It’s spring; flowers are in full bloom and the tree pollen is everywhere. My allergies are at full force and Taylor has started licking his paws again.
Pet allergies, and especially dog skin allergies, are very common. Food, carpeting, blankets, dust mites, mold spores, pollen, plastic food dishes, furniture stuffing and ornamental plants all have the potential to trigger allergies in dogs.
In some instances, a highly allergic pet may have several allergies at once. The severity of allergies, which can be seasonal or year-round, varies greatly. The most common symptom from an allergy is intense itching (known as “pruritus”), which may be localized at spots or might be systemic, covering the pet’s entire body.
Contact Allergies. Fleas are a common source of contact allergies. Other common contact allergens include grasses, hay, plants and trees. Toxins and chemicals (pesticides, carpet cleaners, etc.) provide additional potential sources for skin problems for both outdoor and indoor dogs. If a pet is seldom exposed to fleas, a single fleabite can inflame a dog’s skin for several days.
Food allergies are generally due to ingredients in your pet’s food or treats. Symptoms of food allergies include itching and/or noticeable digestive trouble. A food allergy can be a reaction to almost any ingredient, such as soy, wheat, yeast or beef. Food allergies are so common that pet food manufacturers have invested millions of dollars in research, development and promotion of diets to help with food allergies in dogs.
Inhalant Allergies. With inhalants, pollen is the most common type of allergen, but cigarette smoke, air fresheners or other airborne pollutants can also be problematic.
Skin problems caused by allergies are known as “allergic dermatitis.” Regardless of what causes the problem, this condition is common but a challenge to diagnose, can last a lifetime and, once identified, can be resistant to treatment.
Dogs with inhalant dermatitis will lick and chew at their paws and scratch their face, eyelids and ears. Others may erupt in hot spots or their skin may redden and be intensely itchy all over.
Sometimes there’s a bad smell, called “seborrhea,” associated with allergic dermatitis, often because of a secondary infection.
Seborrhea is a skin disorder in which the outer layers of the skin, the sebaceous glands, and the follicles are over-productive, leading to dull fur, dry flakiness and smelly oiliness. This sebum, which becomes rancid, is the source of the odor. Frequent bathing, especially with a harsh shampoo, can irritate the skin and make this condition much worse.
The list of symptoms is endless, but severe itching is the common ailment.
In addition to being difficult, diagnosis of allergies is time-consuming, very costly, and often inconclusive. As a result, allergies are seldom properly diagnosed, and instead, the symptoms are treated in hopes of relieving the pet’s discomfort.
These treatments may include topical medications, soothing baths, ointments and sprays, oral antihistamines, or steroids. Caution: If you are sent home with a prescription for cortisone, or your dog has been given a cortisone shot “to stop the itching,” your dog may ultimately be worse off than before if the true diagnosis happens to be an unrecognized case of Sarcoptic mites.
The burrowing Sarcoptes scabiei mite can cause Sarcoptic mange, a highly contagious skin disease.
A key point to remember is this that there is no cure for allergies. What we can do is avoid the food, material or parasite that is triggering the immune response, and treat both the symptoms and the resulting infections to restore the skin to good health.
Always, at the very first sign of itching, look for broken skin, a bite, a sore or any irritation, and apply a good antiseptic salve or lotion to kill the infection and prevent the irritation from getting worse. In most cases, this is the only remedy you will need.
Dirty Dogs Spa and Boutique at 929 Heritage Lake Road, Wake Forest, has a full line of all natural flea defense and skin care products for your pet.