Dogs and Skin Allergies
Have you ever thought much about your dog’s skin? Skin is a
very important part of a dog’s body, it not only holds the dog’s body together, it protects it against invasion by harmful microorganisms. The skin acts as a water tight seal, keeps the body fluids in tact and prevents dehydration.
And if that is not enough the skin insulates the organs against heat and cold. It also acts as a sensor alerting the brain in regard to certain environmental conditions on the outside of the body.
You would think that something that has so many important duties would not have the ability to become impaired.
Unfortunately for the dog many things can bring misery to the skin in the form of itching.
There is nothing more distressing than to see your poor dog scratching itself time after time.
Dogs can suffer from skin allergies caused by many things.
What are some of the things that can cause an allergy or allergy type condition?
An allergic reaction to a new food is one cause, along with fleas, a mite infestation, a bacterial infection, a fungi or yeast infection, airborne pollen, dust, dust mites and stress.
These and possibly many more things can be a source of a skin condition.
About 35 percent of veterinary visits are due to a dog’s skin problems.
Itching and scratching in itself do little harm to the skin that is, until it becomes continual and creates open sores and wounds.
A dog with an allergy will not only scratch, but can be found chewing on itself, licking or rubbing on things.
Outward signs can be blisters, redness of the skin, ugly oozing moist open sores, and a rash visible around the feet, face, ears, armpits or groin areas.
What can be done for an allergy?
First of all a trip vet is the first thing and then in some cases it will be a trial and error method to see what the culprit is.
If a food allergy is suspected and there are many things a dog can be allergic to such as beef, chicken, dairy, soybeans (lecithin,) wheat or corn.
Your vet will usually prescribe a diet using venison (deer meat) or lamb and a carbohydrate such as rice, potatoes or pasta, which you normally do not feed your dog. It usually takes at least 2 to 3 weeks to determine if food is the problem.
During that time it is recommended that you do not give your dog any treats, rawhide chew toys or other chews.
Once it is determined that food is the culprit you will add new foods one at a time and wait for reactions. There really is no cure for a food allergy, except to avoid what is causing it.
Adding Omega 3 fatty acids in supplement form is one of the best things you can do for your dog. A diet that does not provide all a dog’s basic needs will show up in its coat and skin. If your dog‘s coat has no luster and is coarse and /or its skin is flaky, feels greasy and has an odor, there can be no doubt that its diet is lacking in Omega 3 fatty acids. There are many formulas available for pets
Fleas used to be the number one culprit of skin disorders, however with all the new and wonderful flea products on the market that problem has seemed to have almost disappeared.
Mite infestation can cause mange, demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange. Mites are critters under the skin and will need to be treated by medication prescribed by your vet. Again giving your dog the Omega 3 fatty acid supplements will benefit your dog’s immune system greatly.
Bacterial infections will cause blisters, red inflamed areas and/or ugly moist oozing sores all commonly known as “hot spots.” This type of disorder can be treated by shampoos, antibiotics and Omega3 fatty acids for the immune system.
Fungi or yeast infections are spore like forms of fungi that can be caused by an allergy or an immune deficiency. The skin gets an “elephant” like appearance and the itch is extreme.
There are some breeds that are prone to this particular type of infection such as Basset hounds, Cocker spaniels, several terrier breeds, Lhasa apso’s and dachshunds.
Treatment is primarily in pill form along with bathing in a tar formulated shampoo. Diet can be the main cause as food allergies are the prominent suspect. Omega 3 fatty acids need to be in the diet or given in supplement as the immune system is being affected.
Airborne allergies, dust and dust mites there is very little you can do to prevent these type of allergies except to keep your dog away from as much exposure as possible. Keeping the skin clean and giving your dog antihistamines and steroids (little as possible) seem to be a solution.
It is suggested that steroids be used to fight allergies, only if truly necessary, because of the side effects involved.
Some veterinarians suggest a “hyposensitizing vaccine” which is prepared from the allergens and given to the dog in injection form. It usually takes 9 to 12 months to see the benefit, but 60 percent of the dogs that have been given such injections have shown improvement.
One of the most important things I have found in doing the research for this article is the importance of the immune system in fighting off allergies. It seems if the immune system is in “good working” order many allergies, skin and otherwise can be avoided.