Does My Dog Have Allergies?

Our Dog Specialist

Our Dog Specialist

Ina Holz is a German Coach/ consultant for dog owners. Her focus is on the relationship between people and their dogs.

Allergies are considered a kind of overreaction of our immune system, from which our dogs are not spared either. Allergies occur in many different areas of life and can cause mild to life-threatening reactions in the body. Even mild allergic reactions should be taken very seriously, because they are very annoying and stressful, and they can get progressively worse or even lead to an allergic shock, which in the worst case can be fatal.

Allergic Signs/ Symptoms

Allergies are usually evident through different reactions of the body, these can be, among other things:

Red skin, dry skin, scaly skin, hair loss, bald patches, mild to severe itching, dirty or inflamed ears, watery and red eyes, itchy, swollen or red feet (especially between the toes), swelling of the face, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath.

These are just a few of the symptoms mentioned that could be attributed to an allergy. However, it is important that in the case of allergies, the symptoms are treated and that the causes are found. It is necessary to find out what triggered the allergic reaction to discuss how to proceed and how to deal with the allergy together with a specialist such as a veterinarian. Often the simple solution is to avoid the trigger and banish it from everyday life. However, this is not always possible, because it is impossible to avoid the beloved dog suffering from a house dust allergy or grass pollen allergy. Then, together with a veterinarian, an alternative or medicinal way should be found so that the dog can participate in everyday family life without the stressor of an allergic reaction.

Diversity and stress

The most common allergies in dogs include food/feed allergies, contact allergies, allergic reactions to parasites or insects, house dust, medication, or parasite prophylaxis. There are even dog breeds that are particularly affected by allergies, with all bulldog breeds leading the most statistics. I don’t know of any bulldogs that are free of allergies. As such, I have noticed a significant increase in allergies in dogs in my area over the last few centuries. In what way this connection stands can only be conjectured. Theories such as allergies in the context of the increased use of chemical substances in our domestic environment and food and feed always seem very credible and plausible to me. To date, however, I am not aware of any actual evidence. Likewise, the treatment methods for allergies are often not very promising.

If you, as a dog owner, should take action quickly if your dog shows symptoms of having allergies. Take them to the vet you trust, but also an animal naturopath or dog nutritionist. The physical suffering that an allergy can cause should not be underestimated. Persistent or severe itching is an enormous stress factor and also hurts our dogs’ mental state. Dogs suffering from an allergy can be much more sensitive and cause other problems. A stressed dog will show aggressive behavior more quickly.

My Experience With a Dog That Has Allergies

My former dog Benji suddenly had a completely swollen face one day, which was very inexplicable to me at the time. She suddenly resembled a hippopotamus more than a dog, she was a German shepherd mix… Her lips were thick and puffy and her eyes were swollen too. This swelling was followed by very severe itching. You could feel that it was driving her crazy and she was constantly pushing her face against the furniture and across the carpet. The swelling was worrisome and I was concerned it might spread to the respiratory tract so I decided to see a vet immediately.

This confirmed my suspicion that it was an allergic reaction. Only the big question about the trigger remained unanswered because we had not added anything to our daily routine and the diet was not changed either. I already knew then that allergies can also appear suddenly and that reactions can arise where there had never been one before. The vet treated her for the itching and gave me emergency tablets just in case. Because allergies with unknown triggers can quickly lead to a life-threatening situation. On this day, however, the swelling subsided again over the afternoon and the itching seemed to subside as well. This strengthened the suspicion that it could have been an insect bite, even if she had been completely fine from insect bites for the first eight years of her life. My dog was fine again and I hoped that the shock of the morning was a one-off.

But the very next morning, the same picture presented itself to me as the day before. A hippopotamus-faced dog who’s so itchy that he doesn’t know what to do with himself. It was horrible to watch. Luckily, the emergency medication from the vet worked quickly and she got better quickly. Nevertheless, this only combated the symptom and still, no cause was found. It is unthinkable that this spectacle will continue in the next few days. So I analyzed our daily routine in tiny little steps and compared it with the previous day. I gave her small amounts of her food and treats to see if there was any reaction, but there was nothing unusual about that. I watched every little step for the rest of the day, but like the day before, she remained unresponsive throughout the afternoon. This was good on the one hand because Benji was doing well, but on the other hand, there was no indication of the cause.

It wasn’t until the next morning, during my morning walk through the garden, that I noticed that she drinks a few sips of water every morning from the old ceramic bowl that stands on the terrace. I had not yet included this ritual in my case analysis. Anyway, I had completely ruled out that a dog could be allergic to water. On closer inspection, however, one could see that a very slightly pink shimmer had formed on the edge of the bowl. Could this be the trigger for her strong allergic reaction? Where Benji was a very robust dog and had slurped water from much dirtier containers. Some of you are probably familiar with the phenomenon that dogs seem to like the water from flower coasters, watering cans, or buckets in the garden better than the water that is freshly provided every day. 

But, about half an hour after Benji took only a few sips of the water from the terrace bowl, slight reactions started again, which the veterinarian was able to contain immediately thanks to the medication. I consulted the veterinarian and another specialist, we had the deposits on the bowl examined. The investigations revealed that a fungus had formed on the edge of the bowl, to which Benji reacted strongly. The cause was finally found, the bowl went into the garbage and Benji showed no more allergic reactions for the rest of her life.

The example of Benji shows how complex and varied the search for an allergic trigger can be and yet in many cases, it is the best solution. My current dog Akeena comes from Romania and is also allergic. Her allergy relates to grain-containing feed. An allergy is quite common among dogs. However, the allergy showed up on her feet. Akeena’s feet were so itchy that she licked all four paws sore and open, after all, she could hardly walk. Only long-term drug treatment brought her the relief she had been looking for. A long and meticulous search for a grain-free and chemical-free feed subsequently replaced the daily administration of medication. Here, too, I chose the path of avoidance, of allergic triggers. 

We have been consistently adhering to this for a good three years and to date, there have been no more allergic reactions without the additional administration of medication. Keep your fingers crossed for me and Akeena that it stays that way and that she can continue to lead a problem-free and happy dog life.

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