Skin problems and allergies in dogs are becoming more and more common. One in seven dogs now suffers from an allergy of some kind and the numbers are rising by the year. As a general rule of thumb, in order to suffer from an allergy, your dog must be exposed to the allergen twice. The first exposure will cause his immune system to manufacture antibodies. The second exposure causes histamine to be released causing the allergic reaction.
Whereas allergies in humans affect the upper respiratory tract, the target of an allergy in a dog is its skin. The symptoms of a skin allergy in your dog normally start with excessive scratching. Your dog will also start to lick and chew at the affected area, causing red inflamed patches, leading to hair loss, bald spots and risk of infections. Your dog may also suffer from a change in temperament, becoming snappy and unhappy.
There are four main causes of skin allergy in dogs. The first is from flea bites and other biting insects. This is the most common type o skin allergy found in dogs and is caused by a reaction to the saliva of the flea. Strangely, if a dog suffers from a flea allergy he is not likely to have many fleas on him. Excessive grooming will eliminate almost all traces of fleas. The most affected areas will be the hind quarters, rump and tail area.
The second type of skin allergy is from inhalants in the dog’s environment, such as dust mites, grasses, moulds, and some tree and weed pollens. These are the second most common type of allergies and are manifested by way of very severe itching. Almost every part of the dog’s body will be affected, the most acute areas being the armpits, groin, feet and flanks. Symptoms will include quite severe hair loss if not treated quickly and properly.
The third type of allergy in dogs is to food. A dog can become allergic to food at any age and testing is required to find out which food he is allergic to. The most common food allergy is beef products, although your dog can be allergic to anything. Symptoms include itchy skin, breathing difficulties and gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Veterinary advice must be sought.
The fourth type of allergy and probably the least common is a contact allergy. This is when a dog becomes allergic to something that he has been directly in contact with. The normal suspects are wool, rubber, and certain types of metal such as chrome or nickel, fragrances such as perfumes or hairsprays and lotions that may have been applied topically to the skin. Symptoms include blistered areas, red skin, and severe itching.
All dog skin allergies are easily treatable if noticed in time and treated accordingly. You should always consult a vet for a proper diagnosis so that the correct treatment can be given. Most skin allergies can be cleared up using medication or topical sprays and, occasionally a cone will need to be worn to prevent your dog from further irritating the affected area.