Dogs, like humans, can suffer from allergies. Itching of the skin is the most common symptom of a dog allergy. The respiratory tract can be affected causing coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. At times, the eyes and nose may develop a discharge. Also, the digestive system may be affected causing vomiting or diarrhea.  You’ll oftentimes see a dull dry coat or the constant licking of paws, red itchy ears, and other signs that your dog’s body is dealing with inflammation due to allergies.     

About 20 percent of the dogs in the United States suffer from some type of allergy, whether it be atopic dermatitis, flea allergy, food allergy, inhalant allergy, contact allergy, or bacterial allergy.     

Atopic Dermatitis     

An allergic skin disease of dogs, known as canine atopic dermatitis, is caused by the dog’s immune system hypersensitivity to common substances in the environment, such as dust mites or molds. The signs of atopic dermatitis usually appear within the first two years of a dog’s life. If the dog begins to groom excessively, with licking or chewing of the paws, abdomen, and hindquarters, then it may suffer from atopic dermatitis. Also, check to see if the ears are reddened and hot to the touch and there could be a rash under the dog's armpit.    

A hidden sign that a dog is atopic is in the armpits, groin, or between the toes of the paws. Check to see if there is saliva staining. In light-colored dogs, it appears as red-brown staining. In chronic cases, the skin, mostly in the abdomen, may change color from pinkish to angry red, to black mottling.     

Flea allergy, food allergy, and parasitic infestations may mimic the symptoms of atopic dermatitis making it difficult to diagnose. Once fleas, foods, and parasitic infestations are eliminated as being the offending culprits, then allergy skin testing for dust mites, pollens, and molds may be done to determine what causes the dog’s atopic dermatitis.     

Flea Allergy     

The most common form of canine allergy is flea allergy dermatitis. The flea itself is not the culprit in canine flea allergies. It is their saliva that causes the allergic reaction.     

A skin allergy test can be performed to determine if a dog is allergic to flea saliva. If it is, then a strict flea control regimen is required to reduce symptoms.     

Fleas cause most of the allergic reactions in pets. Flea control is essential to our success in treating itchy dogs. Please ask for flea control information if you have any problem at all with fleas on your pet!     

Inhalant Allergy     

Just like humans, canine inhalant allergies are caused by pollens (tree, grass, and weed), dust mites, molds, and chemicals.     

Although any purebred or mutt can acquire inhalant allergies, the most common breeds that are affected include terriers (especially the Westies, Scottish terrier, and Boston terrier), Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Dalmatians, Cockers, German shepherds, Chinese Shar-Pies, Shih Tzu’s, Lhasas, Bichons, Pugs, Irish setters, and Miniature Schnauzers)     

The symptoms of an inhalant allergy include scratching, biting, chewing at feet, and constant licking. The itching may be most severe on feet, flanks, groin, and armpits.  Inhalant allergies are one of the reasons for recurrent ear infections in your dog.  The other is an overabundance of yeast in their bodies.  This can be resolved using a medicated ear cleaner, the addition of pre and probiotics and digestive enzymes to their diet, and moving to a raw or at least a grain-free dry or wet diet.  Always avoid fractionated grains like corn gluten, wheat gluten, rice gluten, etc. in your pet’s diet.     

Food Allergy/Food Intolerance     

Dogs can become allergic to food they have eaten for years which causes many people to overlook the possibility of a food allergy.     

Food allergies only account for 10 percent of allergy problems in dogs. Dogs often can not tolerate soy products, wheat, corn, beef, pork, chicken, milk, whey, eggs, fish, chemical preservatives, or artificial sugars in their food particularly if it’s been cooked or processed.  Oftentimes dogs who have an issue with chicken in a kibble have no issue with chicken in a raw diet.     

Determining the food allergen can be time-consuming. First, eliminate all the possible allergens from the diet, by using a homemade diet consisting of protein and starch the dog has not eaten before. Gradually add back, one at a time for a week, the ingredients of the dog food. If symptoms return, then the offending food allergen should be easily determined. Commercial dog foods can be found that do not contain the offending allergen.     

Food sensitivities in a dog may manifest as itchy skin, scratching at ears, shaking of the head, licking and biting at the hindquarters or feet, rubbing faces on carpeting, ear inflammations, coughing, and rarely vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, sneezing, asthma-like symptoms, behavioral changes, seizures, gagging, and vomiting.     

Find out what foods and environmental contacts may be causing issues for your pet with our Pet Food and Environmental Intolerance Kit.  It helps to give you a guide to begin an elimination diet plan that together with moving toward a more natural diet with fresh, whole foods can bring your pet relief and their body into balance once again.      

Contact Allergy     

Contact allergy is the least common of all types of dog allergies. Some of the common contact allergens include flea collars, wood bedding, grass, plants, and sometimes chemicals.     

Bacterial Allergy     

Several species of Staphylococcus (Staph) bacteria live on normal dog skin. Normally Staph does not cause a problem with its host, but some dogs, especially those with an underdeveloped or compromised immune system can develop an allergy to it.     

With this type of allergy, the dog develops areas of hair loss that look much like ringworm. These areas become infected and need to be treated with antibiotics. The Staph allergic dog usually has recurrent Staph infections.  There are also very effective products that we carry which are safe yet powerful treatment options.     

 Some Treatments:    

*Cold water will usually reduce itching and produce temporary relief. It doesn’t really matter how the water is applied, but it must be at least cool. This effect doesn’t last long, usually less than one-half hour.     

*Shampooing can oftentimes be used to control the itching. This normally has a more lasting effect than the cold water alone, but will not “cure” the problem.  It’s always important to take a holistic, “inside-outside” approach and address the diet and nutritional supplements in addition to topical products that can help alleviate itchy symptoms.  There are many types of natural and therapeutic shampoos available depending on your pet’s individual needs.  We can help you find a good option for you and of course, our self-service dog wash makes it easy to give your pet the relief they need.  For some situations, you may need a prescription shampoo from your veterinarian.     

*Changing your pet’s diet can oftentimes be very beneficial including more fresh, whole foods into the diet. Moving toward an easily digestible fresh, raw diet can help.       

*Talk to your vet. They can check the skin for allergies and run tests.     

Shop our Collection of Natural Solutions for Allergies 
   

We carry a number of natural products at Four Muddy Paws that can help with allergies and skin conditions.  Check out our collection here.      

A healthy gut microbiome is critical for good health and adding in a good probiotic is critical in maintaining good gut health.  Check out our digestive aids here.    

References:
Herbs for Pets - The Natural Way To Enhance Your Pet's Health - Second Edition - By Gregory Tilford and Mary Wulff

The Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats - by Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M.