Expert veterinarian Dr Kirsten Ronngren from ManyPets shares the three main causes of allergies in dogs to help owners concerned about their pet’s constant itching
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Most dogs will have an itch every now and then, but excessive itching may indicate they have an allergy.
Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, resident expert veterinarian for pet insurance brand, ManyPets, recently spoke at DogFest about itchiness in dogs.
Dr Ronngren told The Mirror: “I love talking about dermatology, not only because I find it interesting, but because there are so many itchy dogs out there.
“I have an itchy golden retriever, so I know it can be super frustrating to dog owners.
“While there are definitely a subset of dogs who are itchy because of transient things like a minor irritation from something they touched, or a mild case of something like hay fever in people, there is also a category of dogs that truly have underlying allergies.
“For dogs with an allergy, it’s important to call that what it is – an overreaction of that dog’s immune system to something that would likely not cause a problem in another animal (ie hypersensitivity).”
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Here are the three main underlying causes of allergies in dogs:
Dr Ronngren said: “The first thing I always want to rule out when an itchy pet comes to see me is fleas (and other parasites like mites, but fleas are the primary).
“Fleas can cause general itchiness, but some dogs have what we call flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).
“This is where the dog is actually allergic to flea saliva, and their immune system causes significant inflammation in response to a bite.
“These dogs can lick, itchy, chew, and scratch themselves to the point of hair loss, pain and infected skin.
“While it’s important for all dogs to have a regular parasite prevention regimen, it’s critical for FAD dogs.”
“A lot of pet owners think that food sensitivities/allergies are caused by grain in diets,” Dr Ronngren said.
“While there is definitely a small group of dogs that can be sensitive to things like wheat or corn, the vast majority of truly food allergic dogs are hypersensitive to the protein source.
“That means that what stimulates the immune system is the protein in their diet such as turkey, chicken, beef, venison, fish, etc.
“The best way to determine if a dog is food sensitive is to do what’s called a novel protein or hydrolysed protein diet trial, where the pet solely eats a diet with a protein source that it has never had before.
“This can take upwards of 8 weeks to truly determine success, and is best done under direction of your vet.”
Dr Ronngren said: “Last but not least, that big beautiful world out there may indeed be the culprit of your dog’s allergies.
“Pollen, grasses, moulds, and dander among others may be what stimulates itchiness.
“In addition to avoiding things we know can be a flare for our pet, these days there are great and safe oral and topical medications that can help support itchy dogs.
“A referral to your closest veterinary dermatologist for allergy testing is also an option.”
Allergies can be overwhelming but it’s important to control and manage them long-term.
Happily managed itchy pets typically require a combination of things to keep them comfortable, and Dr Ronngren advises always speaking to a vet about your options.
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