantly was licking his paws. And his poop? It seemed like he had chronic diarrhea. He had itchy and runny eyes and he sneezed. A lot. I didn’t know WHAT was wrong with him and went to the vet. Turns out those are just some of the symptoms for identifying that a dog (or cat – let’s not leave them out of the equation) has allergies. And thus we found out – Rex had allergies to his food. So our blog this month is in the form of FAQ’s about allergies and what to do about them.
What are some of the symptoms?
- Increased scratching
- Itchy, red, most or scabbed skin
- Increased scratching
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Itchy back or base of tail (most commonly flea allergy)
- Itchy ears and ear infections
- Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
- Paw chewing/swollen paws
- Constant licking
What can dogs be allergic too?
Same things people can be allergic too, including:
- Tree, grass and weed pollens
- Mold spores
- Dust and house dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Food ingredients (e.g. beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy)
- Prescription drugs
- Fleas and flea-control products (The bite of a single flea can trigger intense itchiness for two to three weeks!)
- Cleaning products
- Insecticidal shampoo
Are some dogs more at risk than others?
While any dog can develop allergies at any time of live, some dogs seem to be especially susceptible. These include terriers, setters, retrievers, and flat-faced breeds such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers.
Food wasn’t included in this list. Can dogs be allergic to food?
You already know the answer to this one. Rex has food allergies – and so can your pet. Food allergies can show up at any time of your dog’s life. Ten percent of all allergy cases with dogs is food related. Dogs can also suffer from food intolerance, which is different from food allergies.
How do the allergies get triggered?
It’s a genetic problem and, when it occurs, it usually is a result of exposure to whatever it is they are allergic to. The most common allergens are beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit and fish. And most dogs are usually allergic to more than one thing.
How do I determine if my dog has food allergies?
Work with your vet. If your dog’s symptoms indicate a food allergy (and not something else) they will most likely take a skin test (blood tests don’t work) and try an elimination diet – feeing a food that has a different protein (meat) source and carbohydrate than your dog ate before. Your vet may also suggest that you start a hypoallergenic diet. These are made of proteins that have been broken down to a very small level, which should not trigger a reaction in your dog.
An elimination diet is not easy – there will be no treats, table food rawhides, etc. Since you don’t know what the allergy is, you want to eliminate confusion by eliminating “suspects.”
Is there anything a dog owner can do to eliminate allergies?
This is a tough question. There is a lot of research going on but not all of the answers are known yet. However, you CAN take some steps that might help your dog fight them off. These include:
Promote a healthy diet. Ensure your dog or puppy has the nutrition and health care they need
Watch out for gastroenteritis. In theory, this is easy. Don’t let your dog eat anything but dog food and treats. But we all take our dogs for walks, and we understand just how difficult that can be. A little grass? Delightful. Some dirt? Even better. Sticks? Haven’t found one I don’t like. And although his makes us cringe – a little poop is a delicacy for sure. It can be very hard to police what goes into your dog’s mouth – but you have to try.
(On a side note – if your dog has gotten into the garbage or eaten something they shouldn’t have, feed your dog a low-protein diet (boiled white rice or potato) and add a little pumpkin. If diarrhea is not better in 72 hours, go see your vet. Do not try to treat them with over-the counter medicine to stop the diarrhea – which is meant to get bad things out.)
Don’t give up
It won’t be easy, but once you discover what it is that is causing the problem, you will be able to put together a plan for having a healthy diet with no problems. Rex still has allergies, but we avoid those things that give him problems and he devours everything else.
Our next blog will focus on how to find the right pet food – allergies or not.