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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dog Allergies

There has been a general increase in allergies to humans and pets alike. At a seminar I recently attended, Liz Koskenmaki, DVM addressed the issue giving me plenty of information to pass on. Dr. Koskenmaki started out by saying that 50% of all her patients come due to allergies.

While she didn't discuss the cause of this phenomenon, she mentioned the three main dog allergy  causes and their manifestation. She also mentioned dog allergy treatment solutions for each cause.

The three main dog allergy causes are:

1. dog fleas
2. dog food allergies
3. environmental allergies

The patients may have ear issues, skin (yeast or bacterial infections), irritability, weight loss, and itching. For starters, the dog vet has to rule out three major things: ringworm, mites, and bacterial or yeast infections.

1. Allergies Caused by Dog Fleas

No dog is born with flea allergies. Flea allergy develops after exposure for a long period of time. That's why, according to vets, all canines should receive preventive dog flea control. Dog fleas are not easy to see, but that does not mean that your dog is free of them unless he's on medication. Dr. Koskenmaki suggested the use of Fronline Plus, Advantage, Advantix (caution: this one is toxic to cats!) as a way to prevent exposure to fleas, therefore overall avoidance of related dog skin allergies. When I questioned the current warnings against spot-on medications, she replied that the bad rep is due to formulations that come from other countries that are usually really cheap (she used Hartz as an example) that can indeed have devastating effects on our dogs. She also reassured me that overall, the "quality stuff" is still considered quite safe. She mentioned Fronline and Revolution as good choices, and that the only side effect she has personally seen from Frontline was minimal hair loss at the application site.

Dog food allergies are quite common. Many dogs are allergic to corn, byproducts, soy, added dyes . . . There are plenty of hypoallergenic dog food options to try first. If that does not solve your dog's food allergy issue, you should consider the possibility of protein allergies. It takes a dog about 3-5 years from birth to develop allergies to protein. In such cases, one can switch to lamb, venison, duck, rabbit, or fish dog food.  Another option to "test" protein allergies is to switch to hydrolyzed protein. Switching to a hydrolyzed protein diet is a way to diagnose food allergies, but it is not a diet your dog should be on long term. Remember, this diagnostic technique takes a while since it takes about 6 weeks for your dog's system to clear up. There are also blood tests available to diagnose dog food allergies, but they are not 100% correct.

3. Environmental Allergies

Environment related dog allergies are the worst. There is intradermal testing (skin testing) that shows exactly what your dog is allergic too. Based on those results, your vet can provide you with a special cocktail shot fit for your dog, but the process takes as long as 8 months.

Dog Allergy Treatment Suggestions

1. 30% of dogs will respond to antihistamines, which are found to be relatively safe to use even long term. 
2. Atopica: is an immunosuppresant drug with not too many side effects. It takes 2-4 weeks to work but it is not licensed for cats yet (although some vets do use it on cats).
3. Dog steroids: The results are instant BUT there are many side effects. They are tough on the liver and leave your dog prone to infections. 
4. Fish Oil for dogs: A great supplement that boosts the immune system, helps with dog allergies, strengthens the heart, brain, skin and nerves. 

Dog allergies are common and complicated to treat. This article should help guide you to think in the right direction or in the least in your communication with your personal vet.


♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ said...

Great post - lots of good information. We can't have corn in our food at all - although we do like an occasional taste of popcorn:)

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

animal lover, quilt lover said...

Hi Twinkie,
What a great post!!!!!! My Bambi has food allergies. We have never had her tested but it has been proven by the food she has eaten.
Thanks so much for this wonderful post!!!
I cook all her food for her except what she gets to steal every blue noon.
Come for a visit when you have the time.
XXOO, Bambi & Fern

JacksDad said...

We have the seasonal allergies too!

Amy & the house of cats said...

Hi Twinkie - this is a great subject! We aren't dogs, but we have a lot of allergies at our house - mostly eye stuff, but also skin things now too. And we know a lot of our dog and cat friends have allergies - but we didn't realize it was as high as it is!

Sagira said...

My mom is working on a case with her rescue right now where the Weim is having some really bad allergies. Very sad. :(

The Daily Pip said...

Great post. I usually struggle with skin itchy allergies at this time of year, but I have been OK so far ... first year ever!

Your pal, Pip

The Boston Lady said...

Thanks for all that great info. My Bostons seem to suffer from the environmental allergies, mainly to random plants or weeds we have in our yard. This year has not been too bad at all, but the antihistamines worked for my girls.

Tried to comment yesterday about the adorable Roxie. She looks like she would fit in nicely here at our house!

Pat Wahler said...

When I was a kid our dogs went to the vet one time a year for a rabies shot. No one observed all the issues I've seen with my critters or my friends' critters. It makes me believe that either the environment or what we feed our pets is doing something to make them susceptible to all these issues!


Sonic said...

Mmm... I dunno about that anti-flea stuff. My Humans put that Revolution stuff on me all the time, and it makes my fur all sticky and icky. But I guess it means I don't get fleas, so it's okay.


jen said...

Great post! At the clinic where I work we see so many pets with allergies these days and it can be so frustrating for owners because it usually takes some time to get to the source of the allergy.
We were also informed that using a topical flea medication like Frontline, regularly can help raise the itching threshold of the cat or dog.

Lorenza said...

Thanks for sharing all that info about dog allergies!
Kisses and hugs

Molly the Airedale said...

Great post, Twink! This will help a lot of doggies who have allergies!

Love ya lots
Maggie and Mitch

Kate said...

Very interesting information! After much deliberation we have found that my allergies relate mostly to environment changes (eg when we went away for the weekend I am now an itch fest)and certain allergens such as fresh cut grass, pollens etc.

Its very frustrating. Another thing the vet reckons I am also allergic to poultry which is aparently very common also! So my food is salmon based (and smells like it too much to Ma's disgust!)

Thanks for sharing!

Doris Sturm said...

Thank you! I found this post very interesting, especially since both, Gizzy and I, have developed allergies in the past 3 years since living in GA. I and him cough frequently and he gets an injection periodically from the vet and I have a rescue inhaler (that I HATE using) but found that sucking on a simple eucalyptus/mentholated cough drop does the trick.

I seriously am considering moving into a cooler, less humid climate as we do both better in the cold!

Take care and God bless!

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