I think my dog may be allergic. Do you have any tips?

Allergies are fairly common among dogs, and just like a human, a dog can develop a new allergy at any age.

The most common dog allergy is flea bites, and a couple of bites can trigger a reaction that will last for weeks. The second most common is inhaling allergens, for instance pollen or mold. Dog food allergies are the third most common.

Allergies are caused by the immune system responding to something it believes is foreign. This defense mechanism would normally protect the body, but in the case of allergies it causes an over-reaction to something harmless.

Examples of symptoms of allergy:

  • Itchy skin that may look red, moist, or scabbed
  • Scratching or licking
  • Runny, itchy eyes
  • Ear infections and itchy ears
  • Itchy back or base of tail
  • Sneezing
  • Paw chewing or swollen paws

Common allergens include tree, grass, and weed pollens, mold spores, dust, dander, feathers, food ingredients, fleas, and flea control products. There are many more and if your dog exhibit symptoms, your veterinarian can help you find the culprit.

Grass allergies are fairly common, and caused by pollen. These microscopic spores are inhaled, can be absorbed through the dog’s skin, and even come into the house on humans’ clothes and shoes.

Pollen can travel long distances, and just staying away from grass doesn’t necessarily “fix” a grass allergy.

It can also be difficult to diagnose a grass allergy, because the symptoms may seem like a general, all-over itchiness. But, it is often seasonal. Common treatments include cortisone cream and a special shampoo. There are also allergy shots, just like for people.

When it comes to food allergies, the immune system most often reacts to a protein. Common triggers are beef, dairy products, chicken, eggs, soy, corn, and wheat. Dogs generally need to be exposed to the same food ingredient for a couple of years or more to develop an allergy.

If you think your dog has a food allergy, your veterinarian can help you figure out what it is. You will probably need to feed a prescription diet for a few months – and nothing else besides this diet. The idea is to eliminate potential causes of the problem through feeding your dog something completely different from what they’ve eaten in the past.

Once the dog is symptom free, one ingredient can be added back at a time to see if the immune system reacts.

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