Diagnosing Dog Skin Allergies

Dog skin allergies can be caused by a variety of factors including inhalants, food ingredients or insect bites. Early recognition of allergies and immediate treatment of the symptoms will bring your dog relief and possibly catch any serious underlying health concerns.

Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

Signs that your dog may be suffering from allergies include:

  • itching, scratching, biting and licking, especially around the face, legs, feet and stomach
  • red patches or legions
  • hair loss
  • chronic ear infections

Diagnosing Dog Skin Allergies

Food allergies - If skin allergy symptoms do not seem to be seasonal the cause could be an ingredient in your dog's diet. Food allergies are usually not caused after a sudden switch to new food but develop over time. To determine which ingredient is causing an allergic reaction, owners should conduct a food trial. If your dog is eating a commercial dog food that consists of mainly chicken, switch to a food with an alternative protein as the main ingredient and fewer secondary ingredients like fillers, preservatives and colorings. You may also try a specialty prescription diet from your veterinarian for a few months, and then gradually switch to a normal food. Talk with your veterinarian before starting any kind of new diet.

Inhalants - Allergies due to inhalants like pollen, grass or dust, also known as atopy, are usually seasonal and produce skin reactions along with a runny nose. Look for skin allergy symptoms around the same time each year and after your dog has been outside to determine if it is an inhalant allergy.

Flea allergy dermatitis - Skin allergies caused by flea bites are usually more severe during summer and autumn months when fleas are more frequently present. While most dogs will react to fleas, those with flea allergies develop severe itching, usually around the base of the tail. Dogs with food or inhalant allergies are more likely to have a flea allergy and this is a common condition in dogs. Testing can be done by your veterinarian to determine if your dog has an allergy to flea bites.

Prevention of Dog Skin Allergies

Dogs with flea allergies should be treated with flea prevention medication, especially during flea seasons. If they already have fleas your veterinarian can recommend a medication, such as a topical treatment to kill and prevent parasites.

Keeping a clean environment can help prevent symptoms due to fleas, inhalants or other environmental factors. Feeding your dog a quality dog food with few preservatives and fillers from carbohydrates like corn and wheat may also prevent allergies from developing.

Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids improve dog's fur, and they can also help to relieve allergy symptoms in some dogs by reducing the effects of histamines which cause allergic reactions. Omega-3 fatty acids should come from fish oil and not omega-6, and must be used for several weeks before symptoms are relieved. Side effects are rare with omega-3 fatty acids and should be used in conjunction with a low-fat diet. Ask your veterinarian before giving supplements to your dog.