Allergies in Senior Dogs by Ann-Marie Fleming

01 October, 2020


Fall is officially here and that means allergy season is finally behind us. No more itchy eyes, runny noses or constant sneezing for another year — and we’re not just talking about your own symptoms. Your senior dog can have allergies, too, and it can cause discomfort for your pup just like it can for you.

At Dog Quality, we’re all about helping senior dogs age gracefully and comfortably. This commitment includes educating pet parents on how to tell if their dog is showing signs of discontent. Allergies in dogs are extremely common, but unfortunately are not always easy to identify. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about recognizing your dog’s allergy symptoms, what might be causing the reaction, and how to treat dog allergies.

Does My Dog Have Allergies?

Allergies are an atypical reaction to foreign substances in the immune system. As we know, humans can suffer from all types of allergies — and so can dogs! Just like some people get itchy eyes from a certain type of pollen in the summer or hives from eating shellfish, dogs can have allergic reactions to all sorts of things. Identifying allergies in dogs starts with knowing what to look out for.

If your senior dog has allergies, his symptoms will depend on the type of allergen. Skin allergies, food allergies and environmental triggers can all contribute to allergic reactions in dogs. Here are the different types of dog allergies and common symptoms:

Skin Allergies:

Also known as allergic or contact dermatitis, skin allergies cause inflammation of the skin. Triggers include fleabites, food intolerances, and environmental allergens, such as pollen, dust and mold. Symptoms include:

  • Itchy skin, especially at the base of the tail
  • Red, inflamed or scabbed skin
  • Signs of fleas
  • Itchy ears and paws
  • Open sores from scratching

    Food Allergies:

    True food allergies — that is, those that cause anaphylaxis — are rare in dogs, but food intolerances can be quite common. This occurs when your dog develops a sensitivity to a certain type of food over time. In contrast, a true food allergy involves an immune reaction where your dog’s system simply cannot tolerate the food. If you suspect your dog has a food allergy or intolerance, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian, but here are some common signs of food sensitivity in dogs:

    • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea
    • Skin conditions, such as itchiness, inflammation and poor coat
    • Chronic ear or foot infections

    Environmental Allergens:

    Every day, we come into contact with many different substances without even realizing it. The air we breathe and the things we touch can pose potential problems, both for humans and for our pets. Triggers like mold, pollen, grass and dust can all cause allergic reactions in dogs. Symptoms may include:

    • Runny nose
    • Sneezing
    • Respiratory congestion
    • Watery eyes
    • Itchy skin, primarily the ears and paws
    • Secondary infections from scratching

      Acute Allergic Reactions:

      In rare cases, your dog may come into contact with something foreign, such as a bee sting or new vaccine, that triggers an extreme allergic reaction. An acute anaphylactic reaction can be fatal and requires immediate intervention. Contact your veterinarian right away if you notice any of the following symptoms of acute allergic reaction in dogs:

      • Hives
      • Swelling of the face, throat, lips, eyelids or earflaps

        What is My Dog Allergic To?

        Since there are so many possible causes of allergies in dogs, diagnosing the exact source of your pup’s discomfort can be tricky. Allergy symptoms in dogs can look similar to symptoms of other conditions, so your veterinarian will likely begin by ruling out other potential causes first. If it looks as though your senior dog has allergies, your vet may recommend allergy testing to narrow down the specific trigger. But be aware that, even with allergy testing, it may not be possible to identify the cause of your dog’s symptoms.

        If your dog is suffering from food sensitivities, your vet may recommend an elimination diet. For a period of eight to 12 weeks, you’ll feed your dog a diet of a single-source protein and carbohydrate. The goal is to remove all potential allergens and then slowly reintroduce foods one by one. If symptoms pop up when you reintroduce a particular ingredient, it helps to pinpoint your dog’s food sensitivities.

        How to Treat Dog Allergies

        When your dog is experiencing any kind of discomfort, the first thing you want to do is make him feel better. Firstly, the best way to reduce allergy symptoms in dogs is to remove the allergen altogether. Unfortunately, it may not always be possible to identify and remove the trigger, but there are a few ways to alleviate your dog’s allergy symptoms and make him more comfortable.

        How you treat your dog’s allergies depends on the type of allergic reaction he’s having. For food intolerances, an elimination diet is the best course of action. For skin sensitivities, you may not know exactly what’s causing the reaction, but bathing your dog with hypoallergenic shampoo can help to reduce itching and inflammation. For acute allergic reactions, seek emergency veterinary care right away.

        If at-home treatments for dog allergies aren’t helping, your vet may also prescribe allergy relief medication such as an antihistamine or monthly allergy shots. These medications can help to reduce inflammation and itching, and get your dog back to feeling like himself.

        Want to help your senior dog live his final years with dignity? Check out Dog Quality’s premium products for senior dogs, designed with your pup’s comfort at heart.

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