Dog Skin Allergies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

katy towle 17 August 2021

Allergic skin disease (or Allergic Dermatitis) in dogs is a very common condition. Indeed, it affects hundreds of thousands of UK dogs. Owners and vets alike despair at the symptoms that come and go and cause ongoing discomfort. There are a variety of things dogs can be allergic to and most pets are allergic to more than one thing.

Symptoms of allergic dermatitis tend to present between the ages of six months and six years of age. Pedigree dogs who live indoors are most at risk, but any dog can be affected. Treatment can help to control symptoms, but this is not a condition that can usually be cured.

Types of Allergies that affect the Skin

  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis. While fleas will cause all dogs to itch, those with an allergy to the flea saliva will have an extreme reaction. They get intensely itchy, particularly over their rump. They may lose fur and develop scabs, red skin and secondary skin infections. Be sure to keep your dog up to date with a good quality flea prevention, especially if they are prone to skin disease.
  • Food Allergies. Those with food allergies can itch all over, but their face, paws and belly are most often involved. Common allergens include grains, dairy, eggs, beef and chicken. However, dogs can actually be allergic to any ingredient.
  • Environmental Allergies. There are a range of things in the environment that your pet can react to. This includes house dust mites, pollen and mould. Oftentimes, symptoms are seasonal and there will be a set pattern.

Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis

Skin allergies can mimic other conditions such as mange or a bacterial skin infection. Due to this, it is important your dog sees a vet so we can ensure the right diagnosis is reached. This may mean a series of tests, including a skin scrape, skin swab and blood tests.

Symptoms will vary from patient to patient and can include:

  • Itchy skin leading to paw licking, face rubbing, skin chewing and scratching.
  • Pink skin
  • Fur loss
  • Chronic infections of the ears, skin or anal glands
  • Skin thickening and darkening (lichenification)

Treatment

It is important to go into treatment with eyes wide open. A dog’s allergies cannot usually be cured and this isn’t typically the aim of treatment. We will attempt to control symptoms as much as possible and minimise flares. Owners must understand that they will likely be seeing their vet regularly going forward.

Rather than a single treatment, we need to take a multi-modal approach. This means employing a variety of tactics such as:

  • Allergen avoidance. As much as possible, we need to keep our pooch away from what triggers them. We may be able to figure out what this is by performing a hypoallergenic diet trial, noticing seasonal trends and carrying out allergy testing.
  • Medicated washes that can help to strip excess yeast and bacteria from the skin.
  • Prescription medicine such as anti-itch medicine to break the itch scratch cycle and antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections.
  • Nutritional supplements such as Pooch & Mutt’s Salmon Oil. This oil can be added on top of any meal and given every day. It is rich in essential fatty acids (omega 3, 6 and 9) that calm the inflammatory reaction within the body, reduce histamine release and prevent itching.
  • A skin supportive diet such as Pooch & Mutt’s Soft & Shiny kibble.
  • Immunotherapy may be an option for some but can be expensive and is not always effective.

The Right Diet Choice

Feeding a diet such as Pooch & Mutt Soft & Shiny all year round can go a long way towards reducing flares and minimising symptoms.

The omega 3 and 6 fatty acids alongside the collagen work to strengthen the skin barrier and prevent the entrance of allergens. They also lock moisture inside the skin, ensuring it doesn’t dry out, which can lead to itching.

This food is packed with both prebiotics and probiotics which ensure a healthy gut microbiome is established. This can reduce symptoms of skin allergies and may potentially prevent food allergies from developing.

Containing few ingredients, many of those with food allergies will respond positively to this diet. The herring is likely to be a novel protein to most dogs. However, as dogs can react to any ingredient, do double check that this is an appropriate option for your dog if they have known food allergies.

The Bottom Line

While skin allergies can be difficult to deal with, most dogs have a good prognosis. With the right medical treatment and diet, your dog should be able to lead a normal and happy life.