My husband, Ron, owned a small animal practice in the Fort Worth area for more than 20 years. Of all the ailments his clients presented their dogs for, allergies seemed to be the most common. Itching, scratching, licking, watery eyes, raw spots on their skin — are all common symptoms to allergens. Unfortunately finding causes and cures for allergies is not so common.
Allergies can be caused from environmental irritants — grass, pollen, flea and other insect bites — or internal allergens in their food. Many dogs develop an allergic reaction to foods they have been exposed to over a period of time. These can include grains, proteins or any other ingredient their systems eventually cannot tolerate. The problem is that internal and external allergies manifest themselves with very similar symptoms—you guessed it—itching, scratching, licking, and watery eyes.
- Determine if you dog has allergies. If you notice your dog licking his front paws, scratching behind his front legs, armpits and ears, rubbing his stomach or excessive draining from his eyes, your dog may be suffering from allergies.
- See your veterinarian. If your veterinarian determines the aggravation is external, he may prescribe a round of steroids, starting with a large oral dose to knockout the urge to scratch, then tapering off as the itching subsides. In serious cases he may suggest an injection to arrest the irritation.
- Change your dog’s diet. Your veterinarian may consider changing your dog’s diet to determine whether the allergies are coming from the inside. Just as in human medicine, he’ll probably recommend eliminating one thing at a time to see how it affects your dog. This could be time-consuming but eventually you and your veterinarian will be able to pinpoint the problem and develop a better diet for your dog.
- Help your dog feel more comfortable. Bathing your dog in an anti-itching shampoo can give him some relief while waiting for the steroids to take affect or trying to determine what food item he’s allergic to. Some of these shampoos have oatmeal, but oatmeal can actually dry the skin, aggravating the condition. Try a shampoo with coal tar, such as Clean & Kind’s Itchy Dog Shampoo, which will help calm and sooth his skin.
Whether caused from the inside or out, allergies are a nasty nuisance for our dogs. But keeping your dog clean, feeding him a balanced diet, and watching for any minor irritations before they become major can help your dog stay healthy and comfortable year-round.