Health | 1 Min Read

Spring has sprung. As have allergies.

Spring often has us stocking up on antihistamines, but did you know that dogs can have seasonal allergies too? Avoid itches this spring by learning the 4 most common types of skin allergies and how to best treat them.

4 common skin allergies in dogs

Flea allergies

Spring is often the beginning of flea season but these biting critters can be present all year round. Many dogs are allergic to the saliva from the flea, resulting in severe itching and often ‘hot spots’, usually around the hindquarters and tail. Other biting insects can less commonly cause a similar response in dogs.

Atopic dermatitis

This is similar to eczema in people and is caused by airborne allergens such as pollens (grass, trees, various plants), dust mites and mould. This allergy can be seasonal or occur all year round. The reaction depends on your individual dog's response, but signs can include, scratching, rubbing, chewing, biting and licking. Commonly affected areas include, the paws, face, ears, flanks, belly and armpits. On lighter-coloured dogs, you can often see pinkish-brown staining of the hair where they have been licking.

Contact allergies

As the name suggests, this is when a reaction is caused by direct contact with the allergen with the skin or paws. Some weeds, such as Wandering Jew, cause redness and itching in dogs, as well as pesticides or synthetic chemicals.

Food allergies

It’s important to rule out the above causes of skin allergies before considering food allergy as a cause of itching. Contrary to the claims of many pet food companies, the incidence of true food allergies in the dog population is relatively low. In these particular dogs, animal protein sources are the most common cause. Allergies to carbohydrates and plant proteins are even less prevalent. While skin itching can happen, food allergies may also present with digestive or respiratory signs. Veterinary elimination diets are required to diagnose this condition.

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Dr Lisa’s tips

Skin allergies usually present as itching. Your dog may compulsively lick or chew a particular area of their body, turning small skin irritations into larger problems. This self trauma can lead to pain and secondary infections. Thankfully skin allergies can be managed most of the time. 

In the case of allergies, it’s always best to have a chat to your vet to discuss appropriate management for your dog. Your vet can check your dog for signs of skin infections and prescribe appropriate medications if required. In the meantime, simple things, like making sure your dog’s flea control is up to date, can make a big difference. If you suspect your dog is allergic to grass or certain plants, you can try to avoid these allergens and see whether the condition improves. 

Sometimes it can be as easy as wiping down the paws or body after a trip to the park. In other cases, complete avoidance may be needed. A daily whole body brush with the Slicker Brush followed by a wipe can help remove irritants from the coat, although a thorough wash will usually be required for acute contact allergies. Apply some soothing Leave in Conditioner afterwards for extra nourishment.

When to visit the vet

If you notice your dog is licking, chewing or scratching, and/or the skin appears abnormal, please see your vet as soon as possible.