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Dog Skin Allergies: The Itchy Details


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If your dog has itchy skin, is sporting red patches, or showing signs of discomfort, they may be dealing with a dog skin allergy. It’s a common issue, yet one that can cause a lot of distress for both pups and their owners.

In this blog, we’re unpacking everything from the causes and symptoms to diagnosis and treatment options. Whether you’re here because your pup is currently suffering or you just want to arm yourself with knowledge for the future, we’ve got you covered.

The dog is licking his tongue due to an itchy skin irritation.

Dog skin allergy types

Navigating the world of dog skin allergies can be tricky, but understanding these common types is a great first step.

Flea allergy dermatitis

This one tops the list. It’s not the fleas themselves but their saliva that can drive your dog up the wall. Just one bite can trigger an intense allergic reaction, leading to scratching, biting, and skin infections. If your dog has extra itchy skin after a flea encounter, this could be the culprit.

Food allergies

Yep, just like us, dogs can have food allergies too. Common triggers include beef, dairy, wheat, chicken, egg, and soy. But it’s not just about the itch; food allergies can also cause gastrointestinal issues. So, if you notice your dog scratching away and having tummy troubles, a food allergy might be at play.

Contact allergies

These are less common but still worth mentioning. They happen when your dog’s skin reacts to something it touches, like certain shampoos, flea collars, or even the grass. The reaction is usually localised to the contact area, so if you see a rash or irritation on a specific part of your dog’s body, this could be why.

Atopic dermatitis

Fancy term, right? This is basically an allergic reaction to environmental allergens like pollen, mould, dust mites, and grasses. It’s like hay fever for dogs but affects their skin. You might notice your dog scratching more during certain seasons or after a romp in the park.

We recently spoke to Dr Cath Watson, Kiwi vet, Healthy Pets New Zealand Chair and a proud PD contributor, about dog seasonal allergies and how to treat them.

Dog skin allergy treatments

Treating dog skin allergies can feel a bit like being a detective and a caretaker rolled into one. The key is to identify the cause and then tackle it head-on. Here’s a breakdown of steps and treatments that might help soothe your dog’s itchy skin woes:

Identify the allergen

First things first, figuring out what’s causing the allergy is crucial. This might involve:

  • Vet visits: They can perform skin or blood tests to identify environmental allergens.
  • Elimination diets: For food allergies, this means switching up your dog’s diet to pinpoint the offending food.

Check out “How to Know Your Dog Has an Allergy” for more on this.

Dog skin allergy medications

Once you know what you’re up against, your vet might prescribe dog skin allergy medications to ease the symptoms:

  • Antihistamines can help with mild reactions.
  • Steroids can reduce inflammation and are used for more severe cases but watch out for long-term side effects.
  • Immunotherapy involves exposing your dog to small amounts of the allergen to build tolerance over time.
A veterinarian is examining a dog's itchy skin.

Topical treatments

To relieve skin discomfort, consider:

  • Medicated shampoos designed to soothe irritated skin and wash away allergens.
  • Topical ointments or sprays that can reduce your dog’s itchy skin and inflammation.

Your dog’s skin allergy and flea control

For flea allergy dermatitis, keeping those pesky fleas at bay is essential. Regularly use flea prevention treatments like spot-on medication, oral tablets, or flea collars. Check out our guide on flea treatment for dogs- here.

Environmental control

If environmental allergens are the cause of your dog’s skin allergy, try to minimise exposure by:

  • Regular bathing to remove allergens from your dog’s coat.
  • Air purifiers to reduce indoor allergens.
  • Cleaning routines, including vacuuming and washing your dog’s bedding frequently.

Diet and supplements

For overall skin health, consider:

  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids supplements can improve skin health and reduce inflammation.
  • A balanced diet that avoids known food allergens and supports skin health.

Lifestyle adjustments to treat you dog’s skin allergy

Small changes can make a big difference to minimising your dog’s skin allergy:

  • Protective clothing during walks can minimise contact with outdoor allergens.
  • Moisturising your dog’s skin with vet-approved products to prevent dryness and cracking.

It’s a good idea to chat to your vet before starting any new treatment. They can offer personalised advice based on your dog’s specific needs and health history. With patience and care, you can help manage your pup’s allergies and improve their quality of life.

A chihuahua dog sitting on a white background, possibly struggling with itchy skin or a dog skin allergy.

Breeds prone to dog skin allergies

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing skin allergies than others. This predisposition can be due to genetics, the structure of their skin and coat, or their immune system’s response to allergens.

Dog breeds prone to atopic dermatitis

  • French Bulldogs: Known for their sensitivity to pollen, grass, and dust mites. We have a dedicated article for skin and ear infections in French Bulldogs – here.
  • Golden Retrievers: Prone to reacting to environmental allergens with itchy skin.
  • Labrador Retrievers: Their love for the outdoors can be dampened by reactions to grasses and pollens.
  • West Highland White Terriers: Have a well-documented history of skin issues, including allergies to mites and moulds.
  • Shar-Peis: Their unique skin folds can trap allergens, leading to irritation.

Breeds prone to flea allergy dermatitis

  • Boxers: Their short coat offers little protection against fleas, making them susceptible.
  • Pit Bull Terriers: Often have sensitive skin that reacts strongly to flea bites.
  • German Shepherds: Can develop severe reactions to flea saliva.

Breeds prone to food allergies

  • Cocker Spaniels: Known for their sensitivity to certain foods that can cause skin reactions.
  • Dachshunds: May develop allergies to common ingredients in dog foods, leading to skin issues.
  • Bulldogs (English and French): Their dietary sensitivities often manifest through skin problems.

For more on your dog’s skin health, check out our piece: “Everything You Need To Know About Dog Skin Conditions”.

A French bulldog puppy with itchy skin looks up at the sky.

Insurance for a soft landing

Whether its a dog skin allergy or something else, there are plenty of accidents and other emergencies your pup may find themselves in. Make sure you never have to weigh up finances against getting the best care for your pup, with a good dog insurance plan.

PD Insurance is an award-winning service provider that offers value-rich month-to-month cover for your pet. Why not get a quote today?

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