In dogs, it’s hard to know when they’re not feeling their best because they tend to always look happy and ready to play, but an allergic reaction can be life-threatening if you don’t know what to look for. From rashes and swelling to anaphylactic reactions, learn more about these health issues in today’s post.
At The Vet Set in Carroll Gardens, we’ve seen the gamut of allergic reactions and want to help support each dog owner in preventing and keeping their pooch as healthy as possible. Get what you need to know about allergic reactions in dogs today!
Just like humans, dogs have a built set of physiologic responses unique to them that signal in a variety of ways what the dog is allergic to. You’ll often see reactions to something they were bitten by (bees or mosquitoes) or even vaccinations.
Allergic reactions occur when the dog’s system reacts to typically a harmless substance called an allergen. Antibodies are released to react to the allergen causing symptoms that affect the nose, lungs, throat, etc. in your dog.
Let’s examine these allergic reactions a little more in-depth.
One of the most common allergic reactions in dogs is called allergic dermatitis and the leading causes are fleas, food allergies, and environmental allergies.
Fleas – This a very normal allergic reaction in dogs from pests that love to attach themselves to your dog, but if fleas gross you out and are wreaking havoc on your pooch, do not worry, they’re very easy to treat!
Fleas will look like black pepper that’s been sprinkled throughout your dog’s coat, and like most reactions, the more you scratch it, the worse it becomes.
A preventative flea treatment is the best course of action, but talk to your vet about treating an active flea outbreak.
Food allergies – Dogs can have food allergies and react to certain ingredients in the food such as chicken or corn. Why do dogs get food allergies? While in some dogs a food allergy is genetic, some develop one to an overexposure of the same ingredient.
So, if you feed your dog a chicken and rice dog food for most of their life, exposure over time can cause an inflammation flare-up in their intestines and spawn what is known as leaky gut. Leaky gut is where an antigen is absorbed and able to permeate the gut lining — the reaction itself is through the skin and causes your dog to itch, so rotating and introducing new foods in a dog’s diet is a great way to combat food allergies.
Environmental allergies – An environmental or atopic allergy is when a dog reacts to an allergen such as dust, pollen, mold, or fungus, and these are typically seasonal. You might notice your dog has these certain allergies around certain times (spring and summer) and affected dogs will scratch their ears and excessively lick their paws.
Dogs will often get facial swelling in the throat, face, lips, ears, and eyelids that signal an allergic reaction. Vets tend to favor these symptoms because the reaction is classified as angioneurotic edema, and if you’re seeing this, the time for a fatal reaction to occur, has passed.
The swelling presents itself 30 minutes to an hour after exposure, and though the dog is generally not in any danger, if left untreated, the swelling can last up to a day or two before it goes down.
Hives, on the other hand, are a little different than just swelling. Hives will begin to crop up six to 24 hours after exposure and cause extremely itchy skin and welts or small bumps on the skin.
You can easily see hives on dogs with short coats, but those dogs with longer coats you’ll likely be able to feel them first.
Anaphylactic allergies in dogs are very rare but they do occur. This happens when your dog has a reaction to a food or another substance such as medication that their body tries to fight and floods it with antibodies to attack the seamlessly harmless substance. Blood pressure can drop and in an anaphylactic reaction, many parts of the body are involved, making it extremely dangerous.
The tough part about this allergic reaction, is you never know how something innocuous as shrimp or a bee sting could jeopardize your dog’s life. So, if you notice your dog having issues after eating something or taking something, contact your vet immediately.
Your response time is key to anaphylactic reactions and if your dog survives, they’ll likely be prescribed an EpiPen should this happen again.
As we’ve covered, dogs can have a myriad of allergic reactions — some are quite common while others are rare and life-threatening — but they all show up in different ways.