Canine Allergies 101

by Nancy Boland

What causes canine allergies?

The culprit is an overactive immune system. The immune system is designed to protect, but when it mistakes non-harmful environmental substances (allergens) as threats, then an allergic reaction can occur. For example, if your dog comes across rye grass or rapeseed, and his immune system views it as a threat, an allergic reaction occurs.

Are some breeds more susceptible to allergies than others?

Environmental allergies are often more common in golden retrievers and German shepherds. Breed susceptibility can vary among certain geographic locations so it’s always worth researching if your dog is a breed at risk of such allergies.


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How can I tell if my dog is suffering from allergies? What are the common symptoms?

Itching is the obvious and common sign of an allergy. Dogs exhibit itching either by licking or chewing the skin or scratching with their feet. Common areas affected are the face, ears, feet, belly, and armpit region.

What are common things dogs may be allergic to?

Common environmental allergens include dust mites, fleas, pollen, trees, weeds, and flowers. Dogs may also have food allergies or food intolerance to certain ingredients, such as beef, chicken, fish, and soy.

How can canine allergies be treated?

It is important to keep two points in mind. Environmental allergies can be managed but not cured, and re-checks are crucial to assess response and modify treatments. Here are some current treatment options:

  • Corticosteroids Very effective for dogs suffering from atopy. Injectable products are long-lasting and should be used cautiously. Long-term continual use is not recommended.
  • Antihistamines (e.g. Benadryl): Can help in some cases, but histamine is only one of many causes of itchiness. Your vet will often use this class of drugs in combination with corticosteroids.
  • Cyclosporine Effective in most cases, typically fewer side effects than corticosteroids but can cause stomach upset initially.
  • Allergy Vaccine : Allergy vaccines can help reduce the symptoms in patients over time, from months to years
  • Topical Antimicrobial Therapy Vetericyn is a safe and effective topical antibacterial, anti-yeast, and antifungal spray.
  • Shampoos, Rinses, Conditioners : All of these are a vital part of therapy and can help keep your dog comfortable.

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