Allergic dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that occurs after exposure to an allergen. An allergen is something to which the body is allergic. The number-one sign of allergies in pets is itching. Dogs lick, bite, chew and scratch themselves to the point of self-mutilation. The result is red, raw areas of skin with oozing sores and hair loss. The difficulty that vets face is isolating the allergen responsible for the reaction because in many cases there is usually more than one substance involved.
TYPES OF DOG ALLERGIES
- Fleas are the number one cause of allergies in dogs. Over half of all canine allergies are due to fleas. The dogs are actually allergic to a protein component of the flea saliva. One fleabite in these dogs can cause intense itching lasting up to 14 days.
- Allergic Inhalant Dermatitis is also referred to as Atopic Dermatitis and/or Atopy. These terms are used for allergies that develop in response to inhaled particles. Inhaled allergens, like house dust, mold and pollen, are the second most common type of allergy in dogs. These allergies start at a younger age in dogs and some breeds seem to be more prone, such as west highland white terriers and sharpeis.
- Food allergies account for 10-20 percent of canine allergies. Skin infections (Dermatitis) are the primary sign. Consider organic, natural diets for your dog as opposed to commercial grocery store brands. Home made diets take more time but are well worth the extra effort.
TIP: Identifying the source of an allergy can be frustrating. Dog bedding that contains cedar chips or other scented material can be responsible.
WHAT YOUR VET CAN DO
- Intradermal skin testing is the most accurate method available to figure out what’s causing the dog’s allergy. Small amounts of different substances called allergens are injected into the skin. If the dog is allergic to one of the substances, the skin reacts by getting red and swollen at the injection site within 15 to 30 minutes. Once you know what the dog is allergic to, it may be possible to avoid it, for example, beds with cedar chips.
- TIP: An elimination diet is used to diagnose the offending dietary ingredient in a food allergy. When a food allergy is suspected, an elimination diet is most effective to detect the offensive food. Hypoallergenic diets are indicated once the diagnosis is confirmed.
- Hyposensitization is one of the best treatment options for allergies like pollen and mold that cannot be avoided. Hyposensitization involves giving injections of small amounts of the actual allergen. These allergy shots are dosed and given in increasing increments weekly or biweekly. The goal is to stimulate the body to become immune or less sensitive to the allergen.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- High doses of Vitamin C can help reduce itching and antibiotics may be indicated to treat secondary bacterial infections. Bathing with hypoallergenic oatmeal-based shampoos and using leave-on after-shampoos moisturizers with aloe vera and alpha keri help decrease skin irritation. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid supplements found in fish oil, along with the minerals Selenium and Zinc and the Antioxidant Vitamins A and E along with Bioflavonoids help improve dry, flaky skin and hair coats.
- Comprehensive, balanced nutritional vitamin supplements, made in the USA, such as PAAWS and VitaLife that are designed for dogs specifically based on their size and age help to boost overall immunity and reduce the incidence of allergic out breaks and itching by 50 to 75 percent.
- For ongoing flea problems, monthly flea products such as Revolution, Advantage and Frontline available through your veterinarian are the safest and most effective way to prevent flea infestations.
COMPLEMENTARY TREATMENTS – HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES
A range of homeopathic remedies may be useful which include Sulphur, Hepar Sulph, Arsenica alb, and Rhus tax. Dosages range from 30c to 1m. Acupuncture stimulates the immune system and generally requires six to eight treatments for effective results.
HERBAL REMEDIES – Herbs for topical use:
- Witch Hazel
- Oregon Grape
- Chinese herbal formulas that may be useful include: