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Dog Allergic Dermatitis: What Can You Do About It?

We frequently see dogs with "hot spots" or allergic dermatitis (also known as atopic dermatitis) at Shatto Veterinary Center. When dogs are exposed to an allergen, they frequently develop these skin conditions. Our Los Angeles veterinarians discuss how to recognize different types of allergic dermatitis in dogs and how to treat them in this post.

Allergies in Dogs

When dogs are allergic, they often experience skin reactions or gastrointestinal symptoms, as opposed to nasal symptoms and hives in humans. This is because dogs' skin contains more mast cells, which release histamines and other vasoactive substances when they come into contact with allergens. Hot spots, itching and scratching, poor coat condition, diarrhea, gastrointestinal pain/ discomfort, and flatulence are some of the symptoms that dogs may experience when this happens. Your dog's condition may deteriorate if he or she has thyroid disease.

When dogs have allergic dermatitis or atopic (atopy) dermatitis, they have an inherited predisposition to develop allergy symptoms to a usually harmless substance (allergen) that they are repeatedly exposed to.  Most of the time dogs start developing signs of having allergies when they are between 1 and 3 years old. Because this condition is hereditary it's seen more often in golden retrievers, Irish setters, bulldogs, most terriers, and Old English sheepdogs, however, all dogs, including mixed breeds can develop allergic dermatitis.

Common Types of Allergies in Dogs

Below we have listed some of the most common allergies in dogs:

Food Allergies

An allergy to a particular brand of food can develop even if your dog has been eating it for months. It makes no difference whether they eat the cheapest or highest-quality brand; if they are allergic to any ingredient in their food, they will experience symptoms. On the other hand, premium dog foods may contain fewer filler ingredients, which could be the source of an allergy.

Flea Allergies

When dogs are bitten by fleas and develop allergies, they are allergic to a protein in the flea's saliva, not the flea itself. In fact, dogs who are only exposed to fleas on occasion are more likely to develop symptoms than dogs who are constantly exposed.

Contact & Inhalent Allergies

Mold, pollen, trees, weeds, and dust mites can cause allergies in dogs, just as they can in humans. Keep track of when the symptoms appear to figure out which one your dog is allergic to. Pollen could be to blame if your dog's symptoms are seasonal, but if they happen all year, they could be allergic to mold.

Staphylococcus Hypersensitivity

Bacterial hypersensitivity occurs when a dog's immune system overreacts to normal Staphylococcus (Staph) bacteria on his skin. Specific changes occur microscopically in the blood vessels of dogs with bacterial hypersensitivity. Your veterinarian can diagnose this condition using bacterial culture and examination of a biopsy sample.

Dogs that already have other conditions such as hypothyroidism, an inhalant allergy, and/or a flea allergy are more likely to develop bacterial hypersensitivity.

Diagnosing Dogs With Allergic Dermatitis

The most reliable way to diagnose dogs with an allergy is to conduct an allergy test, and there are several types of these tests available. The most common is a blood test that looks for antigen-induced antibodies in a dog's blood.

Intradermal skin testing involves shaving a small portion of a dog's skin and injecting a small amount of antigen into it. To identify the allergens, the skin is examined after a period of time for a small raised reaction.

Once your dog has been diagnosed with an allergy, your vet will start developing a treatment plan.

Treating Dog Allergic Dermatitis

Treatment for a dog's skin allergies will be determined by the specific allergen causing their symptoms. Your pup's treatment could consist of one or more of the following:

  • Immunotherapy (hypo-sensitization) Allergy shots are another name for them. Hypersensitizing injections are made in a lab specifically for your dog's allergy and are given to your pup regularly (frequency depends on your dog's specific case). While this method is frequently very effective, it can take 6 to 12 months to see any noticeable improvement.
  • Medicated baths with shampoos containing antimicrobial and antifungal agents as well as other ingredients can help soothe a dog's injured skin, reduce inflammation, and remove allergens.
  • Flea control regimes can help prevent and get rid of fleas. To keep fleas from thriving on your pet, your vet may recommend giving your dog flea medications.
  • Antihistamines might be able to help control your dog's symptoms, however, they don't always work. On the other hand, if antihistamines are effective, this could be an affordable option that typically has a very low risk of side effects.
  • Hypoallergenic diets can either remove, replace, or reduce the food ingredient your dog is allergic to.
  • Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive agents should only be used as a last resort to relieve extreme discomfort or manage a dog's itching and scratching when allergy season is short (and in small quantities). Urination, thirst, and appetite may all increase as a result of this method, as well as skin jaundice and behavioral changes. Long-term use of this method may lead to diabetes or lowered infection resistance.
  • Controlling your dog's environment could be the best way to manage your dog's allergy if you are aware of the allergen and can remove it or minimize your dog's exposure to it effectively. Even if your pooch is on another medication, it is still best to reduce their exposure to the allergen if possible.

Treating a Dog's Allergies With Acupuncture Therapy

In addition to the treatments listed above, veterinary acupuncture therapy could be an effective way to help treat your dog's allergic dermatitis.

This method of traditional Chinese medicine involves inserting tiny needles into your pet's meridians (precise locations where blood vessels converge with nerves). These needles support the nervous system while also promoting blood flow and circulation along these meridians.

This increase in circulation can help dogs with hot spots, granulomas, and allergic dermatitis, as well as improve healing and reduce pain which as a result can reduce a dog's itching from allergies.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of allergic dermatitis, contact our Los Angeles vets today and schedule an appointment.

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