Our vets in Hexham, Stocksfield and Bellingham will tell you that skin allergies are one of the most common causes of itchy skin in dogs. Skin allergies are difficult to pin down to one particular thing as your dog could be sensitive or allergic to one thing, or multiple things that they come into contact with. A few of the more common allergies are:
- House dust mites
- Pollens, grass, trees, and moulds
Most dogs with allergic skin disease are allergic to more than one thing, which is why it is often difficult to pinpoint a cause of the allergy. It can become a little bit of trial and error to narrow the allergy down, which will require some patience in the beginning, but more often than not we find the cause of allergy is almost impossible to avoid, like dust mites or pollen/grass. Vets in Hexham do keep on top of client alerts if we see patterns of allergies in a particular area. That is true of Vets in Stocksfield, Vets in Prudhoe and Vets in Bellingham. If the allergy is not straight forward then it may be that medication is required.
Skin allergies can develop in any dog, at any age. Allergies often take owners by surprise as they can be quite sudden when symptoms show, and often it can be passed off as non serious. Whilst allergies can lead to complications, they are not considered dangerous, but due to the potential future risks such as infections and discomfort, it is advisable to seek veterinary treatment. Symptoms can include:
- Itchy skin
- Hair loss
- Rashes and redness
- Overgrooming and saliva stained skin
- Infections (skin and ear infections)
- Weepy eyes
- Dark, thickened skin
- Acute moist dermatitis (hot spots)
Diagnosis and allergy testing
It may be difficult to find out exactly what your dog is allergic to, especially as it’s likely to be more than one thing. To begin with, we will try to rule out certain allergies, and it is usually the ones that are a little easier to control, such as food or fleabites. In this case, we would likely trial foods or advise which foods to try. For parasites, it would be recommended to use a parasite control, of which we stock plenty, and this should hopefully show signs of improvement within a matter of weeks. For more complicated allergies we may have to take blood samples or skin tests, but this is not always 100% reliable because it doesn’t always reveal the triggers of the allergy. Atopy can be frustrating because it really can be trial and error, but we are here to help and have vast experience in helping dogs with skin allergies.
The difficult part! Every skin allergy needs slightly different treatment. We need to not only identify what is causing the allergy, but then the course of action to treat it. It is likely that we would suggest the following:
Once the trigger is identified, it is really important to avoid the factors as much as possible. We know this is sometimes out of your control as you can’t watch your dog 24/7, so there are still some things you can do to reduce the chance of them flaring up:
- Regularly de-flea them (as well as other pets and your home).
- Avoid sprays, aerosols, perfumes and air fresheners in the household
- Vacuum and dust regularly
- Avoid walking them when the pollen count is high.
- Avoid walking them in long grass (or rinse them off well afterwards).
- Feed them a diet specially designed for sensitive skin (recommended by your vet).
If environmental factors are difficult to change, or your dog keeps flaring up no matter what you try then there are certain medications that can be used to reduce itchiness, such as:
- Steroid tablets and spray
- Lokivetmab injection
- Oclacitinib tablets
The treatment route does depend on your dog’s symptoms and how long they need to be treated for.
Most dogs with skin allergies benefit from the following:
- A skin supplement containing essential fatty acids
- A topical emollient shampoo (skin calming)
- Daily antihistamines
It is important to know that these treatments alone will unlikely be enough to solve the problem, but they will help ease symptoms when paired with any medications or other treatments that are needed.
- Antibiotics may be needed if your dog has developed a skin or ear infection.
- Regular ear cleaning may be necessary if your dog is prone to ear problems.
- If your dog has been allergy tested, it may be possible to desensitise them to their triggers with immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves injecting your dog with a tiny amount of what they are allergic to, to get their body used to it. The injections work slowly over time, and usually need to be given for a few years (sometimes for life). Unfortunately, immunotherapy doesn’t work for every dog, and in many cases, medication is still needed to reduce symptoms. It’s also not possible to use immunotherapy for all types of allergy
- A skin allergy is an oversensitivity to items such as pollen, grass, house dust mites and/or certain foods.
- Symptoms tend to include itchiness, redness, hair loss, and repeat skin/ear infections.
- Skin allergies are one of the most common causes of itchy skin in dogs.
- Skin allergy treatment is different for each dog, but often involves avoiding triggers, strict flea control, a special diet, and medication to stop the itch. Immunotherapy (desensitisation) can be used in some cases, but isn’t always successful.
When to contact Orchard House Vets
If your dog is showing any of the symptoms listed above then we would recommend a visit to see us. Our Veterinary practices in Hexham, Stocksfield and Bellingham will be able to help you. Ultimately, you know your dog best and see your dog daily, so you know when and if they are acting slightly differently. Even if your dog is not showing the symptoms above and you are worried about Atopy then do book an appointment to see a vet who will be able to discuss the condition and help you.