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allergic reactions

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A representation of Allergies

Allergies are a common condition in dogs that can cause itching, skin problems, gastrointestinal distress, or even life-threatening shocks. In this article, you'll learn what the causes, symptoms and treatment options are for the most common allergies in dogs.

What is an allergy?

An allergy is an excessive reaction of the immune system to certain, normally harmless substances called allergens. These can be, for example, pollens, grasses, mites, fleas, food ingredients, or medications. When your dog comes into contact with an allergen, his body creates antibodies against it, which trigger an inflammatory reaction. This can manifest itself differently depending on the type of allergy and the organ affected.

What are the allergies in dogs?

There are different types of allergies in dogs, which vary in frequency, cause and symptoms. The most important are:

Flea saliva allergy

Flea saliva allergy is the most common type of allergy in dogs. It is triggered by the saliva that fleas release when they bite. The allergic reaction can be triggered by just one flea bite and results in severe itching, especially around the base of the tail, hind legs and belly. The skin may be red, scaly or inflamed and crusts or hair loss may form. Flea saliva allergy can occur at any time of year and affects all breeds and sexes equally.

Environmental allergy (Atopic dermatitis).

Environmental allergy is the second most common allergy in dogs. It is triggered by various environmental substances, such as pollen, grasses, molds or dust mites. The allergic reaction usually affects the skin and causes itching, redness, swelling or rash on various parts of the body, especially the ears, paws, muzzle or belly. Environmental allergy usually occurs seasonally and can worsen over time. Certain breeds are more susceptible to it than others, such as West Highland White Terrier, French Bulldog, or Labrador Retriever.

Food allergy

Food allergy is the third most common allergy in dogs. It is triggered by certain ingredients in food, such as proteins (meat, eggs, dairy products) or carbohydrates (grains). The allergic reaction can affect both the skin and the gastrointestinal tract, causing itching, skin lesions, diarrhea or vomiting. Food allergy can occur at any time and depends on the individual sensitivity of the dog. Some breeds are predisposed to it, such as English Bulldog, Pug or Shar-Pei.

Insect bite allergy

Insect sting allergy is a rare but potentially dangerous allergy in dogs. It is triggered by the sting or bite of insects such as bees, wasps or ants. The allergic reaction may cause pain, swelling, or redness locally at the site of the sting, or it may spread to the entire body and cause hives (welts), respiratory distress, or shock. Insect sting allergy can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary treatment.

How is allergy diagnosed in dogs?

Diagnosing allergy in dogs is not always easy, as symptoms are often non-specific and may overlap with other conditions. To determine the exact cause of the allergy, the veterinarian must take a thorough history (interview), examine the dog clinically, and order additional tests if necessary. These may include:

  • Skin testing: this involves applying various allergens to the dog's shaved skin and observing the reaction. This test is most appropriate for environmental allergies.
  • Blood tests: A blood sample from the dog is tested for specific antibodies to various allergens. This test is mainly suitable for food allergies.
  • Exclusion diet: This involves switching the dog to a special food that does not contain potential allergens for several weeks. When symptoms subside, individual food ingredients are gradually reintroduced to identify the trigger. This test is especially useful for food allergies.

How is allergy in dogs treated?

Treatment of allergy in dogs depends on the type and severity of the allergy. The most important goal is to avoid or reduce contact with the allergen. This can be achieved, for example, by the following measures:

  • Flea protection: regular application of flea medication, thorough cleaning of the environment and treatment of other pets in the household.
  • Environmental protection: avoiding walks during pollen season, frequent washing of the dog's bed and blankets, use of air purifiers or humidifiers.
  • Food changes: selecting a hypoallergenic food or an exclusion diet, avoiding treats or table scraps that may contain allergens.
  • Insect protection: avoiding areas with lots of insects, using insect repellent or nets.

In addition, the veterinarian may prescribe medications to relieve symptoms or suppress the immune response. These may include:

  • Antihistamines: these inhibit the release of histamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for the allergic reaction. They can reduce itching and swelling.
  • Corticosteroids: these are anti-inflammatory hormones that suppress the immune response. They can reduce itching, redness, and inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressants: these are medications that specifically weaken the immune system. They may be used for severe or chronic allergies.
  • Immunotherapy: this is a long-term treatment in which the dog is regularly injected with small amounts of the allergen to gradually desensitize it. It can be used for environmental allergies.

How to prevent allergies in dogs?

Preventing allergies in dogs is not always possible, as many factors can play a role. Some dogs have a genetic predisposition to allergies or develop them during their lifetime. Nevertheless, there are some measures that can reduce the risk of allergy or at least delay its onset. These include:

  • Early detection: if you notice signs of allergy in your dog, you should present him to a veterinarian as soon as possible to diagnose and begin treatment. The earlier an allergy is detected and treated, the better the outlook for your dog.
  • Healthy diet: A balanced and high-quality diet can strengthen your dog's immune system.

The authors assume that a veterinarian should be consulted if an animal is ill and that medication should only be taken after consultation with a doctor or pharmacist. Only an individual examination can lead to a diagnosis and treatment decision.

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