Skin allergies in dogs is a common google search. It is estimated that 1 in 10 dogs suffer from skin complaints1. There are several reasons why this occurs. Some of them are minor and easily handled while others can be difficult. A project carried out by the University of Nottingham concluded that the severity of the dog's itch was directly linked to other behavioural issues. This indicates that allergies cause psychological stress which can also prolong and exasperate allergy issues.
The most common cause of allergies in dogs are due to parasites, allergies, and infections2. This can cause your dog to scratch its skin to ease symptoms. The urge to itch is known as pruritus and is defined as an uncomfortable sensation that causes an urge to scratch.
Why is healthy skin important?
Healthy skin acts as a barrier between your body and the outside world. It has the important job of protecting your body from allergens, viruses, and chemicals. It is very important to have healthy skin. If your dog suffers from any allergies it is vital to seek advice from your local vet.
Signs of dog allergies
- Excessive itching;
- Excessive licking;
- Red, irritated, or flakey skin;
- Hair loss.
How are dog allergies diagnosed?
The first step in resolving this issue is to book your dog into a veterinarian clinic. Your vet will need to rule out non-allergic skin diseases. They may perform a scrape test to rule out fungal cultures and perform other tests to rule out non-allergic issues. If these come back negative they will diagnose your dog with allergic dermatitis. This will then begin a trial by elimination, and further testing to determine what your dog is allergic to3.
Options for dogs with Skin dermatitis.
Dogs suffering from food allergies can be cured but dogs with allergies due to airborne substances will need to be controlled. Although impossible to eliminate exposure to allergies, knowing the specific allergens will allow treatment by Hyposensitisation. This is commonly used when it is determined that your dog is allergic to pollen, dust mites, and mould. This involves giving your dog a very small amount of exposure at intervals determined by your vet to build up an immune response4. By stimulating a response in your pet's immune system to create antibodies it will reduce and may stop allergic reactions. Studies have found this is effective 60-70% of the time. Hyposensatizing involves injecting your pet with increasing levels of allergens over a specified time. This is carried out at reducing intervals for at least two years after your pet's allergy has stopped showing symptoms.
"Histamine is a chemical created in the body that is released by white blood cells into the bloodstream when the immune system is defending against a potential allergen. This release can result in an allergic reaction from allergy triggers such as pollen, mould, and certain food5."
Antihistamines will control 10-30% of allergies caused by airborne allergies. They have fewer side effects than steroid use. They do not help bacterial issues6. Antihistamines work by blocking the H1 receptors in your dog's body. H1 receptors are responsible for releasing histamine in your pet's body. H1 blocking histamines may cause drowsiness, and decreased alertness.
Studies are currently underway investigating a healthy gut biome and the reduction of allergies. Cathryn Nagler, an immunologist at the Chicago University in Illinois, has been studying gut health, bacteria, and allergies for years. One of her studies discovered that if gut health was wiped out in mice it led to food allergies. One of her recent studies discovered with the introduction of Clostridia a bacteria commonly found in Mice gut biome, food allergies disappered7.
Dog clothing to help with skin issues. Having your dog wear a dog shirt can help to reduce skin allergies. The shirt will act as a barrier between the allergen and your dog's clothing. If you are using dog clothing to act as a pollen barrier, we recommend removing the shirt once your dog has returned inside and to cycle the shirt through the wash. Dog shirts will also help prevent excessive chewing, licking, and scratching as their skin is less accessible while wearing their dog shirt.
Four try at home remedies.
1) Frequent grooming. Regularly bathing and brushing your dog helps to reduce the amount of dander accumulated on their skin. Dander can also contribute to human allergies. We recommend using a Hypo-allergenic shampoo.
2) Change diets. Adding Omega-3. Omega-3 oils found in fish help to reduce inflammatory reactions in your body. Either adding more seafood or supplementing with Omega-3 oils will help to increase your dog's skin and fur coat health.
Elimination. If your dog is allergic to certain foods, eliminate that good from their diet. If your dog is allergic to grains then you can try grain-free dog foods available now.
Gut-health. Gut health plays a large part in your body's health and can reduce inflammation. Probiotics can now be purchased as dog supplements and meal toppers. These make it easy for your dog's gut to get the microbes it needs. Adding fermented food and fibre to your dog's diet will also add to gut health.
3) Wash your dog's feet and wear clothing. Washing your dog's feet after they have been outside will help to remove pollen etc if they are allergic to grass. Wearing dog clothing will also add a barrier to protect your dog from coming into contact with allergens.
4) Vitamin E patches. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. You can purchase vitamin e that is safe for use on your dog's skin online or from your vet. Rub this over irritated areas and let the skin absorb the oil.
1) Study links skin allergies in dogs to problem behaviours. https://www.aaha.org/publications/newstat/articles/2019-11/study-links-skin-allergies-in-dogs-to-problem-behaviors/
2) Itching and Allergy in dogs. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952662
3) Rast Testing in Dogs
4) Hyposensitizing dogs to Atopic dermatitis.
5) 6 Foods High in Histamine
6) Treatment options for allergies in pets.
7) A gut microbe that stops food allergies.