Humor magazines have had fun with the way some dog owners resemble their dogs but, whether or not the dogs look like their owners, dogs do suffer many of the same illnesses. Dogs, just like humans, can become unhealthily obese from bad eating habits and not enough exercise. Dogs can also acquire diseases like diabetes, heart disease and gum diseases that cause dental problems and bad breath. Dogs can also, believe it or not, develop allergies.
Just like people, dogs get itchy skin and watery eyes from contact with things that they are allergic to. Other allergies can cause the dog to develop flu-like symptoms such as diarrhea and throwing up.
Dogs with allergies are not as uncommon as you may think; some experts, in fact, say that one out of every five dogs will have an allergic reaction to some substance.
If your dog has allergies the treatment is pretty much just a two-step procedure: 1) Get the dog to a veterinarian to determine what triggered the allergic reaction and 2) Do whatever is necessary to protect the dog from further exposure to whatever it was that caused the allergic reaction.
Following are descriptions of some of the most common allergies in dogs.
Flea allergies. No one will be surprised to hear that dogs get fleas or that the fleas torment the dog, but most people may not be aware that some dogs are actually allergic to flea bites. The problem is, when a flea bites a dog, it leaves behind a bit of it’s saliva in the bitten area. It’s this saliva that causes an allergic reaction in some dogs.
If your veterinarian determines that your dog is allergic to flea bites the obvious remedy is to get rid of all the fleas in and around your house. It will be hard work and you may want to bring in a professional exterminator and get all new bedding for your dog. Also, if fleas are a special health risk to your dog, you’ll need to keep it isolated from any other dog that may have fleas.
Food allergies. Food allergies are perhaps the easiest allergies to avoid. To have an allergic reaction to some food, your dog must eat the food and, as any good veterinarian will tell you, your dog should be eating nothing except its dog food. Table scraps for a dog should be considered toxic. Dogs may act like they love it when you feed them off your plate but sooner or later something they eat will either make them sick or trigger an allergic reaction. Remember that the food we humans eat contains preservatives, food coloring and artificial sweeteners; most of that stuff is harmless for most people but most of it can be really unhealthy for a dog.
Skin allergies. Dogs can suffer from dermatitis as an allergic reaction to the ordinary impurities in the air; impurities such as mold and dust; the technical term for this is “atopic dermatitis.” The dermatitis may show up as a rash that is visible on some dogs but are barely visible on others but, in most cases, you’ll see your dog biting and licking its paws, stomach or groin. It may be fleas or it may be an allergic skin rash — check it out!
Bacteria allergies. It is not common for a dog to be allergic to staphylococcus (staph) bacteria on its skin but when it happens it develops some dramatic symptoms such as hair loss, red blotches on the skin and possibly the development of pus pockets(pustules) filled with fluid. The staph bacteria itself is not rare — its virtually everywhere in some amount — but this type of reaction to it is, fortunately, very rare. Your dog is more likely to develop a bacterial allergy if it is in other ways unhealthy or if it has other serious allergies.
Your veterinarian will run some tests on your dog’s blood and will determine the nature of the bacteria and the most likely cure — most likely some antibiotic or an immune stimulant.
We all love our dogs and hate to see them sick or in pain. Whenever your dogs behavior becomes frantic or, at the other extreme, fatigued or when you notice anything abnormal in its behavior or physically, it is best to get your veterinarian involved as fast as possible.