Your dog won't appreciate this, but an allergic reaction might call for scary shots at the vet's office. Or he might need to undergo the ever-annoying paw cleaning every time he goes outside. He might not like his treatment options, but they'll certainly make him feel better.
Flea and Tick Prevention
Fleas not only drive your pup to incessant scratching, they can also transmit diseases, camp out in your carpet and make a meal out of your ankles and legs. For some dogs, these parasites can cause an allergic reaction, making your little guy's skin inflamed and causing him to scratch incessantly. Ticks can be more worrisome than fleas, largely because of their tendency of carrying a variety of serious and deadly diseases that can affect dogs and humans alike. A monthly dose of topical flea and tick medication -- usually sold as a single medication -- will help prevent the nasty parasites from latching onto and causing an allergic outbreak on your pup.
Your dog's favorite food might contribute to his itchy skin, ear infections and runny nose. Both proteins and carbohydrates contribute to allergic reactions. Your vet will likely send you home with a specially formulated hypoallergenic food that your pup must eat for about eight to 12 weeks. Every other type of food, including his favorite treats, is off-limits. At the end of the 12 weeks, you have two options: Keep him on the specially formulated food -- which is typically a bit more expensive than standard food -- or go the order-of-elimination route and feed him one type of food at a time to determine what he's allergic to. If you want to go the latter route, your vet will recommend a strategy for introducing the food so that you can successfully determine what's causing your poor guy's annoying itch.
If your pup's allergic reactions don't improve after switching him to hypoallergenic food, he's probably suffering from environmental allergens, just as people do. The pollen that makes life miserable for some people in spring can lead to a hotspot breakout on your dog. But there's good news for your canine friend: an allergy test can determine what exactly he's allergic to. If your vet can't perform the test, he'll send you to a vet that can. After the cause of your pup's allergy is determined, your vet may recommend an allergy shot regimen, antihistamines or supplements that reduce the severity of the reactions.
Although it's always a good idea to listen to your vet if he suggests medical intervention to deal with your pup's allergies, controlling the allergens in your home is also important. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine suggests cleaning your dog's feet each time he comes in and closing the windows in your house to keep certain allergens at bay, such as pollen and grass. For a dust mite allergy, vacuuming your floor and washing your pup's bed once a week can help. Keeping the bathroom door open or a fan running while and after taking a shower or bath can cut down on the presence of mold.
Shampoos, soaps, fabric sprays and other chemicals that your dog comes into contact with also can cause allergic reactions. Keeping an eye on your four-legged friend's skin after a bath, avoiding spraying his bedding and keeping him in a different room of the house when you're cleaning can reduce itchy outbreaks and help you determine what's causing them.
- University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine: Understanding Allergies
- Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine: Food Trial for Food Allergies
- Colorado State University Department of Public Relations: It's Allergy Season for You and Your Pet, Too, Say Colorado State University Veterinarians
- dog on the grass image by Sabphoto from Fotolia.com