Skin allergies in dogs could be easily noticed when the dog is doing a lot of scratching and itching, which may result in open cuts and loss of hair on the dog. This is a strong indication that the dog might have been struck by a skin allergy. Another telltale sign is the itching of a particular area or excessive eating at the paws which may result in bleeding.
Some of the well known causes of skin allergies in dogs are:
- Flea allergy is as a result of the saliva produced by fleas and this is one of the reasons it is very essential that dogs should be regularly liberated of fleas.
- Atopic allergy is caused by the inhalation of airborne environmental allergens such as cigarette smoke, dust, mold spores and pollen. Some common signs of atopic allergy are frequent wheezing, coughing and sneezing.
- Food allergy ranks as one of the causes of skin allergies in dogs and is usually caused by one of the following food type: soy, beef, chicken, corn, wheat, colorings and milk. Queasiness and diarrhea are popular symptoms of food allergies in dogs.
- Contact allergies are not very common but they do exist and it is usually triggered when your dog comes in contact with things like by plastic, nylon, wool, weeds, grass, tree or wool.
The rate and intensity of scratching are the very first signs that a dog may be suffering from some sort of skin allergies. It is normal for dogs to scratch but when the scratching, chewing and licking become so intense to the point where it is resulting in self mutilation then the dog is probably suffering from a skin infection or skin allergy. Excessive itching is a sign of an unhealthy dog skin.
In this article we will look into the causes and treatment of skin allergies in dogs and the dog itchy skin that causes excessive scratching (pruritus). Dog itchy skin is usually the reflection of the dog’s skin condition which could be as a result of a skin infection, excessively oily/ greasy skin or excessively dry skin.
Excessive and intense scratching that is caused by dog skin infection can be due any of the following underlying causes:
Pruritus or excessive scratching as a result of oily/greasy skin is usually caused by a fungus called Malassezia. This yeast infection in dogs is primarily the cause of itchy, greasy/oily dog skin that is often accompanied by an offensive smell.
The dog skin has a local population of microorganisms like Malassezia but when this population grows out of control it usually results in a skin infection. An abundance of yeast on the dog’s skin will result in bad odor and itchiness.
Malassezia thrives in dogs with oily skin therefore any skin condition in dogs that will cause the dog’s skin to produce more oil will result in the multiplication of yeast on the dog’s skin.
Dog allergy and seborrhea oleosa (oily seborrhea) are the primarily causes of an increase in the oil production; other lesser causes of increased oil on a dog’s skin are:
- Dogs with hormonal problem.
- Dogs with immune deficiency.
- Allergy to yeast.
In the case of oily seborrhea, treatment basically involves frequent bathing of the affected dog with the use of medicated shampoo and it may be necessary to shave the dog’s coat so that the shampoo can easily penetrate to the dog’s skin.
Dry skin is one of the major causes of itchiness in dogs; the 2 primary underlying causes of dry skin are environmental factors and diet.
Low humidity or the harmattan weather conditions are environmental factors that cause dry skin in dogs. Dry dog skin will result in dandruff and depending on the extent of the dryness, it may cause cracks in dog’s skin.
The other cause of dry skin in dogs is diet; commercial dog foods manufacturers are particularly guilty of processing out the essential oils in order to produce dog food that can survive the intended shelf life. This is even more pronounced in dry dog food.
If a dog is experiencing dry skin as a result of commercial dog food, then switching to home cooked or raw dog food can easily help to fix the problem.
Skin allergies in dogs are also a very common cause of itchiness in dogs. A dog suffering from allergy will manifest some of the following symptoms:
- Intense scratching.
- Persistent biting and chewing.
- Itchy and runny eyes.
- Self mutilated skin.
- Rubbing the face against objects like the furniture.
Dogs essentially manifest their allergic reaction through their skin, which can be seen as either a skin or ear infection or relentless scratching. It really does not matter if the cause of the allergy is as a result of flea bite, atopy (inhalation of airborne environmental allergens such as cigarette smoke, dust, mold spores and pollen), food allergy such as reaction to wheat, beef etc or contact allergy e.g. grass or weeds; all of these will simply make the dog to itch and therefore scratch.
Often time it requires a repeat exposure to allergens before a dog becomes allergic and this will usually occur in their early life. Skin allergies in dogs are commonly seen in certain dog breeds such as setters, retrievers, Lhasa Apsos, Scottish, bulldogs etc.
Diagnosing canine skin allergies
Diagnosis of skin allergies in dogs will usually involve allergy testing and also be trying to identify what may be causing the allergy by trying to remove items in the home/environment or in the dog’s food one after the other.
Allergy testing is an effective way of diagnosing skin allergies in dogs that are caused by atopy and to some extent contact allergy. Allergy testing involves either a blood test or intradermal testing.
Generally your vet may be able to uncover the cause of the skin allergy through a process of elimination or he may refer your dog to a vet dermatologist specialist. Once fleas has been ruled out, your dog may be put on a food regimen that your dog has not been eating and then the food your dog was eating when the skin allergy surfaced is gradually introduced under close observation to see if the cause of the skin allergy may be identified. If it is a food allergy, this process of elimination will uncover it.
If it is contact or atopic allergy, intradermal test is employed to inject small quantities of possible allergens into the dog’s skin which will result in inflammation of the injected area of the dog skin if the dog is allergic to the substance.
Treatment of skin allergies in dogs:
Effective treatment of skin allergies in dogs that is as a result of flea bite will involve both flea control and in the home where the dog resides and also by getting rid of the fleas on the dog. You can get the pest control service to spray the home and its surroundings while the dog can be directly treated with topical insecticides, flea shampoo and oral products.
The use of antihistamines or steroids may be necessary for dogs that are allergic to flea bites.
Canine Skin allergies as a result of the inhalation of airborne environmental allergens i.e. atopy can be treated using one or more of the following methods:
- Topical solution.
- Omega-3 rich diet.
- Use of antihistamines.
- Hyposensitization therapy.
- Use of steroids.
One of the very first steps in treating atopic induced skin allergies in dogs involves the use of topical shampoo, anti-itch and rinses. While it may not provide a long term solution to atopy, it does offer quick relief for the affected dog; this involves regular bathing with the topical shampoo. Topical solution offer the most effective way of treating localized itching in dogs.
Diet rich in omega-3 fatty acid have been found to helpful in the management of atopic dogs resulting in a significant drop in pruritus (excessive scratching). Essential fatty acids rich diet such as a fish based diet are much more effective than what is available through capsules.
Use of antihistamines
Antihistamines also helps in the treatment of atopic dogs but with a lower success rate if use in isolation; however this can easily be improved upon when combined with other forms of treatment for atopy induced skin allergies in dogs.
Antihistamines has side effect and should only be administered based on a vet’s prescription; common side effects are loss of appetite, constipation, hyperactivity etc.
However, side effects can be greatly reduced when antihistamines is administered according to prescription.
Hyposensitization therapy is one of the most effective treatments of atopy induced skin allergies in dogs compared with antihistamines and steroid both of which do not as effective. Intradermal testing has to be carried out on the atopic dog in order to identify the cause of the allergy.
The hyposensitization shot is then prepared based on the allergens that is causing the allergic reaction in the dog. The atopic dog is then injected the hyposensitization vaccine which will enable the atopic dog develop immunity to the allergens.