Goals of Treating Canine Allergies
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 order to alleviate itchiness, pain and discomfort and restore the dog’s healthy, comfortable quality of life. “Curing” allergies in dogs is rarely attempted or accomplished, although it is possible in some cases using advanced treatment techniques.
Allergies in domestic dogs are usually treatable, or at least manageable. The treatment protocols vary depending on the severity of a particular dog’s condition. For example, if a dog’s symptoms are caused by an immune reaction to flea saliva, the owner has many available options to help eradicate the parasites from the dog’s body and from its immediate environment. If the dog is allergic to airborne allergens, such as cigarette smoke, the owner should remove those substances from the home or yard. If particular plants or pollens seem to be the culprits, the owner might consider walking the dog in a different direction to prevent it from coming into contact with those seasonal allergens.
A number of topical treatments are available to soothe a dog’s irritated skin, reduce inflammation and calm itchiness, no matter what the cause. These include shampoos, lotions, gels, creams, rinses and other treatments. Oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can be used to reduce the effects of seasonal allergies. Prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, including corticosteroids, can help relieve itching and provide comfort to dogs suffering from allergies. Advanced, long-term treatments are also available to help desensitize and acclimate a dog’s immune system to the allergens that trigger its allergic reactions. These options are something that owners need to discuss with their local veterinarian or a specialized veterinary dermatologist. Of course, a veterinarian is the best one to advise owners about the appropriate treatment for dogs with allergies.
Dogs with food allergies, which are quite common, need to have their diets modified and closely managed. The first step is to identify the ingredients that cause the allergic reaction. The dog’s veterinarian probably will recommend what is known as an elimination diet. This involves putting the dog on a bland diet with very few ingredients – typically just cooked rice and chicken for starters. The owner will observe her dog for any adverse signs of reacting to those simple ingredients and, if none are present, will then gradually add other foods to the dog’s diet, one at a time. She must keep a close watch on how her dog reacts to each new ingredient to determine which food items he is or isn’t allergic to. Once the allergens are identified, the dog’s diet can be restructured. Owners of dogs with food allergies can use homemade diets or take advantage of the many specialized dog foods that now are commercially available in most areas, including a number of kibbles with unusual protein sources such as salmon, venison, bison or duck.
Dogs with allergies typically have a very good prognosis, once the allergen is identified and appropriate treatment begins. The most difficult part of this process is identifying the allergen. Once the allergen is pinpointed, there are many positive steps that can be taken to reduce the dog’s allergic reactions and restore its quality of life.