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Dogs are commonly bothered by allergies. Certain breeds such as terriers, cockers, beagles, golden retrievers and Dalmatians are predisposed to allergies. Allergic dogs do not sneeze or have runny noses like people do. Dogs with allergies have symptoms of excessive itching and scratching of their feet, ears, belly, or any reachable area. Left untreated, the itchy sensation and inflammation of the skin is likely to lead to self-trauma by the rubbing, licking and chewing. This can subsequently result in extensive and severe damage to the skin and infection.
Allergies are caused by allergens For dogs their are three main types of allergens: Inhaled substances (pollen, mold, dust), certain ingredients in foods, and flea saliva. Once your pet is exposed to an allergen, a sensitivity is established, causing all future exposures to the allergen to cause an inflammation reaction.
The most common allergy is the result of flea bites. The pet becomes allergic to the protein in the saliva of the flea. This reaction can occur after only one flea bite. Many times, no fleas will be on the pet when examined, however, the intense biting and itching occurring near the base of the dogs tail is a giveaway.
Allergic reactions to inhaled substances begin to appear at 6-24 months of age. Usually, the first experience with an inhalant allergens coincides with plant pollination. In time, however, seasonal patterns may be lost as the patient becomes sensitive to dust and other materials. Ragweed and grasses are among the most potent pollens causing allergies.
Food allergy is the least common but most overlooked cause of allergies. Food allergic dogs develop this sensitivity against a particular item in their diet. The most common allergens in food are corn, meat, milk, whey, gluten, and soy. Dogs suspected of being food allergic need to be placed on a hypoallergenic diet for a minimum of 6-10 weeks and the response observed. Hypoallergenic diets have novel food groups such as lamb and rice as the main ingredients and lack any suspected allergens. Food allergies can only be diagnosed by a food trial.
Inhalant allergies and flea allergies can be confirmed by skin testing. In this test, very small amounts of the allergens which are suspected to be bothering your pet are placed within the skin. Based on the skin reaction, and history the veterinarian can tell you which allergens are most likely bothering your pet, and treat accordingly.
What can be done to give my pet relief?
* Avoidance and reduction of allergens is important. It is most helpful in food allergies. In inhalant allergies, feathers, aerosols, and smoke are some examples of environmental allergens that can be reduced or avoided.
* Medicated shampooing and oatmeal conditioners used regularly help decrease itching and skin inflammation.
* Topical sprays, ointments, and creams containing anti-pruritics, cortisone and anesthetics give some relief.
* Antihistamines-these may prescribed for relief of symptoms during minor or short episodes.
* Corticosteroids- these are prescribed for control of more severe signs. The relief can be dramatic. However, their side effects limit these drugs to careful considered use.
* Hyposensitization- this method is prescribed for those patients whose allergies are year round and whose symptoms are not controlled by the use of antihistamines, or corticosteroids in reasonable amounts. This procedure involves giving small doses of the offending allergens to the patient in gradually increasing amounts. After a period of time these allergy shots reduce the sensitivity to the allergens without undesirable side effects.
In the treatment of allergic disorders, therapy may vary widely from patient to patient. Owner participation in the diagnosis and treatment is essential for success. It is important to get proper medical attention as soon as the itch starts Prompt treatment will stop the reaction and prevent the skin lesions from becoming more severe.
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