Does my Dog Have Allergies?
If you're reading this article, chances are great you have come across some subtle concerns or perhaps more aggressive signs that your dog might have allergies. As always the Beach Dog recommends a trip to the vet if you feel your dog may be in distress in any concerning way. There is no better solution than getting a diagnosis from your veterinarian. That being said, in this day and age we have access to many tools that can help you help your dog, without the high cost of veterinarian bills. Searching the web ‘Does my dog have allergies?’
and finding this article is just one of them. So congratulations on taking the first step.
So what is the next step in answering the question, does my dog have allergies? The obvious is matching your concerns with allergy symptoms. Below is a list of behavior and physical reactions your dog may be experiencing that have brought up the concerns that your dog might have allergies.
Dog allergies symptoms can include:
Itchy skin that flakes
Hair loss or bald patches
Excessive licking and biting of the paws
Gastrointestinal (GI) signs: gas, diarrhea, or vomiting
If your dog has any, or a few of these symptoms, the chances are great that your dog has allergies. But do not panic. The VCA Animal Hospital states “Unfortunately, allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. Most allergies appear after six months of age, with most affected dogs over one or two years.” In fact this happened to me twice. Both of my dogs, at or around one years old, started losing fur in patches, became mildly itchy, and started ‘flapping’ their ears. Ear flapping typically means ear irritation. So not only am I authoring this article, I’ve walked the ‘does my dog have allergies?’ path…twice. From my experience, this is something you can manage for your dog. First let’s try to pinpoint if these are food allergies or environmental. Perhaps both, again, don’t panic. Not only can you decipher dog allergies on your own, you can manage them.
While your dog might experience itchy patches and red skin, typically a food allergy will also be accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, diarrhea, or vomiting. According to Small Door Veterinarian food allergies account for 10% of allergies in pets. Other food related symptoms can include yeast infections, typically in the ears. But yeast issues can be environmental too. We will touch on that in the next section. If your dog has a yeast related food allergy avoid sugar. This means no food or snacks with refined carbohydrates like potatoes, corn, wheat, rice, honey, or high-fructose corn syrup. Read ingredients and try to purchase treats with minimal ingredients. You should also avoid giving your dog any table food. Most human diets include sugars, or worse, high fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrates . Unless you practice clean eating, save the human food for humans and stick to healthy option dog foods for your fur babies.
With environmental allergies you might see the symptoms worsen and then subside. This is because your dog is reacting to a shift in the environment, like grasses, pollen, plants, mold, or pests that are seasonal. Yeast can also be attributed to environmental allergies in your dog. Because yeast allergies cover a lot we will discuss yeast allergies greater in the next session. Yeast allergies, pertaining to environmental triggers, typically manifest as ear irritants or infections. Heat and humidity trigger yeast allergies, but they can also be brought on by allergens such as pollen, mold, dust, cigarette smoke, and cleaning products.
Yeast allergies manifest in folded areas on your dog. Most affected are the ears but armpits, groin, and paws can be affected too. Yeast irritants include rash, redness or hot spots. They can be the area your dog scratches most. Ear flapping, with odor and/or discharge can also be a red flag that your dog is experiencing a yeast allergy. As stated above, yeast can become an issue through both environmental and food related triggers.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), can be a tricky culprit. Fleas can survive through all seasons. This allergy is thought to be stimulated by the protein in flea saliva and a dogs immune system response. While you can do a simple at home test by combing your pet’s coat with a flea comb, then wipe on a white towel to see the results. If small black particles turn reddish brown, this is evidence of flea fecal matter and indicate a flea infestation. The best route of action is to contact your veterinarian. Some may require a vet visit, while others may not because if this is a case of flea allergy dermatitis chances are you also have a flea infestation which can be highly spreadable. While there are ways to research, treat and prevent Flea allergy dermatitis we highly recommend contacting your veterinarian because a flea infestation can be complicated to overcome.
If your question has changed from, ‘Does my dog have allergies,’ to ‘what do I do next?’ My first suggestion is a repeat, don’t panic. Dog allergies are common and often manageable. At this point you should congratulate yourself. You just conducted a clinical diagnosis. You’ve done preliminary research, reaffirmed your dog's specific symptoms, and possibly associated the triggers. The next steps are to get definitive answers.
Food Allergies & the Elimination Diet
If you're convinced your dog has a food related allergy you can do what is called an ‘elimination diet.’ This means conducting a total diet switch of what your dog is currently eating. This can be tricky if you're feeding your dog can or bagged dog foods. You will need to be diligent in reading labels. Make sure to choose a replacement that has none of the same ingredients your dog is currently eating. An elimination diet isn’t easy. It’s a lot of guesswork and it requires time and patience. But an elimination diet is the cheapest route to take.
DIY Test Kits
If you don’t mind investing financially the next easiest route to take is to purchase at home test kits. These kits typically use a hair analysis and you can recieve a list of high allergic food items, moderate allergic food items, and low level food items. This takes the guesswork out of the elimination diet. You will receive a definitive list of foods your dog is allergic to. The next step is choosing the foods your dog is not allergic to and watching as the symptoms disappear.
Note: it’s always recommended that you switch up your dog's meals because a dog can build up an allergy or a food intolerance if they are fed the same foods all the time.
Managing a dog's food allergies are easier than managing a dog's environmental allergies, but environmental allergies can also be pinpointed in an at home test kit. Some kites provide both food allergy and environmental allergy testing in the same kit. Depending on the severity of symptoms, once you’ve tested and know the source of the environmental allergies affecting your dog you can then research the best treatments and preventatives.
Let’s Sum it Up: Does My Dog Have Allergies?
Chances are, if you're questioning, does my dog have allergies, they probably do. It’s unfortunate but it’s common, it’s not too hard to figure out, and you can manage most cases on your own. As always the Beach Dog is not here to diagnose or to provide a cure. We simply pass on our experience and always highly recommend that you contact your veterinarian if you question your dog's symptoms beyond general concerns. No one can give you better answers, diagnose, provide treatment, and preventative actions better than your veterinarian. But you can find answers, pinpoint triggers, and relieve symptoms to some dog allergies, should you choose this route.