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Dog Skin Care & Dog Skin Allergies

Updated on December 29, 2016
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Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Dog Skin

There are many different conditions that can affect your dog's skin such as mange, mites, fleas and ticks, and various allergies. Each typically requires a slightly different treatment than the rest.

For example, depending on the type of mange, you may or may not be able to treat it; demdectic mange is a treatable mange, so long as you notice it early on. A simple topical cream or wash can be the sole treatment needed to induce hair growth.

Whereas the simple treatment for skin problem caused by fleas and/or ticks, is to get rid of the fleas and/or ticks and then treat with an antibiotic to rid the dog of any inflammation and any self-inflicted wounds.

But, as for skin allergies, you'll want to find out what exactly is causing the problem so that you know how to treat it. And, again it may be as simple as a flea allergy, or it may be a little more complicated such as an allergy to grass.

at its better stages of healing
at its better stages of healing

Causes of Dog Skin Allergies

There are a number of different things that could be causing your dog him itch and pull out his hair.

If your dog has a year-round itch, consider the following:

  • Diet: Your dog's food could be causing his allergies. Although this is least likely, with only 15% of dogs being allergic to food, it is possible. The dog could have a sensitivity to something in his food, such as the proteins, wheat, soy, or corn. Many dogs are allergic to wheat gluten, which is used as a filler in many dry dog foods. Mold, also, grows on wheat, corn, and peanut hulls which can suppress the immune system and cause itching.
  • Mold: In humid areas or in unventilated kitchens and bathrooms, mold spores could be causing the skin allergy. If your house has ever flooded or if your basement frequently gets wet, you'll want to watch out for black mold (Stachybotros), which can sicken your dog and even cause fatality.
  • Animals: Your dog may be allergic to another animal in the house, such as a cat, bird, or other furry pets, especially pets that have contact with the outdoor world, who can bring in other allergens such as pollen.
  • People: Just like allergens that can be found on cats, people carry allergens that flake off and can irritate your dog. It's actually pretty common with about 40% of dogs with an allergy to people.

For seasonal allergies, it may take a few years to set in and develop. If your dog only itches during certain seasons, consider the following as the cause:

  • Grass: Yes, some dogs are allergic to grass and other outdoor allergens. You will commonly see this allergy during the spring months.
  • Insects: Moquitos, fleas, ticks, and other insects will typically cause skin allergies during the spring and summer months. When the insect bites the dog, the saliva of the insect will cause a reaction under the skin, causing it to become inflammed and itchy.

Treating Skin Allergies

  • Diet: Try changing the diet for 6 weeks, and see if there is a change in your dog's itching. You may want to change the protein source; for example, if the food is currently beef based, try turkey or venison. You may also consider changing to a diet that doesn't have any soy products or wheat.
  • Mold: Keep the humidity low in the house; fix any leaks that you may have in the home, such as in the basement in particular; use exhaust fans when taking a shower in a bathroom with poor or no ventilation. You'll also want to clean out the mold, meldew, and dust wherever you find it; check out your air conditioning system to make sure that there's not any rust buildup in the condenser pan; and pour a few tablespoons of bleach down the pipes every few months to keep them clean.
  • Animals: Bath other animals regularly, even cats. Your cat has an allergen in his saliva, so when he licks himself, and the saliva dries, it flakes off, free to float around your home and in your carpets. Use HEPA air filters that can trap the allergens floating around in your home.
  • Insects: Use a permethrin fogger in your yard, such as Raid Yard Guard, making sure to spray shady areas and areas of tall grass. Also, consider talking to your vet about flea and tick products such as Frontline, Advantage, and Advantix.

Skin Allergy Treatment Options

Other things that you may want to consider to help give your dog some relief from his itch may include some of the following treatments.

Antihistamines will work for about 20% of dogs, but there are potential side effects such as drowsiness, constipation, and occasionally hyperexcitability. You'll want to consult your doctor about other options if your dog is pregnant, has seizures, glaucoma, or heart problems.

Benadryl is an inexpensive and effective treatment. It's suggested that you give your dog about 1mg per 1 pound of weight two to three times a day, but it's always best that you consult yoru vet for exact dosage information.

Shampoo or topical spray with steroids can offer some relief, but not full relief.

Steroids such as prednisone in either pill or shot form can help relieve your dog from his itching discomfort, but remember that steroids have potential long-term side effects such as damage to internal organs and incontinence. Typically, steroids are only used occasionally.

Allergy shots are sometimes effective on pollen allergies, but they can be pretty expensive. With the allergy shots, it can take up to 6 months before they actually work, and during the 6 month waiting period, you'll probably be at the vet several times a month.

Air filtration is another good option that you'll want to consider to help reduce the allegens that are floating around the air in your home. There are many air filters that you can choose from, most of which have HEPA filters in them.

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