Treating Skin Allergies in Dogs

Skin allergies in dogs occur as a negative reaction to an ingested or inhaled allergen, or when the dog comes into contact with a certain material. Stress may also trigger skin irritations.

Skin allergies are more common in adult dogs, after the age of 2 or 3.

Identify Skin Allergies

Skin allergies are visible irritations on the dog's skin. You may notice these while grooming your dog. In some cases, the dog may also have a few bumps on the surface of the skin, and sometimes these bumps are filled with pus.

Skin allergies may cause itchiness and the dog will tend to lick, bite and scratch the affected areas, causing hair loss and sores.

It's also common for skin allergies to be accompanied by other bacterial or fungal infections, such as a yeast infection or acne.

Dogs with skin allergies have red, dry, unhealthy looking skin and in addition, the coat will have an unhealthy aspect.

The symptoms of skin allergies may be seasonal; it all depends on whether the allergen is present in the dog's environment.

The allergen may be identified with skin or blood testing.

Skin Allergy Treatment Options

The treatment options for skin allergies depend on the causing irritant.

  • Antihistamines can manage skin allergies, reducing the allergy symptoms; antihistamines can be prescribed for inhalant allergies (to dust, mold or pollens), food allergies or contact allergies (to plastic, synthetic fabrics or wool). The most common antihistamine for dogs is Chlorpheniramine. If administered for a long period, the antihistamines must be rotated, as the dog may build immunity to certain drug components. Antihistamines can cause side effects such as weakness, vomiting or vision problems.
  • Steroids are recommended in conjunction with antihistamines, or alone for cases of severe skin allergies. Steroids may be administered orally and/or topically. Just as the antihistamines, the steroids are recommended for inhalant, food or contact allergies. Steroids are not recommended as long-term treatment due to side effects that may occur: increased appetite, increased thirst, cardiovascular issues or liver damage
  • Anti-flea shampoo is recommended if the skin allergies are caused by fleas; the dog may be allergic to the bites of fleas, and the bacteria that exist in flea saliva.
  • Immunization vaccines can treat canine allergies. The dog will get several vaccines containing the allergen over a few years; eventually, the dog may not be as sensitive to allergens. This method is also known as desensitization, and is more recommended as a long term treatment, having no side effects.
  • Antibiotics are needed if the dog has bumps filled with pus to treat and prevent infections.
  • Prescription diet is recommended if the skin allergies are caused by food. The vet will also prescribe supplements of fatty acids and vitamin E for healthy skin and fur.

The most important thing in reducing skin allergies in dogs is to eliminate the allergen from the dog's environment. If the dog is allergic to plastic, you should replace the plastic food bowls with metallic or ceramic ones. If the dog is stressed, the stress factor must be eliminated.

Monitor your dog and see if the skin irritations reoccur. Sometimes, dogs may develop new allergies or may not respond well to medication.