What Are Allergies?

Allergies are a hypersensitivity to a substance that affects the immune system as a whole.  They can cause severe problems in the health of the dog, including:

Itching, particularly the face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits and the area around the anus.

Skin problems of a persistent nature, including hair loss and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after the antibiotics are discontinued.

Hot spots on the skin

Ear infections – either chronic or recurrent

The body treats the substance as a foreign body and releases antibodies to try to get rid of it.  Histamines are also released, which dilate the blood vessels, but can also cause itchy skin (which causes more scratching, which produces more histamine…)

The most common causes of allergy in dogs are 1) flea bite allergies, 2) inhalant allergies atopy) and 3) food allergies.  Whilst food allergies account for about 10% of all the allergies seen in dogs, they generally account for 20% of the causes of itching and scratching in dogs.

If the dog has a recurrent ear problem, particularly yeast infections, if the dog is very young with moderate or severe problems, if the dog suffers from allergies all year round or the symptoms begin in the winter, or if the dog has a very itchy skin that does not respond to steroid treatment then suspect a food allergy.  Dogs tend to develop food allergies to a familiar food.

Many people state their dogs have a food allergy when in fact they only have an intolerance to a particular food.  Food intolerance affects only the digestive system and symptoms include:



General digestive upset

Food intolerance does not create a typical allergic response.


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