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We often think of humans as suffering from allergies to dogs or cats, but dogs, themselves, are often on the receiving end of this unpleasant condition! In fact, allergies are very common among dogs and cause various uncomfortable symptoms. If your dog has allergies, it could suffer from severely itchy skin, rashes, skin infections, recurring ear infections, vomiting, chronic diarrhea, anal gland issues, and much more. Without treatment, these dogs may be suffering.

If you are online searching for information about dog allergies, we’re glad you found us! “Dr. Google” is not always the most trustworthy resource, especially when something as important as your dog’s health is at stake. Your dog’s veterinarian is a much better source of information. At Aspen Veterinary Clinic, we understand the need for accurate online information, so we want to share our answers to some of the most common questions about dog allergies. If your dog needs a veterinarian in Flagstaff, Arizona, we would be happy to help. Schedule an appointment today by calling 928-526-2423, or request an appointment on our website .

How common are dog allergies?

Allergies are much more common in dogs than many people realize. Allergies are one of the primary issues we see in our canine patients and are becoming more and more prevalent. Patients present with various symptoms from vomiting and diarrhea to itching, scratching, chewing, licking, shaking, rubbing, and scooting, but allergies are often the underlying cause in most of these cases.

What are some common dog allergies?

Just like people, dogs can experience several different types of allergies, and these allergies are specific to each individual. This can make diagnosing and managing allergies challenging, but fortunately, at Aspen Veterinary Clinic, we have extensive experience dealing with allergies and the challenges they bring. In general, there are two major categories of allergies, environmental allergies and food allergies. Each of these major categories is then broken down into more specific areas. As an example, environmental allergies include things like pollen allergies, mold allergies, tree allergies, grass allergies, flea or mite allergies and many more. To complicate environmental allergies further, a dog may react to direct exposure or contact with the skin such as playing in grass, or breathing in or inhaling the allergen such as mold spores in the soil, or ingesting the allergen (not to be confused with a food allergy), such as licking or grooming pollen off the fur. On the other hand, food allergies or food intolerances are allergies towards food and/or treats. When dealing with food allergies, the protein source is the cause of the reaction and the most prevalent allergens we see include beef, chicken and dairy, but any protein source, such as corn or soy, can also cause reaction and is specific to each individual allergy patient. Contrary to popular belief, food allergies do not always manifest as GI problems like vomiting, diarrhea, excessive gas or problems with the anal glands, and vice versa; environmental allergies do not always manifest as skin issues or rashes.

How do allergies impact the health and well-being of my dog?

If you suffer from allergies, you know how miserable they make you. They aren’t much fun for your dog, either. Allergies are considered an inflammatory disease and are often viewed as a mild form of autoimmunity. Any untreated inflammatory condition will get worse with age, and chronic inflammation leads to organ damage and/or cancer. While symptom severity varies from one patient to another, even mild allergies can make dogs uncomfortable and impact their overall health and quality of life.

What are some signs and symptoms of allergies in dogs?

Allergies can cause a wide range of symptoms in your canine companion, many of which have numerous other potential causes. That’s why seeking veterinary care is so important when you notice something unusual with your furry family member.

Common symptoms of allergies in dogs include:

  • Constant itching, scratching and chewing
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Frequent bowel movements and/or diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive gas
  • Scooting and anal gland issues
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Recurrent skin infections
  • Hair loss
  • Sneezing and reverse sneezing
  • Runny eyes

Can I diagnose my dog's allergies at home?

While your dog’s symptoms may lead you to believe they have allergies, you cannot thoroughly diagnose the problem at home. Pinpointing precisely what allergens a dog is sensitive to is often challenging — even for veterinarians. Depending on your dog’s symptoms and medical history, we may need to perform cytology, blood tests (serum allergy testing), or skin scrapes to reach a solid diagnosis. In the case of food allergies, we may require a food-elimination diet. In fact, regularly changing diets and self-treating at home can often make diagnosing and managing your dog’s allergies more challenging, so if your dog is experiencing any allergy symptoms, please contact your veterinarian right away.

How will the veterinarian diagnose allergies in my dog?

As mentioned above, we may recommend various tests to diagnose allergies. In many cases, we can also reach a diagnosis through exclusion. We start by performing a thorough physical exam to look for things that could easily rule out allergies, like fleas or ticks. The skin tells us a lot, so we’ll look closely for bacteria, yeast, and other common problems. Acquiring a thorough history can also provide clues that could easily trigger an allergic reaction such as when the symptoms started, changing seasons, moving to a new area, changing food, and other factors.

Diagnosing allergies in dogs is like being a detective and solving a mystery in many ways. As veterinarians, our job is to put all the puzzle pieces together to figure out what’s going on and recommend a treatment protocol to ease the patient’s symptoms.

How are dog allergies treated using anti-inflammatory therapy?

We use a few different anti-inflammatory therapies to treat dog allergies. While steroid shots were the method of choice in the past, today’s anti-inflammatory medications, including Apoquel and Cytopoint, are safer and more effective.

Also, our team will often recommend natural anti-inflammatory products such as Dermaquin, Omega-3 fatty acids, and other veterinary specific supplements for improving the health of the skin. These supplements are available over the counter, and they’re also very affordable. When administered according to your veterinarian’s instructions, these supplements can help alleviate symptoms naturally.

How is shampoo therapy used for dog allergies?

Shampoo removes allergens, like dust, pollen, and grass, from your dog’s skin and coat. By eliminating the allergen, it prevents the allergic response. Many hypoallergenic shampoos are pH balanced and also contain antibacterial and/or antifungal ingredients to help prevent and/or treat secondary skin infections. Some also include colloidal oatmeal or hydrocortisone to soothe the skin and ease itchiness. Medicated shampoos can even treat skin infections that are resistant to antibiotics. Not all shampoos are created equal and make sure you are using the appropriate shampoo recommended by your veterinarian as many over the counter shampoos will exacerbate your dog’s allergy symptoms by drying out or damaging your dog’s skin.

What is hyposensitization or desensitization therapy for dog allergies?

Hyposensitzation and desensitization therapy are better known as immunotherapy and is often referred to as allergy shots or allergy drops. The process involves exposing the patient to small amounts of allergens to which they are sensitive. Immunotherapy, as a drug free option, is the safest long term allergy therapy. We do this either by injection or placing the substance under the tongue. The amount of allergen used is enough to trigger an immune response but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction.

Over time, we gradually increase the amount of allergen. This helps the patient become desensitized to the allergen and eventually reduces allergy symptoms. While we typically cannot cure allergies, immunotherapy and desensitization reduces symptoms and makes them more manageable.

For additional information about dog allergies, please reach out to us! You can call us directly at (928) 526-2423, or you can email us at [email protected]. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram.