Hobo's Advice Column
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Current Column - Allergies
We have had a lot of questions that may be related to allergies. One asked about runny eyes and sneezing, another scratching ears, rubbing the head on the ground, along with digging (which may involve both topics). We are not veterinarians, but can give a brief overview of published information - we will relate some references at the end of this article.
If you go to any first aid book for dogs, or general references you will find that the following can indicate allergies.
Of course there may be something else going on. For example fleas or other insects. In fact, some dogs are allergic to flea bites themselves. We have heard of the itching going on for weeks after the last flea has gone. Look for hair loss on the back and at the base of the tail, or tummy. Make sure you check for that first and also read the section on Ear Itching. Lets assume you have checked for fleas, ticks, ear mites and have taken all the precautions. What else might be going on?
Most of us think of allergies as things that result in runny eyes,nose and physical signs like sneezing itchy ears,or rubbing about the head. And of course there may be something in the air causing this, just as with humans. These are called inhalant allergies.
Your pet may get some relief when a vet prescribes cortisone or another steroid . But no one wants to keep their pet on steroids for long. We have also seen articles discussing treating the symptoms. For example - many of these inhalant type allergies affect the skin - so baths and and anti itch remedies are widely discussed. Adding Omega 3, 6 fatty acids to the diet and sometimes are helpful, in fact we do this with all our pets as this supplement is beneficial to the skin and coat under most conditions. And mineral and vitamin supplements are also a good idea in many cases.
The best treatment is to find the cause and eliminate it. Your vet may be able to conduct tests to determine the substance causing the allergy. This can include molds, dust, pollen, tree sap, plants and grass, and even dyes and chemicals. In some cases they may be able to provide a "vaccination" of sorts. But please read on to the end of the article.
Two examples contact allergies we personally have had some issues with are chemicals in lawn sprays and carpet dye. The first is obvious - if you are spraying your lawn with chemicals and your dog is running on it, the chemicals can easily be absorbed through the paws, or even by the dog licking or eating the grass. Is this really an allergy? Not in the strict sense, it is more of a reaction to the chemical. The second was noted when a friend of ours told of a dog laying on an oriental rug and developed irritated skin. It was found the dyes used in some oriental rugs was the cause.
The diet (food) can also be the cause.. You may be surprised how many times this is the cause. Many food contain additives (chemicals) that just are not good for you friend. They also may contain ingredients that your dog is allergic to. There are articles all over the Internet that caution against things like
This is a broad topic so we can only touch on it and say that you can attempt to eliminate these as causes, especially if the symptoms are loose bowel movements or itching. Of course, with all those meats listed, it depends on the particular dog. We see some article on the net suggesting lamb and rice - our comment there is that one of our dogs is allergic to lamb! It can be anything - so you just have to experiment and find what works for you.
Others have suggested that the dog needs to be on a hypoallergenic diet the rest of its life. This my not be necessary! Your vet may advise to switch to a different diet, see if the symptoms get better, then may or may not advise to switch back to verify the link to food. But, in our experience it might be easier than that.
The best way to make the change to a different food is to get a premium natural (preferable human quality ingredients) food and gradually change over. That process can take a week as you don't want to change the diet all at once .. gradually increase the amount of the new food. When choosing the new food, also pay attention to recommendations for your breed (level of protein) and the age of the dog : puppy, regular or senior) - make sure you have the right blend of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Basically you are eliminating a possible source of the allergy by trial and error, and possibly improving the diet at the same time. With the high quality, all natural diet, you will be avoiding many of the potential causes of the allergy. But you may also want to switch to a different meat as well (for example, if you have been feeding beef, try poultry).
Food allergies have been responsible for all sorts of symptoms. These range from behavior to affecting vital organs such as the liver, pancreatic, kidney and bladder. There have even been stories related to Bronchitis conditions caused by some component in the food. Of course most of us see the types of allergies that show up in digestive problems
Your veterinarian can check not only for the cause of the allergy, but possibly for some deficiency. In some cases they will try to find out why their body is not capable of combating the allergen itself. If that can be found, then "vaccinations" against the allergies may not be needed at all. Examples include adrenal defect or hyperthyroidism.
We have just touched this subject to make you aware of some of the possibilities. Our advice is to seek veterinary help if the allergy continues.
Pet Allergies (remedies for an epidemic) by Alfred J. Plechner, DVM and Martha Zuckner The publisher is Dr. Goodpet Laboratories 1-800-222-9932 it was published in 1986 but we have found it still commercially available through on line book stores. This book spends a great deal of time discussing foods, supplements and treatment.
Guide to Skin and Haircoat Problems in Dogs
The Allergy Solution for Dogs : Natural and Conventionale Therapies to Ease Discomfort and Enhance Your Dog's Quality of Life by Shawn Messonnier Prima Publishing; ISBN: 0761526722 (2000)
Canine Nutrition : What Every Owner, Breeder, and Trainer Should Know by Lowell J. Ackerman) Alpine Publications, Inc.; ISBN: 1577790154 (1999) - written by a conine dermatoligist.
Look in Hobo's Doglinks section under "food" - check out some of the food related links. The "dog food comparison charts" is particularly useful.
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