Dog allergy symptoms often tend to be similar, regardless of the cause of the allergy, and this does not help when trying to find out the cause of the problem. However, there are small indicators to consider if you believe your dog has an allergy and which can be used to determine a probable cause.
Dogs are no different from humans when it comes to allergies and the dog’s allergy symptoms are very similar to ours: sneezing, itching and watery eyes. However, we humans generally have a rough idea of what our allergy is causing and we also know we have one, but your poor dog has no idea what is causing that terrible itch.
He certainly can’t tell you, so let’s take a look at the most common dog allergy symptoms and how they can be used to determine perhaps what is causing them. “Maybe” is used because dog allergies are notoriously difficult to diagnose, but the dog himself may be able to help.
Itching, redness and scratches
The itching is caused by skin irritation and causes the dog to scratch in the affected area. This turns red and possibly even inflamed if the dog starts to bite and gnaw the irritation. As the inflammation begins and the immune system engages, the dog can become very agitated and distressed. The skin can be broken and subject to bacterial contamination which causes pustules to form.
There are two main causes of these dog allergy symptoms: contact allergens such as fleas and food allergies. It is not so much the “flea bite” that causes these symptoms, although it can be irritating, but the saliva of the fleas. A flea bite is not an allergic reaction, but many dogs will have an allergic reaction to flea saliva, which is used to prevent blood clotting while the flea feeds.
Other contact allergens include detergents, hair (also human hair) and some allergens present in the air that land on the skin such as pollen, dust mites and other types of dust: they affect dogs as well as they affect humans. The behavior of dogs suffering from any type of irritating itch is to scratch and rub the skin on the ground, especially a carpet or something slightly rough. Dogs sometimes sit and walk with their front legs and shoulders flat on the ground when they itch in the back.
Food allergies in dogs can unfortunately cause exactly the same symptoms, but the “story” here is that a dog can also vomit, have loose stools or abnormal behaviors that can often coincide with a change of food. If you notice this, and restore the food to normal, then the problem should go. Alternatively, try only canned foods, preferably organic if you can afford it, and this should cure a food allergy.
Running eyes, Licking paws
Just like humans are affected by pollen, hay fever is also a form of dog allergy. Their skin can become irritated, so they can scratch with most of the symptoms above, but the “story” here is that bitches are more affected than dogs and their eyes tend to water just like with humans. Not only that, but another of the specific symptoms of dog allergy is licking their paws.
They do this to relieve itching in the paws and you should take a careful look at their feet because ticks and fleas can be collected from the grass and of course dogs usually don’t wear shoes, so they can pick up all kinds of infections when they are outside, not just allergens. However, walking in the fields of clovers, or even between daisies and buttercups in your garden, they can experience a strong itch from the pollen, in which case their eyes are not water but they will be seen licking their paws excessively, and sometimes even gnawing them.
So while it is difficult to establish the exact cause of the dog’s allergy symptoms, you can narrow it down by keeping your eyes open and observing your dog’s behavior. Typically you can tell a contact allergen about a food allergy and often hay fever can be diagnosed later in the year, your dog’s exposure and his eyes getting wet or licking his paws.
However, if you are not sure, and your dog suffers and exhibits extreme dog allergy symptoms, you should play safely and pay a visit to the vet.