Itching and Allergies in Dogs

What are Canine Allergies?

Itching and allergies in dogs can be caused by a myriad of reasons, including insect bites and stings, contact allergens, or even food allergies. Determining the cause of the allergy is the first step toward successful treatment. Allergies are either acute or delayed. Acute responses occur immediately in response to an allergen, such as a bite or sting, while delayed allergies may take longer to appear, such as from food or a contact allergen.

An allergic reaction occurs when something bothersome to your dog causes the immune system and its corresponding blood cells to react to that object. The body may be creating a hypersensitive response as is the case with many contact allergens or the reaction could be an immune response to protect the body from bites and stings. While most people experience allergies as coughing, sneezing, itching, and runny eyes, allergies can manifest in pets in a number of different ways.

Some dogs can have an allergic reaction similar to Hay Fever in humans,  with coughing, sneezing, red eyes, and possible clear discharge from the eyes or nose. However, allergies are more commonly manifested in dogs as red, itchy rashes, bumps, or areas of scabbing and debris on the skin and body. Food allergies can appear along with a digestive upset with vomiting or diarrhea, in addition to a skin response. Allergies can appear anywhere on the body.

How Can I Prevent Itching And Allergies?

While it is not always possible to prevent itching and allergies, removing the source of the allergen is usually the best treatment to prevent further problems. Food allergies are an entire subject in themselves.

For allergies to bites and stings, such as Flea Bite Allergy, providing a monthly topical, oral, or shampoo treatment can help prevent fleas, ticks, and other parasites from getting onto the body and causing symptoms. For contact-based allergens, inspecting your dog after a trip outdoors, brushing out any debris or hair, and even wiping down the skin and coat with a pet or baby wipe can also help remove parasites, as well as pollens, grasses, and other contact allergens.

What Should I Do If I Suspect Canine Allergies?

Canine itching and allergies can be very bothersome to your dog and may cause an increase in scratching, licking or chewing at the site of the allergic response. This can lead to more problems such as skin infections, wounds or loss of skin and hair. If you suspect your dog is experiencing an allergy symptom, placing an Elizabethan collar or T-shirt over the affected area can help prevent further trauma until it can be looked at by a vet.

Many vets will start conservatively, then focus on more specific treatments for allergies. The usual steps involve trying out several typical allergy medications, such as diphenhydramine or loratadine. If results are not seen, your vet may move toward further testing, such as blood work, skin scraping, or even an allergy test. Pets that have secondary infections or issues causing added symptoms are usually treated in addition to allergy medications.

For pets that do not respond to typical medications, vets may move toward other treatments, such as immunotherapy or allergy shots. These products stimulate an immune response in your dog and may de-sensitize it to the allergen. Steroids may be used to suppress the immune system from a hyper-response to an allergen.

In cases of severe allergic reactions, such as extreme swelling, trouble breathing, impeding movement, sight or eating, or other dangerous situations, emergency care is usually needed. Emergency care usually involves injections of fast acting anti-allergens as well as possible IV medications and monitoring for any new signs or symptoms.

Natural Remedies For Treating Itching and Allergies

Several natural remedies are available that may help reduce the severity of an allergic response and help your pet feel better. Removing the source of the allergen, if possible, can help along with allergy treatments. Albizzia and Vitamin C are usually the supplements of choice, as they have natural antihistamine properties and can relieve redness, itching, and pain. Calendula and Chickweed salves applied directly onto the affected areas can relieve itch and redness on the skin.

Many mint plants, such as Peppermint and Spearmint, can naturally repel parasites, a cause of allergies in many pets. If you can add additional supplements, such as Garlic or Echinacea, you can help boost the immune system response against these parasites. Some owners also prefer mixing in Rose or Lavender with mints to form a sweet-smelling, natural parasite repellent.

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