If you are driven mad by your dog’s constant scratching, licking, itching and ear flapping this summer, you are not alone. Allergies are extremely common in dogs. More than half are caused by fleas and other environmental allergens, like pollen, moulds and house dust mites.
Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor to Hill’s Pet Nutrition South Africa says that allergy symptoms often show on the skin, “Areas around the feet, face, ears, armpit or groin are most commonly affected. You may also see hair loss, crusting or scaling.”
Environmental allergies may be seasonal, particularly in spring and summer (e.g. from pollen), or occur all year round (e.g. house dust mites etc). The dog may scratch, bite or groom excessively to relieve the itch, which often damages the skin, allowing allergens to penetrate more easily, causing secondary skin infections (like dreaded hotspots). This itch-scratch-itch becomes a vicious cycle, which is notoriously difficult to eliminate or control.
Dr Fyvie says that in an ideal world one would avoid the allergen completely, “That is not always possible, particularly with things in the environment such as pollen or dust mites. Meticulous flea control is vital.”
A new food can help make a difference. “New Hill’s Prescription Diet Derm Defense is formulated to help block environmental allergens, ideally before they trigger a reaction,” says Dr Fyvie. “It contains a blend of nutrients that help decrease the release of histamine and inflammatory cytokines that cause itching, helping drive healthy skin from within.”
As well as skin irritation you may notice an unpleasant smell or inflamed ears if your dog is suffering from allergies. “If your dog starts showing any allergy signs consult your veterinarian; early intervention can stop the vicious itch-scratch-itch cycle before it starts, and thereby helping avoid more serious complications, discomfort and stress,” advises Dr Fyvie.