What’s Itching Your Dog?

Could What You Feed Your Dog Be Harming His Health?

By: Lauren Lee

Does your dog incessantly bite or lick his paws? Do you notice him repeatedly scratching his skin? Or maybe you have watched, with awkward embarrassment, as your pup dragged his bottom across the carpet in front of dinner guests.

Does your dog suffer from recurring ear infections, despite trying different foods or medications? If any of these situations sound familiar, your dog may be suffering from allergies.


What Causes Allergies In Dogs?

An allergic reaction results from an immune system’s over-response to a particular foreign substance or allergen. These are generally harmless substances. However, in the case of an allergic reaction, the body’s hypersensitive immune system identifies these foreign substances as invaders and overreacts in an attempt to protect the body.

We all know humans who suffer from allergies. Some people are allergic to seasonal pollen in the air, which is most common during certain months. Other people have reactions to foods such as tree nuts or shellfish.

Just like humans, dogs can get several types of allergies. The most common types are:

  • Skin allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies
  • Atopy (Inhalant allergies)

Skin allergies, also known as allergic dermatitis, are the most common allergies seen in dogs.

The most common symptom is itching of the skin.  Common causes of skin allergies in dogs generally fall under two categories:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis
    This is an allergic reaction to flea bites or the saliva spread by the flea. He may also be allergic to household dust mites.
  • Environmental allergens
    These allergies are usually seasonal and are caused by changes in your dog’s environment. These can include dust, pollen, mold, grass, dirt, bugs, and plants.

If your dog suffers from environmental allergies, you will likely notice him scratching during certain times of the year. Repeatedly scratching and licking affected areas can lead to patches of raw, moist skin known as hot spots.


Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities

More and more pet parents are ditching standard kibble in favor of grain-free foods, raw diets, and home-cooked diets for their pets. That doesn’t mean your dog has to have a food allergy to opt for a special diet.

Food allergies can trigger immediate and often life-threatening reactions just as they do in humans.

These can include:

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Shock
  • Hives
  • Swelling


How is Food Allergy Diagnosed?

The only way to definitively diagnose a food allergy is to have your veterinarian put your dog on what is known as an elimination diet. The elimination trial must not contain any ingredients that the pet has eaten in the past.

Your dog would have to eat a prescription diet for a minimum of three to four months until all symptoms are gone. Once your dog’s symptoms have cleared, you and your vet will introduce items back into the diet individually to determine what was causing the reaction.


How Did My Dog Get a Food Allergy?

Food allergies are one of the most common allergies to affect dogs. The allergies usually show up after prolonged exposure to one type or form of food. If your dog has a food allergy, it means the immune system overreacts to foods it should generally tolerate. The body then produces antibodies against some part of the food.

While any food can cause an allergy, the most common food allergens affecting dogs are proteins. Most common are proteins found in dairy, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, soy, and gluten (wheat). Substances such as additives can also trigger allergies in dogs.


What To Do If You Suspect Food Allergies?

It is essential to get a proper diagnosis from your veterinarian to ensure that no underlying health conditions are causing your dog’s symptoms.

Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s diet. Many pet foods and treats contain preservatives to extend their shelf life. Try staying away from artificial ingredients and preservatives. Look for dog treats that are single ingredient and 100% natural.

The sooner you address your canine companion’s symptoms, the more comfortable you both will be.

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