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Skin allergies in dogs can be caused by lots of different things. The skin is the largest organ in the dog’s body so it’s not surprising that when a dog has any kind of allergic reaction to something, it will often manifest in itching, redness, and other skin problems. Ear infections and swellings are other signs associated with allergic reactions, along with chewing on the paws.
Common triggers for allergies in dogs include:
- Fabrics such as wool or nylon
- Flea bites
- Foods and food additives such as individual meats, grains, or colorings
- House dust and dust mites
- Milk products
- Rubber and plastic materials
- Weed pollens
Inhalant or atopic allergies are the most common among dogs and they are usually seasonal, although dogs can be allergic to house dust and dust mites year round. Flea allergies are the second most common cause of allergies among dogs. Food allergies make up about 10 percent of the allergies found in dogs. It is not uncommon for dogs to have more than one allergy.
Food Intolerances vs. Food Allergies
Many people lump all bad reactions to food together in the same category but they do not all indicate an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to food will usually result in skin allergies in dogs – itching, scratching, redness, and swelling on the skin. By contrast, a food intolerance may cause your dog to vomit or have diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems. It’s similar to what may happen when you eat spicy food or other food that irritates your stomach. It’s not a food allergy but your dog’s gastrointestinal system has problems digesting the food.
Allergies And Nutrition
Skin allergies in dogs, especially those that are due to food allergies, often need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian if you want to be sure about what your dog is allergic to. A vet may wish to use feeding trials and an elimination diet to determine what your dog is allergic to, and this can take several weeks or months. If your dog simply has a temporary reaction to a new food, stop feeding the food immediately! Give your dog some plain boiled chicken and rice (or something similarly bland) for a couple of days to let his system return to normal. You can go back to feeding your old dog food and let the reaction subside. Compare the ingredients in the new food to those in the old food and see if you can single out the ingredient which might have caused your dog to have a reaction. You can make an effort to avoid that ingredient in the future.
On the other hand, if your dog has ongoing issues with some ingredient, especially one of the common dog food ingredients, you will probably have to put your dog on a more restricted diet. Fortunately, there are plenty of good dog foods today which feature restricted or limited ingredients. You can look for foods that have a single source of protein and a carbohydrate that you know your dog can eat without having an allergic reaction, for example. Or look for dog foods that have fewer ingredients. The idea is that if the food has fewer ingredients, it is less likely that the food will contain something that will cause a reaction in your dog.
The most common triggers for skin allergies in dogs caused by food ingredients are, in order:
- Dairy products
- Chicken eggs
These are, of course, the most common ingredients found in dog foods today, which is probably no coincidence. The more dogs are exposed to foods, the more likely it is that some dogs will develop allergies. It doesn’t mean the foods are “bad.” It is just the law of averages. You could feed your dog filet mignon, and if he is allergic to beef, he will have a reaction. The more a dog is exposed to any food, the more likely he is to develop an allergy. When millions of dogs eat dog food with these common proteins, it’s not surprising that some dogs will develop allergies to them.
For long term treatment of skin allergies in dogs due to food ingredients, you will need to avoid feeding the ingredients which trigger your dog’s allergy.
Skin Allergies And Supplements
There are some supplements that can help your dog’s skin if he has problems with skin allergies. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to improve the skin and coat, even with dogs who have allergies. Research has shown that the Omega 3 fatty acid works in the skin to reduce the histamine and other chemicals that respond when your dog has an allergic reaction. They work for many dogs, but not all. Omega 3 derived from fish oil is best. Many good dog foods add this supplement to their food now but dogs with food allergies may need extra dosing to receive maximum benefits.
Should You Feed Your Dog A Novel Protein?
People have a great choice of dog food today with many kinds of novel or exotic proteins besides traditional foods like chicken, beef, and lamb. You can easily find dog food that contains all kinds of fish, venison, duck, bison, and even more unusual meats. These proteins are often featured in some of the better dog foods and owners like to buy the very best foods for their dogs. But you should exercise some caution when considering which proteins to buy for your dog. Such novel proteins were originally intended for dogs who required special diets because they were allergic to more common meat proteins. They needed these exotic proteins because they couldn’t safely eat beef, or chicken, or lamb. If you are buying some of these foods with novel proteins for your dog and he doesn’t have a food allergy, bear in mind that dogs can and do develop food allergies to any food that they eat regularly, even exotic proteins. If your dog becomes allergic to venison and bison, what are you going to feed him? It’s possible that dog food companies can continue to find ever more exotic meat proteins (platypus anyone?), but many experts recommend that you feed your dog more common meat proteins unless he actually needs some of the more novel meat proteins.