Allergies in Dogs
Definition of Allergies
Allergies, also known as hypersensitivities, are acquired overreactions by a dog’s immune system to something that it perceives as being foreign and potentially dangerous, called an “allergen.” Common canine allergens are food ingredients, pollens, grasses, weeds, plants, flea and tick saliva, mites, chemical cleaners, detergents and other household products, plastics, drugs, carpet fibers and cigarette and cigar smoke. Allergies often cause skin problems, ear irritation and gastrointestinal upset. Affected dogs may scratch, lick or bite at irritated skin areas, creating sores that can become infected. The constant head shaking and scratching from “allergic ears” can cause blood-filled blisters, called hematomas, on the bottom of the ear flaps. Dogs with allergies can develop significant behavioral changes because of the inescapable discomfort associated with their condition.
An allergy is an acquired and exaggerated defensive reaction by an animal’s immune system to something that it perceives as being foreign and potentially dangerous. The offensive substance is called an “allergen.” Acquired allergic reactions, also called hypersensitivity reactions, develop over time. The first exposure to the offending allergen stimulates the dog’s immune system to go into a state of readiness. This includes producing antibodies to that specific allergen. Subsequent exposures trigger a full-blown, complex,
Dogs, like people, commonly develop allergies. Canine allergies usually cause dermatological (skin) problems, ear irritation and/or gastrointestinal upset. Allergies can be extremely detrimental to a dog’s health and to its quality of life. Continual scratching, licking and biting at irritated areas of skin often leads to physical sores, which can become infected. When the ears are affected, the constant head shaking and scratching can cause hematomas to develop, especially on the tips of the ear
Anyone who has seen a dog continually scratching and chewing on itself probably has seen a dog with allergies. Whether caused by airborne inhalants, fleas or ingredients in food, allergies cause discomfort that can range from simple irritation to severe secondary bacterial infections. The definitive cause of allergies is difficult, but not impossible, to diagnose. A veterinarian’s initial evaluation will include taking a thorough history from the dog’s owner about the dog’s health and symptoms,
When an owner suspects that her dog may be suffering from some sort of allergy, she should take pet to a veterinarian for a comprehensive assessment. It may be necessary to consult with a specialized veterinary dermatologist to identify the problem and bring it under control. Often, the underlying causes of a dog’s allergies will never be figured out. The overriding goals of treating canine allergies are to control the immune system’s hypersensitivity response in