Do you know the number one reason that dogs require veterinary attention? You might think it is for exciting things: eating foreign objects like your socks or keys, broken legs, hit-by car accidents, dog fights, lumps, or vomiting. In fact, the number one reason are brought into see the veterinarian is much more mundane – allergies.
Allergies in dogs are primarily manifested by inflammation of the skin and ears. Do you own that dog that you have to clean their ears constantly, take in several times per year for ear infections, and it seems like nothing ever really solves the problem? Trust me – you are not alone. Our clinic and every clinic across the country has a huge number of dog-owning clients that share your pain. So what’s the deal?
Humans with allergic issues generally get upper respiratory inflammation – we cough, sneeze, sniffle, etc. Allergies in dogs, however, are rarely respiratory in nature. While dogs tend to be allergic to the same types of inhaled culprits (pollens, molds, weeds, house dust mites, dander, etc.), the immune system overstimulation gets expressed with inflammation of the skin instead. Dogs (and us) have a harmless but necessary flora of bacteria and yeast that populate the skin surface. When the immune system overreacts to inhaled allergens and creates inflammation of the skin, it becomes a breeding ground for those bacteria and yeast to flourish – especially when that inflammation is in a deep cavernous pit (such as the ear canal). Pretty soon the inflammation turns into an infection which shows up as a stinky painful ear full of brown goo, itchy feet that your dog won’t stop licking ALL NIGHT LONG, a fire-engine red belly with scabs all over, or maybe even a single hotspot on the face or neck. For some dogs these things are just seasonal – an issue one or two times during the year. For others it can be a year-rouAdorable Scratching Puppynd type problem. You wouldn’t know it from the amount of grain-free marketing that goes on in the pet-food industry (eye roll), but food allergy affects only a very small percentage of allergic dogs (a blog topic for the future). The majority of dogs are dealin g with inhaled or contact allergens.
Probably the most important thing to understand about inhaled allergies in dogs (official name ATOPY) is it is an ongoing and chronic problem. We all want (me too) that magic concoction or silver bullet that will just solve the issue easily. It doesn’t exist. There is good news, though. While this condition requires management, there are many tools at your disposal that can make life easier for you and your allergic canine companion. Check out next week when we discuss the available preventative and management options for dogs with allergies.
By Dr. Kami Ireland