Come Spring and Fall, the pollen rolls in and the tissues come out. But allergy season, the great sniffling plague on humanity, can also affect dogs. It’s tough watching your dog suffer and you often feel powerless to relieve their pains. A pup can’t blow his nose, a pup can’t tell you what exactly he’s feeling.
So pet owners search their furry faces for the signs of an allergic reaction, hopefully identifying the symptom so they can seek appropriate treatment. Veterinarians are invaluable in these cases but the first line of defense against puppy allergies is, inevitably, the owner.
Common Allergens in Puppies
Many signs of a puppy suffering from allergies are familiar to humans—the runny nose to name just one—but some are unique to dogs. Increased scratching can be a tell tale sign that your best buddy is not standing up too well against the season.
An allergic reaction takes place when your dog’s immune system identifies a substance that it has inhaled, consumed, or been in contact with as harmful. This causes the body to try and expel the allergen and causes a number of symptoms. Many of these allergens are substances you come in contact with everyday, such as:
- Cigarette Smoke
- Tree, grass and weed pollens
- Rubber and plastic
- Cleaning Products
- Some foods (wheat, soy, corn, beef, etc.)
Your dog won’t be able to communicate which of these allergens is causing his affliction; many human beings don’t even know what they’re allergic to until a doctor has tested them. So, as your puppy’s owner and best friend it is up to you to identify the problem, but first you need to know the symptoms.
Symptoms of Allergies in Puppies
The common symptoms a dog in the midst of an allergic reaction will suffer from are:
- Runny eyes
- Itchy skin (especially around the ears and base of the tail)
- Red or scabby skin
- Paw chewing and paw inflammation
- Ear infection
- Hair loss
All of these symptoms are, in their own right, unpleasant. But when taken in conjunction with each other, they can make your pooch’s day a living nightmare. That is why the veterinary community has developed a number of ways to prevent and treat allergies in dogs (and it’s not always black and white).
Preventing Puppy Allergies
Like us, dogs can be tested for allergies. More often than not, the testing for atopy (or an inhaled allergen like dust and pollen) is far more precise than the tests for contact allergies (foods, materials, etc.). This comes down to the fact that inhaled allergens are far more common in dogs and much more easily identifiable. Testing for food allergies is rare, so most of the time you’ll have to take over the role of detective to see how your pooch reacts to different food types.
Immunotherapy is available to dogs in a shot or drip form. This can reduce the symptoms your puppy will suffer but will not entirely eliminate the reaction. Sadly, allergies are a lifelong affliction, but immunotherapy has been used to alleviate a lot of the pain for your dog.
Other ways to try and snuff out the problem before it takes hold is to bathe your dog regularly with hypoallergenic shampoos. This will help kill off fleas that are often the source of many allergies and will also relieve you puppy’s itchiness… at least temporarily. Dust too, is a huge source of allergies, so a bit of housekeeping and surface cleaning can go a long way.
Treating Allergies in Puppies
If, however, the problem is too far along, your veterinarian may need to step in. The most common veterinarian prescribed treatments are fatty acid supplements that help suppress itching and improve coat thickness as well as puppy-safe antihistamines, often the same allergy medications humans use to mitigate or kill allergy symptoms.
Any medicinal relief you do offer your pup should be given as a result of a veterinarian’s consultation. Dosing dogs is an exact science and depends on many factors other than size and breed.
In the most severe cases of allergic reaction, your vet may result to using cortisone or immune modulating drugs to help your dog.