Vet Q&A: How can I care for my dog's skin allergy?

by PDSA Vets | 19 April #VetQ&As

If your dog has a skin allergy it can make them itchy and very uncomfortable. This Allergy Awareness Week, our vets have shared some top tips on how to care for your four-legged friend.

If your dog has a skin allergy they may suffer from itchy skin, hair loss or rashes. Scratching and skin problems are extremely common in dogs. In fact, they are amongst the most common conditions that our vets see and treat.

Many people are also surprised to know that ear problems are also commonly related to skin issues, especially if your dog has repeat ear infections or red itchy ears.

We know as humans how irritating a constant itch can be. And it can be frustrating and worrying to see our dogs feeling uncomfortable. However, the good news is there are lots of things we can do to help our four-legged friends.

Here are our vets’ tips on caring for your dog’s skin allergy:

 

Get advice from your vet

If you think your dog has a skin allergy, it’s best to get advice from your vet early on. Most dogs will scratch every now and then and will lose a bit of fur during a seasonal moult. But if your dog seems to be scratching more, you see bald spots or changes in their skin (such as redness or scabs), it’s best to contact your vet.

Skin problems often get worse over time and can become more difficult to treat, especially if the skin becomes inflamed or infected. Skin allergies can also be very uncomfortable or even painful for your pet, so it’s best to get help sooner rather than later.

 

Avoid any triggers

Many dogs will have one or more triggers which can make their skin allergy worse. This could be almost anything - fleas, food, pollens, grass or storage mites to name just a few. Your vet might recommend allergy testing your dog to find out what could be triggering the allergy. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always give a clear answers as to what your dog is allergic to. But there are still lots of ways to help your dog even if you don’t know their exact triggers. Here’s a few tips to help avoid skin flare-ups:

Flea treatments

Fleas make your dog itchy which can worsen their skin allergies. There are also dogs that can be allergic to fleas themselves. Talk to your vet about which flea treatment is best for your dog and visit our PDSA Pet Store for our flea treatment range. Remember to treat your home as well as your pets!

Food trial

Food can be a trigger for some skin allergies. Carrying out a food trial is a good way to see if your dog’s diet might be causing their skin issues. Talk to your vet for further advice.

Keep a diary

Try keeping a diary to help spot the triggers. Write down what your dog eats and places you’ve been each day alongside a record of their skin flare ups. This will help you look for patterns and try to avoid anything that could be causing issues.

Skin supplements

There are skin supplements available for dogs that promote healthy skin and help prevent reactivity.

 

Avoid lotions and potions

There are many shampoos, lotions, creams, ointments and natural remedies available that say they are good for dogs with skin problems. Unfortunately, many of these products aren’t specifically designed for dogs that have allergic skin disease, and they can make already irritated or inflamed skin much worse. Unless your vet has recommended certain products to help your dog’s skin, stick to plain tap water if you need to wash your dog. If your dog reacts to environmental allergens, a quick wipe down with a damp cloth after walkies can help remove pollen.

Ask your vet about which shampoos are suitable for your dog. There are special medicated products that can help with allergies. Your vet will be able tell you which products could work best for your dog’s condition.

 

Look for changes

Skin allergies often get better or worse and come and go over time (and sometimes this can seem completely random). Your dog might be fine for days, weeks or even months. Then, they can have a sudden flare up with no obvious cause. It’s tempting to wait and see if their skin will settle down as mysteriously as it flared up, but it’s always better to get your dog checked over.

It’s also important not to stop your dog’s treatment or diet without your vet’s advice - even if they seem much better. Most of the time your dog’s symptoms will come back once the treatment wears off. In some cases stopping their treatment suddenly can lead to problems and side effects so always follow your vet’s instructions carefully.

 

Be patient

We understand it’s hard to see your four-legged friend feeling uncomfortable. And sometimes you may have to try different treatments before finding one that suits your dog. The cost for treating allergies can add up and spending another afternoon at the vets might not be your favourite thing to do, but it’s really important to be patient, especially when you’re starting a new treatment.

If you’re worried a medication isn’t working or your dog is getting worse, don’t be afraid to talk to your vet. Ask them questions and explain your worries and concerns. Skin problems are complicated so get as much information as possible about your dog’s allergy, treatments available, and lifestyle changes you can make to help your dog. Your dog’s skin allergies may need management throughout their lives, but it will all be worth it when your pooch is living a happy, itch-free life.

For more advice on skin problems in dogs, visit our Pet Health Hub.

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