Ask a room of ten people for advice about your dog’s allergies and you will receive twenty-one different opinions. Join a Facebook group of allergic dogs and ask the question and you will probably get upwards of two-hundred different answers. Conduct a Google search of “my dog is itchy” and as of the writing of this article, you will receive fifty-two million links to choose from.
WHAT ARE DOG ALLERGIES?
When your dog has an allergy, their immune system is overactive. On the other end of the same spectrum are yeast conditions (when the immune system is under-active).
I’ve had one dog that was yeasty and one that had allergy symptoms. I share our journey on our own blog here.
When your dog is scratching, it’s typically due to one of three things: They reacted to something that bit them, they reacted to something that irritated their skin, or they reacted to something they ate.
If you’re reading this article, your dog is probably scratching and you’re trying to figure out why. I’ve been there. When you’re trying to sleep but you can’t because your dog is scratching. Like you, I’ve scoured the internet. I’ve joined multiple Facebook groups. I’ve asked my dog friends. And every person had a different answer.
It took us almost a year and a half to pinpoint what the triggers are and I’ll share our journey with you. There’s a problem-solving approach called the Occam’s Razor. It means that the simplest solution tends to be the right one. When presented with competing hypotheses to solve a problem, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions. Here are a few of those simple solutions.
CHECK FOR FLEAS
Most of the time your dog will be allergic to something that bit it. In the majority of cases, it will be fleas. Prior to more recent times, we never went to the vets when our dogs were itchy. We just put a flea collar on them.
But back then flea collars smelled like pesticide and we know today that the first generation collars came with risks, and so do flea drops and flea prevention pills.
We can’t see fleas. So we think …it MUST NOT BE FLEAS because I don’t see them.
But fleas don’t actually live on our dogs or in our homes. Most of the flea population is outside. And they typically jump onto the dog and then jump off. For every five fleas on your dog, there are ninety-five that are living either in your home or outside.
Some dogs (like one of mine) is allergic to fleas. One bite is all it takes and she will start scratching herself for hours on end. If she gets bit several times, she’ll break out in hives.
More recently, our vet described what is a flea itch reaction versus environmental. Basically, your dog will act surprised as if something just bit it’s tail and then manically chew and scratch at that area. Once they bit…it’s now an itchy spot they can’t leave alone.
Fleas tend to be worse in the summer months. So addressing the situation ahead of time by treating your yard, your home, and getting a flea preventative in the spring will help you during the hotter months.
Another way to tell if your dog has fleas is to comb their fur. If what appears to be dirt falls off them …test it by rubbing a moist cloth over the dirt. If the “dirt” turns rusty red, it’s fleas because you’ve basically rubbed what is dried blood scabs from your dog from the flea bites.
If you’ve investigated and ruled out that your dog is itchy because of fleas, proceed to the next option – your dog might be allergic to the environment.
RULING OUT THE HOME OR YARD
If your dog has a rash and it’s on their belly, it’s potentially caused by something they were laying on.
A quick way to approach this is to ask if you’ve switched to a different brand of soap or detergent or different cleaning products. If so, try switching back to what you had before the symptoms appeared to see if that helps.
Sometimes your dog might be allergic to what’s outside. In this case, the only way to really know is to bring your dog into your vet or animal dermatologist for testing.
Once they identify what is triggering the symptoms, you can eliminate it from your yard or house.
Environmental allergies are difficult to pinpoint. And in most cases we cannot hide our dogs completely from what is outside. However, once you know what is triggering it you can manage the situation and do simple things like a vinegar-water rinse (50/50 solution) of their paws after walks outside.
RULING OUT FOOD
Food allergies are the rarest of allergies. Only 5 -15% of dogs will truly be allergic to a certain food.
Most of the symptoms will show redness and scratching around where your dog eats and poops, so their muzzles will be red and so will their rears. But the only way to know this is to have an allergy test done, and then to eliminate that food from their diet.
As uncommon food allergies are, it’s the most common answer given by well-meaning friends both in real life or virtual. You’ll hear people say to avoid chicken, or switch to grain free. Your vet may even suggest trying a prescription diet of a novel protein (Kangaroo) to see if this will make the symptoms go away.
I’ve thought about this a lot and I think the reason why people resort to this solution is because it appears to be an easy answer. Just buy this food and avoid that food and your pup will stop scratching.
It’s distressing to yourself and your dog when they are itchy. In most cases, some investigative work could pinpoint what might be causing them to scratch.
But if your dog’s comfort is compromised, the best thing to do will be to see your vet who can guide you to a method of approach.
I hope this helps you on your own journey! Share in the comments below if your pup has allergies and how you’ve been able to remedy them.
My dogs rule everything around me. When I’m not taking care of them, I’m helping pet businesses build profitable online communities on social media. Find us on our blog, social media links below, and also on Instagram @maggielovesorbit, @woofandmeowmedia & @barkcommunity.