What are the symptoms of allergies in dogs?
- Frequent scratching and licking
- Chewing at feet
- Rubbing face on the carpet/rough surfaces
- Skin hot spots (warm skin patches) due to irritation from constant skin scratching and chewing
- Thickened and greasy skin with strong odor
- Red and hot ear flaps
- Losing more hair than usual
- Discharge from the eyes
What are the causes of allergies in dogs?
Your dog could be allergic to something present in his environment (environmental allergens) or it might come from something he eats (dog food allergens).
1. Potential environmental allergens
Dogs are sensitive to a lot of environmental irritants. The most common environmental irritants are:
- Dust mites
- Cats (male and long--haired cats in particular)
- Other dogs
How to get rid of environmental allergens?
Dust mites are microscopic creatures that belong to the family of arachnids (along with spiders and ticks). Dust mites enjoy warm and moist environments. They live in mattresses, pillows, cushions and carpets. They eat human and animal skin flakes, which means they thrive in homes where both humans and animals live.
Dust mites do not bite and do not carry diseases. They are only harmful to people or animals that are allergic to them.
Most homes have a dust mite population and a relatively small dust mite population won’t cause allergic reactions in your dogs. Large populations however can cause allergies.
Getting rid of dust mites
- Cover your mattresses, pillows and duvets with micro--porous material
- Remove carpet and clutter
- Air your bed during the day to reduce moisture from sleep
- Vacuum mattresses to reduce the dust that mites live on
- Wash beddings (duvets too) to get rid of mites and their eggs
The itching will follow the mold growth and could be seasonal or year--round. This is likely to happen in humid households, especially if your bathroom is unventilated.
Humidity could also arise if your house has been flooded in the past or if your basement often gets wet.
Getting rid of mold
Keep the humidity low in your house by:
- Using ventilation in your bathroom
- Using an extractor hood above your stove when cooking
- Fixing leaks
- Draining pipes every few months
- Cleaning out mold and mildew
Peoples’ skin flakes
Your dog might be allergic to your or other family members’ skin flakes.
Getting rid of skin flakes
Cleaning your house regularly will improve your dog’s environment. If your dog continues to suffer from allergies, it is important to take him to the vet who will recommend appropriate allergy shots.
Male long--haired cats put out a lot of allergens. The irritant is found in cats’ saliva and anal sacs. When the cat licks itself, the saliva dries out, flakes off and floats away in the air.
These flakes are very light and very sticky, they easily attach themselves to furniture. They are extremely persistent too. They stay active in a home environment for at least 10 years!
Getting rid of cats’ skin flakes
Bathe the cats regularly (at least monthly; that’s if they tolerate it!).
Pollen allergies and getting rid of them
Just like humans, dogs might be allergic to pollen. These are very likely to be seasonal allergies, just like some of us experience hay fever a few months a year only.
To find out which pollens your dog is allergic to, it is best to go to the vet for a scratch test. Your vet will inject pollen extracts in your dog. The substances your dog will react to are the ones your dog is allergic to.
As a guideline though, it is easy to guess what your dog might be allergic to by checking the period of the year he shows symptoms: the earliest spring pollens are tree pollens, grass pollens then last until the summer. Flower pollens are very rarely problematic for dogs.
Allergies to other dogs and reducing the risk
Dogs are mainly allergic to dogs who spend a lot of time outside and hence bring pollen in on their fur. If the dogs shake, the pollens float away and spread throughout the house.
The easiest thing to do is to keep your dogs very clean therefore removing the pollen from the fur.
2. Dog food’s potential allergens
Dogs can also be allergic to ingredients or substances present in the foods they eat. It is common for people to feed their dogs the same food over long periods of time. So when their dogs start itching or showing other symptoms of allergic reactions, they seldom suspect their dogs' food to be the cause of their dogs’ suffering.
It is important to understand that dogs can develop allergies to a substance or ingredients over time. So your dog previously doing well on a certain food does not rule out food allergies! In fact, overexposure to a substance or ingredient can lead to your dog developing an allergy.
The advantage of premium dog foods is that they tend to avoid common fillers that are often implicated in food allergies.
Indeed, fillers commonly found in inexpensive commercial dog foods as well as overused meats are the most common allergens:
- Chicken (surprised? We were)
How to avoid allergies from puppyhood?
Limiting your dog’s exposure to corn, wheat, soy, chicken, beef, pork, milk, eggs and preservatives is important and can be done by carefully reading the food’s label.
However, as all dog owners know, dog food labels are often complicated and confusing. Ingredients such as “poultry meal”, “animal derivatives”, “animal fat”, and “animal by--products” can hide the presence of potential allergens in the food. The word “animal” does not specify which animal the fat, digest, by--product or derivative may come from. It could come from any type of animal even if its presence is not stated in the name of the product!
Diagnosing dog food allergies with an exclusion diet
Today there are blood tests available which will give a relatively accurate indication of whether your dog is allergic to constituents in his diet. You can start by taking your dog to the vet and ask for a test.
You can also identify which ingredients your dog is allergic to yourself by trialing different foods and proceeding by elimination.
A food trial consists in feeding your dog an exclusion diet. To do this, you will have to eliminate all foods from your dog’s diet, then introduce an exclusion diet (a diet containing only one protein source – one meat – and one carbohydrate source – one carbohydrate). It is recommended to feed the exclusion diet for a period of 12 weeks.
Start by putting your dog on an exclusion diet, which consists of one protein source only and one carbohydrate source only that your dog has never eaten before. Uncommon meats are duck, rabbit, venison or lamb and two examples of uncommon carbohydrates are rice or potatoes. That’s why we chose to use duck and potatoes in our Premium Kibble and lamb in our Premium Wet Food. Make sure that the food does not contain any dairy, eggs, soya, cereal, corn, wheat or preservative either so that you can really test your dog’s tolerance to a certain meat and carbohydrate.
Once you have chosen your trial diet, feed your dog this diet for 12 weeks and avoid all other foods – even treats.
Observe your dog closely. If your dog’s symptoms lessen then try to feed your dog its original diet once again. If the symptoms return, then you’ll know that your dog has an allergy to something in the original food. If during the dog’s food trial you don’t notice improvement, then continue the trial with another diet (a different protein source and carbohydrate source) until you find a combination that your dog tolerates.
Bob & Lush – a real hypoallergenic dog food brand!
All Bob & Lush’s products are hypoallergenic. This means 2 things:
1) All of our products are free from the common dog food fillers that often cause allergies: wheat, soya, dairy, eggs, cereals, corn and preservatives. This means that all dogs allergic to these ingredients will benefit from shifting to our premium kibble, premium wet food and treats.
2) All of our products are ‘exclusion diets’ meaning that there is only one type of meat per product. The meats chosen (duck and lamb) are meats your dog is least likely to have been overexposed to and hence least likely to be allergic to.
Our Premium Kibble contains duck and duck only: fresh duck, duck stock and duck fat. There are no “animal derivatives”, no “animal by--products”, no “meat meals”, no “animal fat”, no “poultry meals” – generic terms, which can hide the presence of substances derived from an animal specie which isn’t specified in the product’s name.
Our Premium Wet Food contains lamb and lamb only: lamb meat, lamb heart, lamb liver, lamb tripe and lamb broth.
Our venison treats contain venison only: the venison is air--dried and nothing is added to them.
As our products are exclusion diets, you can be sure that when putting your dog on our premium kibble feeding trial, he will be fed duck and potatoes only – no hidden meats and no fillers. If you’re conducting the trial with our wet food, you can be sure that your dog’s only source of protein comes from the lamb.