With the arrival of warmer weather comes a wide variety of allergies for pets and people alike. In people, allergies are likely to show up as respiratory symptoms – sneezing, coughing, runny nose, sinus pressure. While respiratory symptoms are possible in allergic dogs, allergies show up far more commonly as skin problems for our four-legged friends.
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Acute Allergic Reactions in Dogs
An acute allergy may result from a bug bite or an insect sting. Symptoms associated with this kind of allergy are a swollen face, muzzle and eyelids and/or “hives” on the skin. These types of allergic reactions happen in a matter of moments to hours after exposure to the allergen (the cause of the allergy). This type of allergy typically responds fairly well to an antihistamine such as Benadryl. However, it is advisable to consult with your veterinarian should this type of allergy occur for your dog. In very rare instances, this type of allergic reaction can be serious, even fatal.
Atopy – A Common Canine Allergy
Far more common in dogs is a condition known as atopy. Atopy is an allergic reaction to something in your pet’s environment. The allergen may be pollen, a grass, dust mites or any number of other substances.
Atopy is likely to make your dog itchy. He may scratch to the point where he starts to lose his hair, may develop inflamed areas and sometimes scabs on his skin. “Hot spots” are often seen in cases of atopy.
Another very common allergy is one to fleas. When a dog is allergic to fleas, it takes only one flea bite to set off a very uncomfortable allergic response. Often, owners become confused about the cause of the allergy because they may not be able to actually see fleas on their dog, even though fleas are the cause of the allergy.
The symptoms of a flea allergy are very similar to that seen with atopy. The best way to rule out a flea allergy as a cause of the symptoms is to implement appropriate flea control.
The other common allergy seen in dogs is a food allergy. Food allergies can be due to almost any ingredient in a given food. Some of the most common allergies seen are to beef, poultry, chicken and corn.
Food allergies can appear very similar to atopy and flea allergies. However, whereas atopy and flea allergies are often seasonal in the occurrence of the symptoms, food allergies tend to cause itchiness year round.
It can be very difficult to differentiate between atopy, flea allergies and food allergies based on the clinical signs and appearance of the skin lesions. The lesions of all three diseases appear almost identical. As a result, ruling out flea allergies with appropriate flea control is mandatory. If food allergies are suspected, changing the diet and choosing a diet with a protein (meat) source and carbohydrate source that your dog has never eaten before is important. Atopy is diagnosed only when other causes of allergic skin reactions have been ruled out.
About Dr. Lorie Huston
Dr. Lorie Huston is a veterinarian with over 20 years experience treating dogs and cats. She is currently practicing in Providence, Rhode Island. Lorie is an expert in pet health and pet care in addition to being a talented writer and blogger.
Lorie blogs at the Pet Health Care Gazette but is widely published throughout the web. She writes at About.com in the area of veterinary medicine and is the feature writer for pet care at Suite101.com. She is also the National Pet Health Examiner at Examiner.com and the pet columnist at Untrained Housewife.com. Lorie is frequently consulted as an expert in the field of veterinary medicine and pet care. Her articles have also been featured in numerous venues both online and offline, including FIDO Friendly, Pet Sitter’s World and many others.
Lorie is a professional member of both the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the Cat Writers Association (CWA) in addition to being a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association (RIVMA) and the Veterinary Information Network (VIN).