What are Skin Diseases from Allergies?
Your dog’s dermatological health is a reflection of overall health, and skin problems may be the first indicator of a whole health problem. Skin disease is most commonly manifested in excessive scratching caused by excessive itchiness. Dogs who are young and elderly are more susceptible to developing skin problems, as well as dogs who are living in overcrowded or unsanitary conditions. In addition to allergies, it is important to keep in mind that skin problems may also be caused by non-allergic reaction to fleas, ringworm, parasites, or skin infections, sarcoptic mange, stress or boredom, or metabolic or hormonal problems.A variety of skin diseases in dogs are caused by dietary or seasonal allergies or an allergic reaction to grooming products or fleas. Allergens in your dog’s environment or food can cause a hypersensitive immune response or idiosyncratic reaction to a specific substance.
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Symptoms of Skin Diseases from Allergies in Dogs
- Licking, scratching and chewing at skin
- Rubbing face or body against furniture, carpet, etc.
- Swelling, lumpiness or skin discoloration
- Excessive hair loss
- Bald patches
- Dry or flaky skin
- Hot spots (particular areas your dog scratches, licks or chews excessively)
- Redness or inflammation
- Leathery skin
- Frequent bowel movements or gas
Causes of Skin Diseases from Allergies in Dogs
- Dietary - Dietary allergies include immune-mediated reactions and food intolerance or non-immune reactions, both of which are sensitivity to a specific ingredient. The onset of your dog’s symptoms will help to determine if the allergic reaction is to his regular food, a certain treat or human food. Feeding of low-quality dog food may be the problem, as dogs can develop allergies to artificial colors and filler ingredients such as corn or soy.
- Seasonal - Common allergens like grass, mold, certain trees, dust, weeds and pollen may be the cause of your dog’s skin disease. The onset of your dog’s symptoms will help to determine if the allergies are seasonal.
- Topical - Your dog may have an allergic reaction to certain ingredients in grooming products or flea treatment products.
- Fleas - While fleas are irritating to any dog, not all dogs develop allergic reactions. However, the saliva of fleas entering a dog’s body through a bite wound can cause an allergic response in some dogs.
Diagnosis of Skin Diseases from Allergies in Dogs
The veterinarian’s diagnosis will be greatly aided by your reporting of all of your dog’s symptoms and their onset, as well as any possible cause for irritation, particularly any new topical product or addition to your dog’s diet. In the majority of comprehensive examinations, the veterinarian will conduct a complete blood count, chemical blood profile, and a urinalysis with an electrolyte panel in order to rule out other possible causes of your dog’s skin disease.
The veterinarian may necessitate a skin biopsy, ringworm test, and a microscopic examination of your dog’s hair and skin to determine if infection or parasites are present. If other possible causes are ruled out, your dog will be given an intradermal skin test for allergies. This involves injecting small amounts of specific allergens under the surface of your dog’s skin, waiting twenty minutes, and then examining the site for a reaction, the presence of which is considered testing positive for an allergy to that substance.
If the allergy is believed to be dietary, then the veterinarian may prescribe a food elimination diet for the diagnosis. This will involve feeding a diet that contains a single source of protein and a single source of carbohydrate in order to determine if there is a clinical improvement in your dog’s symptoms. If your dog improves, and the veterinarian suspects your dog’s old food to be the cause, this theory will be tested by feeding your dog the original diet for ten days or until the symptoms return. If the symptoms return, this will confirm that your dog is allergic to one or more ingredients in the food. Then you will begin to conduct a provocation diet trial, returning to the single protein, single carbohydrate diet and beginning to add ingredients in one at a time, waiting up to ten days between ingredients and removing any ingredient that causes symptoms to re-emerge. This will allow you to hopefully determine the exact ingredient that is causing your dog’s reaction and/or develop a balanced diet that does not cause any adverse reaction in your dog.
Treatment of Skin Diseases from Allergies in Dogs
The veterinarian may prescribe treatment to alleviate your dog’s symptoms, such as specific shampoos designed to soothe itching. If the veterinarian has determined the cause to be a flea allergy, a dip or a topical flea treatment may be prescribed. Additionally, antibiotic, antifungal or anti-itching medications may be prescribed, along with corticosteroids and antihistamines.
For certain allergies, such as seasonal allergies, where the allergen cannot be avoided, injections may be prescribed to decrease your dog’s reaction to specific allergens.
In all cases, treatment will include a balanced diet for optimal skin and coat health. This may be supplemented by the introduction of additional essential fatty acids. For food allergies, the diagnostic elimination diet will help to determine the proper hypoallergenic diet best for your dog.
Recovery of Skin Diseases from Allergies in Dogs
Once you know the cause of your dog’s allergies, you will be best equipped to avoid them. For food allergies, it is important to continue with your dog’s elimination and provocation diet until you find a diet that will afford your dog optimal health. This will require monitoring your dog’s skin health closely and returning to the veterinarian for follow-up evaluations. Seasonal allergies may require regular treatment during the offending season if the allergy is not alleviated by allergy shots.
To avoid further allergic reactions, avoid feeding your dog unfamiliar treats and table scraps, use natural and hypoallergenic bathing products, brush your dog regularly, keep up with parasite prevention and keep your dog’s environment clean.