Have you wondered if your dog might be allergic to something? You might be right because dogs can have allergies just like we do. Allergy testing in dogs can be expensive, but may be worth it in the long run.
Find out more about dog allergies by reading our Woodbridge, VA, animal hospital‘s article below.
Dogs and Allergies
Allergies in dogs are actually quite common, though most allergic reactions are mild. If your dog’s symptoms are not mild, then you may want to consult with your veterinarian to discuss options for long term care and comfort.
Most allergies are caused by a reaction to a protein in food, but can also be environmentally caused from plants, another animal(s), or even people.
Types of Allergies
There are three main types of allergens. Environmental allergens are allergens in your dog’s environment. Medical allergies are allergies to medications or ingredients in medicines. Food allergies are allergic reactions to protein in your dog’s diet, though sometime it can be other food allergens it is not common.
Intradermal testing, where they prick skin and apply the essence of an allergen, is the most accurate form of allergy testing. Unfortunately, this type of testing is not readily available at most veterinarian clinics and only available for environmental allergens and medical allergens.
The most common allergen testing used is blood testing for all food and environmental allergens; however, these tests are not as accurate for food. In many cases, your veterinarian will recommend trying one of the foods provided with the test results or that you put your pet on a special diet that uses very limited ingredients that your dog will not be allergic to.
Veterinarians will generally try an elimination food trial diet for most food allergies. This typically starts on a hydrolyzed food diet or vegetarian food diet option and takes about 4 weeks to notice any change or improvement. For this reason, many owners will choose to have allergy testing performed.
Dogs can be allergic to plants and bugs, both of these being environmental allergens. If your dog has an allergy to something in their environment, they may exhibit skin reactions, or, less commonly, breathing reactions.
Common environmental allergens include:
Dogs can be allergic to many different proteins. If your dog seems to always have itchy or red skin, they may be allergic to something they are eating.
True food allergies are rare in dogs. True food allergies lead to anaphylactic shock and swelling of the body. Most dogs suffer from what we call sensitivities. They have mild to moderate reactions to the proteins in their food. We also sometimes call this an intolerance, such as lactose intolerance.
This does not mean your dog cannot have a true allergy. If they appear to be struggling to breathe, call an emergency vet immediately. Just like with humans, the sooner you can treat them, the better.
Common food allergens include:
- Lactose (Milk)
Dogs can have reactions to medications, just like humans. These medical allergic reactions can be tested for. However, if your dog has an adverse reaction to any medication you give him or her, stop immediately and call your vet.
It is important to always get your vet’s approval before giving your pet any type of medication. If you haven’t tested for medical allergies, your vet may still approve something that your dog ends up reacting to. Similar to humans, such allergies are often overlooked until you come into contact with them.
Environmental Allergies vs Food Allergies
We are going to focus on environmental allergies and food allergies since they are the most common. Some of the symptoms of allergies overlap, however some symptoms are allergy specific.
Symptoms of Allergies
In the chart below you can see the most common symptoms of allergies. The biggest difference between environmental allergies and food allergies is that dogs will vomit or have diarrhea as a symptom of food allergies, but not environmental allergies. However, if a dog eats an environmental allergen, they may react with vomiting or diarrhea, it is just very uncommon for them to eat environmental allergens.
|Reactions||Food Allergies||Environmental Allergies|
|Itchy or runny eyes||Yes||Yes|
|Swelling in face, ears, lips, eyelids, and/or earflaps||Yes||Yes|
Symptoms will vary based on what kind of allergy your dog has. The severity of the allergy will also affect your dog’s reaction.
Treating Food Allergies vs Treating Environmental Allergies
Treating food allergies is different from treating environmental allergies. To treat food allergies, there are several things you can do.
You can have your vet do an allergy test for your dog. However, food allergy tests are not very accurate, and they cost a lot of money. Most vets will recommend that you perform an elimination diet trial to see if your dog is allergic to something other than the protein in the food and to narrow down what protein may be causing your pet’s allergic reaction.
Your veterinarian may want a dog food that has hydrolyzed protein. This means that the proteins have been so broken down that your dog’s body does not recognize the proteins and will not have an allergic reaction to the food. This food is more expensive than regular dog food, but is worth saving the money on the test as it is not as accurate.
For environmental allergens, there are a few options. If your pet is allergic to fleas or mold, then removing the allergen will prevent reactions. There are a few methods available, including using monthly flea and tick medicine.
However, it is harder to avoid environmental allergens such as dust and pollen. Dogs can be given Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec, but it is important for you to get a prescription or recommendation from a vet as they need different amounts than we do. For allergens that cannot be avoided or if the allergies are severe, your veterinarian can recommend a prescription medication or may recommend having an allergy test performed.
Our Woodbridge, VA, Vets Can Help with Your Dog’s Allergies
Whether your dog is allergic to their environment or their food, your vet can help you take the next steps to making your dog more comfortable.
Reach out to our Woodbridge, VA, animal hospital to schedule your dog’s visit by giving us a call at (703) 680-4000.