Allergies In Dogs: How Does It Affect The Dog’s Health?
In the same way that hay fever and food allergies are frequent problems in human medicine, veterinary surgeons are seeing a growing number of canine patients who suffer from allergic reactions.
Dogs more typically develop skin problems as a result of hypersensitivities than humans do, who more commonly show signs of rhinitis and conjunctivitis, which can cause runny eyes and sneezing.
Approximately one in six allergic dogs will develop symptoms similar to hay fever, and these symptoms typically occur in conjunction with skin irritation rather than in place of it.
The Origins of Allergy
The overactivity and malfunction of the immune system are both reflected in the condition known as allergy, also known as hypersensitivity.
The immune system’s principal job is to identify and get rid of “foreign” elements that are harmful to the body and pose a threat to overall health.
Antigens are the names given to these foreign substances, which are most frequently viruses, bacteria, or parasites.
On the other hand, in the case of an allergy, the antigen that is being targeted by the immune system is essentially harmless and is referred to as an allergen.
Instead of being brought on by the allergen itself, allergy symptoms are really brought on by the body’s defense mechanisms.
The mechanism that underlies the development of allergies is frequently a breakdown in the barrier that separates the inside of the body from the outside world, whether it is in the respiratory tree, the gut, or the skin.
These compromised barriers allow allergens, which are typically very small particles, to enter the body and be transported by antigen-presenting cells.
These molecules subsequently communicate with other cells known as lymphocytes, which result in the production of antibodies against the allergen.
Antibodies are specialized proteins that are designed to form a strong bond with specific antigens or allergens.
These antibodies are created in large quantities in genetically predisposed dogs, and they are distributed throughout the body with the intention of protecting the dog from a potential ‘attack’ by the allergen in the future.
Antibodies, which in the case of allergy are of a specific type called immunoglobulin E (IgE), are carried on the surfaces of yet other immune cells that contain granules of caustic and inflammatory chemicals, including a protein called histamine.
The antibodies in question are of the immunoglobulin E (IgE) variety. Attachment of surface IgE to known allergens results in the eruption of these granules.
This is a process that is designed to break down and remove the allergen, however it results in discomfort and irritation for the animal.
In the field of veterinary medicine, atopic dermatitis is by far the most common form of allergic reaction.
As was just said, this is because of a higher permeability of the skin or respiratory system, which, when paired with a hereditary predisposition to develop hypersensitivity, causes the condition.
This susceptibility may or may not be inherited, as genetic illnesses can occur by the random mutation of genes, however, there are breeds that are strongly associated with this predisposition.
For instance, West Highland White Terriers, Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, and Shar Peis, to name but a few, are particularly prone to allergies, and it is very likely that puppies born to parents who suffer from atopy will also have the condition themselves.
Signs Of Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis often makes its first appearance between the ages of 6 months and 3 years in most patients.
Itchiness is the most prominent symptom, and pet owners may detect it even before other symptoms appear. Reddening, scabbing, and flaking of the skin are visible signs of skin that have gotten increasingly irritated and damaged over time.
Pustules (spots) and blisters may emerge, further irritating the dog. The vicious cycle of itching and scratching leads to gradually deteriorating damage.
Pustules are spots, and blisters are fluid-filled sacs. Another reason for early intervention and management of this debilitating problem is that as the skin becomes more damaged, its permeability further increases.
As a result, dogs with atopy tend to develop hypersensitivity to increasing numbers of allergens over time, which is another reason for early intervention and management of this problem.
Spring and summer are the periods of the year when the greatest number of allergens are present, which explains why seasonal allergies afflict so many dogs with atopy.
Because pollen and plants are also prominent allergens, symptoms of atopic eczema may only manifest themselves during the warmer months of the year.
This is despite the fact that an allergy to dust mites is currently the most common cause of symptoms in atopic eczema.
The areas surrounding the lips and eyes, the ear canals (with otitis being the only indication in many animals), the paws, and the perineum are the places that are typically affected by atopy.
In moderate cases, the only symptoms a dog may have are redness and itching; however, the vast majority of dogs will eventually develop secondary infections with bacteria and yeast, self-excoriations, and hair loss.
The increased populations of Malassezia yeast that live on the skin of atopic patients are mostly responsible for the strong odor that has been described as “doggy” that is present in many atopic patients.
When you pet the dog, you may notice that his skin has a greasy texture as a result of the overgrowth of yeast, which can also be uncomfortable.
A thorough examination is required to make an accurate diagnosis of atopy. I want to emphasize the word “properly” because many dogs are given a diagnosis of the ailment when it is not actually the cause of their skin disease.
Instead, skin disease is caused by other problems. The medicines that are used to treat atopy will reduce symptoms in any itching dog during the initial stages; but, if the treatments are not utilized effectively, they may actually worsen the underlying illness.
Because there is no conclusive diagnostic test for atopy, the condition must be diagnosed by the process of elimination. Instead, we need to demonstrate that the itching skin a patient is experiencing is not due to another condition.
Before committing to the long-term course of therapy that is required for an allergic dog, it is imperative to determine whether or not the dog suffers from parasites, flea allergy, primary infection, or food allergy.
The steps that need to be taken to eliminate these illnesses are described further down.
It is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of canine allergy reactions are triggered by hypersensitivity to foods rather than environmental allergens.
The lining of the digestive tract is loaded with immune cells, and the contents of the intestinal tract are full of proteins that may cause allergic reactions if they are foreign.
As is the case with atopy, some individual dogs have a propensity in their genes that makes it possible for them to have abnormal responses to some of these drugs.
Labrador Retrievers and West Highland White Terriers appear to be affected more frequently than most other breeds, despite the fact that the data supporting breed predispositions in food allergy is significantly less strong.
In addition, certain breeds are predisposed to a disorder known as protein-losing enteropathy and, by definition, have higher gut permeability.
This predisposition can lead to the condition. These include the Old English Sheepdog and the Wheaten Terrier, which means that they, too, may be more susceptible to developing a sensitivity to certain foods.
Although it is more usual to observe individuals suffering just from ear difficulties in atopy than it is to see them suffering from a food allergy, the distribution of the skin changes that occur in food allergy is quite diverse.
The signs and symptoms may present themselves at any age; in fact, they may do so even in senior dogs that have never had a history of skin illness.
There is a widespread misperception among people who own pets that allergies are triggered by eating new foods.
In reality, however, the majority of food allergies manifest themselves in canines after they have been fed the offending protein source for at least two years.
The Approach To Dog With The Itchiness
When an owner is faced with an itchy dog, the first thing they should do is make sure their pet is up to date on any anti-parasite medications.
Fleas are by far the most prevalent cause of dog itching, and the good news is that they are typically not difficult to treat.
If there is only a light infestation, the problem can be quickly resolved by using a good quality spot-on product or oral medication that can be purchased from a veterinary clinic or pharmacy. These products will kill all fleas within a matter of hours after being applied, so the problem will be solved quickly.
In the case of more severe infestations, it is also necessary to treat the home as well as the dog’s bedding because a significant number of fleas can survive in the surroundings for extended periods of time. It is essential to treat all animals that come into contact with one another at the same time in order to ensure that the fleas have nowhere to hide.
After receiving one of these treatments, a dog that is itching due to fleas should show symptoms of relief within forty-eight hours of receiving the medication. Any owner whose dog still scratches at this stage, in my opinion, should get their pet checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Even though there are certain at-home steps that can be taken to treat allergic dogs in the long term, which will be detailed below, these do not provide immediate relief, and the cycle of itching and scratching typically results in a condition that gets progressively worse over time.
Ruling out Parasites
When dealing with cases like this, the first thing a veterinarian should do is exclude the possibility that parasites are to blame for the symptoms. Other insects, such as mites and lice, can also cause itching, but they are more difficult to diagnose and, in many cases, more difficult to eradicate than fleas.
It is necessary for the veterinarian to do repeated skin scrapes in order to locate these organisms or to rule out the possibility that they are there. To do this, a bladed device is used to scrape a layer of cells off the surface of the skin that is afflicted.
After that, the cells and any detritus that may have been linked with them are placed on a slide and analyzed using a microscope. It is recommended that at least five and ideally seven scrapes be gathered from a variety of locations.
If mites are found, the species of those mites should be determined, which the veterinarian can do easily by looking at reference photographs, and then the proper steps should be followed to get rid of them, including, if required, the treatment of pets that have been in contact with the affected animal.
A specialized kind of adhesive tape should be used to remove tape stains from irritated skin. After being stained, these smears can be analyzed to look for indications of a bacterial or yeast infection.
It is recommended that samples of pus or hair, particularly from the ears, be sent to a laboratory in order to determine the type of microorganisms that are currently present as well as the treatments that are most effective against those microbes.
These therapies should be pursued before specific anti-inflammatory medications are given, as the anti-inflammatory medication will mask symptoms, making it difficult to assess the effect of each treatment.
Treatments that target these microbes, such as antibiotics, antifungals, or medicated shampoos, can provide significant relief from itching.
In cases of an infection that has already been established, it is not unusual for the antimicrobial treatments to be sustained for a period of eight weeks.
A feeding trial is now advised for dogs that have persistent itching despite treatment.
Unfortunately, the only method to determine for certain whether or not a dog has a food allergy is to remove from its diet any and all items that have the potential to trigger an allergic reaction.
Either providing the dog with a novel protein source (that is, a food that the dog has never eaten before) or feeding the dog a diet that has been hydrolyzed is one way to achieve this goal.
These hydrolyzed diets are foods that are only available on prescription and contain proteins that have been chemically broken down into such small particles that they are no longer capable of eliciting an allergic response in the body.
In order for a food trial to be successful, all other potential sources of protein must be cut out of the diet, and the trial itself must be maintained for a period of at least two to three months.
It is necessary to restrict the consumption of other foods, milk, and even flavored treats; nevertheless, this can be a very challenging task to complete, particularly in households where there are also youngsters or other animals.
The Method Requiring The Use Of Elimination
A satisfactory reaction to a food trial is indicated by a decrease in itching, which is usually noticeable by the time the experiment has been going on for approximately six weeks.
Should the dog appear to be free of symptoms by the time the trial is over, the majority of veterinarians will recommend the gradual introduction of meals considered to be “challenge” foods.
For instance, the owner may gradually add chicken to the elimination diet over the course of two weeks, starting with only a few bites at a time. If the dog does not start scratching again after being fed chicken, then the chicken may be regarded as “safe” food, and the dog may be fed the next protein (such as beef) in the same manner.
Dogs that are allergic to their food will typically start itching anywhere from one to ten days after being exposed to the allergen-causing protein. By observing these dogs, we may work toward the goal of developing a variety of diets that can be provided to dogs for extended periods of time.
The use of particular anti-allergic drugs is the next step in the treatment process for those dogs who did not respond favorably to the meal experiment.
Even though there is now a wide variety of these drugs accessible, the tried-and-true method of using steroid drugs is typically the one that is attempted initially.
It is now possible to diagnose atopy in a dog if it has undergone the phased inquiry described up top without seeing a significant improvement, and if it also responds favorably to the administration of steroids.
Because steroids are efficient and, for the most part, quite inexpensive, many owners choose to keep using them for an extended period of time.
However, it is common knowledge that they induce a wide variety of undesirable side effects, and as a result, treating dogs with seasonal allergies with these medications should only be done on a temporary basis at most.
Alternatives To Steroids That Are Much Safer
In recent years, veterinarians have gained access to an expanding variety of safer options that can serve as alternatives to steroids.
The immune system and its overreaction to allergens are both mitigated by these mediations, which have the same mode of action in the sense that they depress the immune system.
However, they accomplish this goal in a variety of distinct ways. Some of them have highly specific effects on the cellular pathways that are involved in hypersensitivity, whilst others simply suppress all immune processes.
Specific antibody treatments are another new advancement that provides the exciting potential of controlling atopy without impairing the natural immune function of the pet. These medications were developed in recent years.
The expense of all of these various medications, which can be exorbitant for some owners, especially when dealing with the treatment of a large breed of dog, is one of the meds’ major drawbacks.
The approach described above does not include the possibility of particular allergy testing as a diagnostic option. In the process of allergy diagnosis, this is a possibility that is frequently misinterpreted and exploited inappropriately.
Intradermal testing, in which a large number of potential allergens are injected into distinct sites over a patch of skin, followed by observation of the subsequent reaction, and IgE blood testing, which measures antibody levels, are the two types of testing that may be performed.
Intradermal testing involves observation of the reaction after a large number of potential allergens have been injected. The appearance of positive test results does not provide evidence of the existence of an allergy; rather, it merely indicates that the immune system has been exposed to an allergen.
This is where these tests are misapplied since they are occasionally used as a “shortcut” to gain a diagnosis. In other words, they are abused in this manner. Unfortuitously, this strategy is fundamentally wrong.
However, if a dog were to test positive on these tests after undergoing the comprehensive diagnostic work-up described above, then we might have more confidence that the results are actually suggestive of at least some of the hypersensitivities that are present in the patient.
In the majority of instances, the allergens that have been found are so widespread in the environment that it is impossible to get rid of them.
On the other hand, their identification makes it possible to produce a type of immunologic vaccine that is specific to each individual dog.
By creating an individualized vaccination, we will be able to inject very little amounts of the allergens that are causing the problem very frequently at first, and subsequently, we will be able to reduce the frequency of the injections while simultaneously increasing the volume that is given.
The idea that the immune system can build up a tolerance to the allergens that are present in the preparation is the driving force behind this theory.
Although this does not occur in every instance, approximately fifty percent of dogs that receive this immunotherapy show evident evidence of improvement as a result of it.
It is the only therapy approach that offers even a glimmer of hope of a lasting cure for atopy, but only a very small percentage of patients respond so well that they do not require any other therapies.
Even while the appropriate use of prescription medications to manage itching and secondary infections will generate a good response in the majority of dogs, emphasis must be given to the mechanisms that are at the root of the development of allergy.
Using prescription shampoos that are designed to build up a protective layer of lipid within the skin’s surface can improve the impaired barrier function that was discussed earlier in many dogs that have atopic skin conditions.
These shampoos can be used on a consistent basis, typically once per week, to lessen the allergen load that is transmitted to the dog’s immune system.
There are a variety of anti-inflammatory effects that can be provided by fish oils, particularly those belonging to the omega-3 family. These effects can be of substantial assistance to some allergic dogs.
Although fish oil supplements for humans can be utilized, there are various veterinary medicines that have been specifically developed for atopy that tend to produce superior benefits. In general, the more expensive treatments are a lot more successful than the cheaper ones.
During acute flare-ups of allergic skin illness, antibacterial and antifungal shampoos may be used in conjunction with pharmaceuticals to help clear secondary infections, reduce the need for the use of systemic drugs, and expedite the resolution of the itching sensation.
However, because of their tendency to strip the skin of important lipids and other protective ingredients, these products are not appropriate for usage over an extended period of time.
Because there are so many various shampoos and topical treatments on the market, it is important to seek the guidance of a veterinary nurse or surgeon before using a specific medication for a dog that has a history of allergic reactions.
Lastly, it is essential to prevent parasite infestation in any animal that has delicate skin. Even while it may not be the underlying problem, even a minor infestation of fleas on an allergic dog can result in a significant and very distressing worsening of the dog’s symptoms.
In order to avoid the spread of these parasites, it is important to treat all of the animals in the family with effective flea medication on a regular basis.
In dogs, allergy symptoms are mostly limited to the skin; nevertheless, a small percentage of canines can exhibit symptoms similar to those of hay fever.
Although many allergic dogs have symptoms continuously throughout the year, some may only experience them seasonally; these symptoms are most frequently observed in the months of spring and summer.
Even if reaching a cure is an unrealistic objective in the majority of cases, a methodical, stepwise approach to diagnosis and treatment ought to enable dogs with allergies to have lives that are comfortable and joyful.
Questions People Also Ask: (FAQs)
What Kind Of Medication Would Be Best For My Dog’s Allergies?
Benadryl is an excellent drug that may be given to dogs that suffer from mild to moderate allergic reactions. Benadryl is effective in treating the majority of allergic reactions, including those brought on by seasonal allergies, food allergies, environmental allergies, and allergic reactions to stings from snakes and insects.
What Are The Signs That Indicate A Dog Suffers From Allergies?
The following is a list of symptoms of dog allergies that are regularly observed:
An excessive amount of licking.
The act of touching the face and chewing on the feet.
Scratching oneself compulsively.
ear infections and itching in the ears.
Repeatedly rubbing the body or parts of the body against hard surfaces such as the ground, walls, or furniture.
Frequent sneezing and/or wheezing.
Irritation of the skin and/or loss of fur.
What Can Trigger Dog Allergies?
Exposure to the dead skin flakes (dander) that a pet sheds is the most common cause of allergic reactions in those who have pets. Although allergies to cats and dogs are the most common type of pet allergies, a reaction to any animal with fur has the potential to cause allergic symptoms.
What Can I Offer My Dog If I Don’t Want To Take Him To The Vet For His Allergies?
The majority of veterinarians turn to this well-known antihistamine as their go-to over-the-counter solution. It is vital to verify with your veterinarian about the optimal dosage based on your dog’s weight before giving Benadryl to your dog.
In general, dogs that take Benadryl do not become as sleepy as humans do after taking the medication, and they tolerate it rather well.
Are There Any Natural Remedies For Dog Allergies?
It is possible to outgrow an allergy to animals, although this is not likely to happen. Additionally, even these allergies can be cured; nevertheless, they may reappear at a later point in one’s life.
Having pets won’t help you get used to your allergies either, so don’t bother. Some people experience an increase in the severity of their allergy symptoms throughout certain times of the year, particularly during the warmer months when animals shed more.
What Kinds Of Food Make Dogs Scratch And Itch?
The most prevalent foods that trigger an allergic reaction in canines are beef, dairy products, wheat, and chicken. However, it can take quite some time for someone to develop a food allergy.
Therefore, it is possible that the dog had been consuming the potentially harmful components for a considerable amount of time prior to the onset of symptoms.
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