It’s natural for dog owners to imbue their beloved pets with human characteristics – after all, they are part of the family. However, there are some things that your pooch will have in common with you. One of the most unpleasant of these is allergies. Like a human, your pet can be allergic to different things, and two main causes can be inhalant allergies and food allergies. In this first instalment of a two-parter, we’ll look at the former.
The things that can cause an allergic reaction in a dog are very similar to those that do with people. Dust mites, pollens and mould are the main culprits, and a clue to what is causing irritation is to consider when it happens. If it occurs pretty much all year round, then it’s likely it will be dust or mould. If it’s seasonal, pollen is usually the culprit.
The symptoms your dog may display include biting and scratching himself, chewing his feet or constant licking. The danger exists of him developing Acral Lick Granulomas, which is a sore patch caused by relentless licking. His ear flaps may become red, and he may get an ear infection. A trip to the vet will be required, and tests can be conducted to see what is causing the allergic reaction.
Luckily, there are several therapies your pet can undergo. Cool baths with a medicated shampoo can be soothing, but will only have a temporary effect.
Immunotherapy is a safe way to treat allergies, and Dr Christine Johnson – a vet specialising in dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania – has reported a 75% success rate. The treatment involves a course of injections, but improvements may not be visible for six months, or even longer.
If your pet’s allergy is seasonal, your vet may opt to put him on a course of steroids. Some vets are reluctant to do this, as they can have long term side effects such as a greater need to urinate and behavioural changes.
One thing that can help to reduce the effect of allergens is environmental control. Change your dog basket and dog toys regularly, and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
In the next instalment, we’ll look at food allergies.