How to Tell if Your Dog Has Allergies in Amesbury, MA

Allergies are the bane of so many peoples’ existence. Springtime comes and you’ve got sinus congestion, your eyes are itchy and watering, you can’t stop sneezing, sometimes you can’t even breathe. Some people experience the same flare up in fall. And some people have problems year round. Allergens are present everywhere. In spring and fall, we’re facing pollen allergies. As winter thaws, and new colorful growth appears, pollen hangs heavy in the air. In fall, cool weather brings blooms of ragweed, but we also see increases in mold spores that usually originate from wet areas where leaves accumulate. And the most inescapable allergens include those indoors, like dust mites and other indoor allergens: cat and dog hair, fabrics, mold, and many others. A Combination of outdoor and indoor allergies can create a living nightmare.
And that’s not even addressing food allergies. Now we’re not talking about Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or even something like lactose intolerance. The word “allergy” is often used to describe these conditions but really they’re an entirely different issue. When we talk about food allergy, we are talking about an immune based allergic response to a food. It can cause serious inflammation in the stomach and intestines, which in people often leads to vomiting or regurgitation, or diarrhea. On an individual basis, it can really happen with any type of consumable (proteins, carbohydrates, spices and seasonings.)

Dog Allergies in Amesbury, MA

Why Dog Allergies Happen

What happens with allergies, in every life form, is that the body recognizes something as an antigen, when it actually isn’t. The immune system recognizes antigens and attacks them by initiating inflammatory responses- this is why you have a stuffy nose or fever when you catch a cold. But sometimes the immune system gets it wrong. Your body is creating inflammation in a valiant, but sometimes misguided effort to dispel something it thinks is bad for you.
Now that we have covered human allergies, let’s talk about dog allergies in Amesbury, MA. What are they allergic to? The answer is simple: All of the above. Everything that a human can be allergic to, a dog can be allergic to, too. The only exception being dog hair and dander. Instead, dogs can be allergic to HUMAN dander. You read that correctly- dogs can be allergic to humans. (Think of that the next time you meet a human who wants to get rid of their dog because of allergies- your dog can’t get rid of you!)
The complicated thing however, is that dog allergies generally present with vastly different signs than do humans. Sure, on rare occasions a dog with allergies might have runny eyes, or are maybe more prone to respiratory infections, but on a large scale their allergies affect them in different ways than ours do.

Symptoms of Dog Allergies in Amesbury, MA

When it comes to environmental allergies, as was stated above, dogs can be allergic to all of the same things people are allergic to. More often than not, it presents in the form of frequent ear infections, itchiness, reddened skin, and hair loss.
Think about how your dog behaves on a daily basis. Do you recall any actions that you used to pass off as “normal”, “cute”, or “quirky”? If your dog licks his paws excessively when he comes inside after running around in the grass, or you notice that the skin around his toes turns bright pink, it might be allergies. If your dog seems to scratch herself all over frequently, even pausing in the middle of a meal to reach back and chew on her flank, it might be allergies. If your dog rubs his face on the floor or the nearest upholstered piece of furniture, it might be allergies. If you have to take your dog to the veterinarian every spring and fall because she has an ear infection or a hot spot or other form of skin infection, AGAIN, well… You get the point.

Environmental Dog Allergy Treatments

If you reflect on how many times your dog has been to the vet in the past 2 years for non-wellness visits, how many of them were because of symptoms like these? Your dog might have environmental allergies. But there’s something you can do to help! Talk to your veterinarian. Let them know what signs you have observed that have you concerned. There are numerous dog allergy treatment options out there- good ones, that can ease your dog’s discomfort. Options include immunotherapy (like the allergy shots that people get), steroids, antihistamines, and more. Imagine spending your whole life with itchy, uncomfortable skin that you constantly want to scratch. Do you have eczema, or know someone who has it? That itchy, dry, painful feeling is what your dog is experiencing. Talk to your veterinarian about how you can help your pet feel better.

Food Allergies for Dogs in Amesbury, MA

Now that we’ve covered environmental allergies, let’s talk food allergies. This can be a difficult diagnosis, and even more difficult to manage. But the good news is, it CAN be managed once you find the right way to do it. And it won’t be the same from one dog to another. There are two major groupings of food allergy signs.

Food Allergies and Skin Problems

The first is skin. Yes, that’s correct- signs that your dog has a food allergy can present as skin problems. In the veterinary world we often use the phrase “ears and rears” to describe the signs. Does your dog have chronic ear infections? If you answered yes, it could easily be environmental or food allergy. Does your dog have chronic anal gland issues? If you’re not sure what an anal gland is, then probably not. But those of you who have monthly appointments scheduled might have something else to consider, especially if your dog also gets chronic ear infections. For whatever reason, some dogs’ immune systems show food allergies via a combination of ear infections with anal gland issues.

Food Allergies and Gut Problems

The second group involves gastrointestinal, or stomach and intestine problems. Chronic vomiting (bringing something up with a dramatic heave), chronic regurgitation (involuntary spit-up, usually of just liquids), and constant or intermittent diarrhea can all be signs. In this case, the body’s immune reaction is directed toward the lining of the stomach and intestines. It causes inflammation, which can change how fast the gut moves, how much functional space there is to digest food and absorb water/nutrients, how much of the normal digestive enzymes are secreted, and it can even cause alterations in gut flora- which is the normal bacterial population in the intestines.

Food Allergy Treatments for Dogs

Food allergies can’t be managed in the same way as environmental allergies. Sadly the process is usually more complicated, and it involves a dramatic food change of some kind. When a dog is allergic to something in a food, it is almost always going to be allergic to the protein source. Despite what some pet food companies want to tell you (and sell you), most dogs have no problem at all tolerating, and thriving, on a diet that is rich in healthy grains like wheat, corn, barley, etc. Your dog is more likely to have an allergy to the chicken, beef, soy, turkey, salmon, whitefish, etc. This is because protein molecules are much larger than carbohydrate or fat molecules- thus they are more likely to be recognized by the immune system (to cause an allergic reaction) than they are to be ignored (like carbohydrates and fats). The primary recommendation for both diagnosing and treating a dog food allergy, is to put your pet on what is called a Hydrolyzed Protein diet. Hydrolysis is the process of using water to break something into smaller pieces. Hydrolyzed Protein diets break protein molecules down into smaller fragments (amino acids), thereby making them less likely to trigger an allergic immune response. The other option is to try a totally new protein source. There are some wild options out there, including duck, bison, and even kangaroo. The hope with these diets, is that the body is only reacting to one specific protein source, and that a new one (that it has never met before) won’t be recognized as an antigen. If you’re concerned about food allergy in your dog, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about your concerns.

Call the veterinarians at Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital at (978) 388-3074 to talk about your dog’s allergy treatment options!

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Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital had humble beginnings in 1968. Dr. Walter Brown opened the animal hospital in a garage next to his home near the current hospital and operated out of this small space until the current building was built in 1969.