Humans aren’t the only ones that suffer from itchy skin, red eyes and upset stomachs.
Dog allergies are common, and the symptoms that come with them can be incredibly frustrating for both you and your furry friend.
The good news is there are things you can do to help manage your dog’s allergies and boost their immune system. Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of allergies and the steps you can take to remedy them below.
Types of dog allergies & their symptoms
The triggers behind allergies (called ‘allergens’) differ from dog to dog, and so does the severity of symptoms. There are 3 main types of allergies your dog might suffer from:
A couple of flea bites is enough to make a dog with flea allergies itch like crazy! Flea saliva is believed to be the allergen that causes the itchiness associated with flea allergies (otherwise known as flea allergy dermatitis).
These allergies can be hard to pinpoint because the allergen could be inhaled (like pollen or dust) or externally irritating to your dog’s skin (like laundry detergent or grass). Common symptoms include watery eyes, itchy or inflamed skin, sneezing, and pawing or biting certain areas of skin.
If your dog’s allergy symptoms seem to come and go with the seasons, it’s likely an environmental allergy is at play.
Dogs are carnivores - they’re biologically designed to eat meat, not carbohydrates - so if your dog has been eating highly processed kibble for a while, they might have developed a sensitivity to one of the allergenic ingredients such as grains, potatoes, rice or corn. Dogs can also suffer from protein allergies, which describes a sensitivity to a certain protein source such as chicken, beef, pork or turkey.
If your four-legged friend has food allergies, you may notice digestive upsets (such as vomiting, diarrhea and gas), itchy skin or general irritability. They certainly won't feel like their happy self!
Dog allergy remedies
Whether you can identify the cause of your dog’s allergies or not, there are steps you can take to manage their symptoms.
If you don’t know what the allergy is:
You could try conventional treatments such as antihistamines. While these treatments can help alleviate symptoms, they don't address the root cause of your dog’s allergies.
If your dog's symptoms are severe, you might like to take them to the vet who can perform a skin allergy test. It’s not cheap, but this test is a quick and effective way of pinpointing the certain foods or environmental triggers that are causing issues for your dog.
If you think the allergy is food related, but you’re not sure what food is upsetting your dog’s tummy, start by removing fillers and common allergens.
If you don’t notice an improvement, you could then try an elimination diet. This is where you stick to a single source of protein - ideally a novel protein, which is an ingredient your dog hasn’t been exposed to and is therefore unlikely to cause a reaction (the ZIWI Peak Venison recipe is a good place to start) - and remove all filler ingredients such as corn, wheat and grains.
Stick to this new diet for at least 4-6 weeks, and when you slowly introduce other foods, you’ll uncover the source of the allergy and can eliminate it from your dog’s diet completely.
If you do know what the allergy is:
Knowing what the allergy is makes treatment a little easier!
- If you know your dog is sensitive to flea bites, it’s crucial to keep up with their regular flea treatments. Your vet can provide guidance on the best brand of flea treatment for your dog.
- For a dog with environmental allergies, small lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Try regularly washing them with hypoallergenic shampoo, keeping your house (and their dog bed) clean, moving them to another room while you vacuum and wiping their paws and body when they come inside after being on grass.
- If you know your dog has a protein allergy, it’s important to get clued up on food labels. For example, a pet food may be promoted as a ‘chicken’ recipe, but if you look closer at the ingredients list you might also find pork or beef. Some brands use multiple proteins or change their recipes without notice, so it’s worth doing your research.
- If your dog has an allergy to a grain or ‘filler’ product, again it’s important to read food labels and do your best to eliminate it from their diet. Make sure you tell your friends, family, and anyone else who might look after your dog to ensure they only feed the foods you provide them.
When it comes to dealing with allergies, a holistic approach is the way to go. Focus on:
- Getting your dog’s diet right. A diet based on meat, organs and bone (the diet your dog was designed by Mother Nature to eat) offers all the nutrients they need to start building a resistance to allergies and re-balancing their immune system. Start with a ZIWI Peak Air-Dried recipe like Venison if your dog has a particularly sensitive stomach.
- Reducing inflammation with omega-3 fatty acids. While all our recipes contain 3% whole Green Lipped Mussel (a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as glucosamine for joint health), our Mackerel & Lamb recipe contains the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids and is especially helpful for reducing inflammation and improving skin health and coat condition.
- Managing stress. If your dog doesn't have enough mental stimulation, physical exercise or positive interaction with people, they may start to feel stressed and anxious - which can wreak havoc on their immune system. Dogs are very aware of the atmosphere around them, so try to create a safe and positive environment for them to live.
- Regular check ups. Visit your vet regularly so they can keep an eye on your dog’s overall health.
Just because dog allergies are common doesn't mean you have to put up with them - there’s always something you can do to help your furry friend.
If you have any questions about these suggestions or would like some help choosing a ZIWI Peak recipe that’s right for your dog, please get in touch with our team here.