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Skin Allergies in Dogs Skin Allergies in Dogs

Neil Stuttle

With spring arriving we are starting to see more itchy dogs through the clinic doors.  The main cause of this seasonal itch is allergy.  Skin allergies can be divided into a number of causes including contact allergy, flea allergy, atopy and food allergy/intolerance.   The main clinical sign of allergy is itchy skin leading to scratching, chewing, licking, rubbing or shaking of the affected skin. It is important to remember that the skin includes the ears, paws and anal glands.   

Contact allergy 

As the name suggests this is caused by the irritating substance (allergen) being in contact with the dog’s skin.  This leads to itching, inflammation and redness in the area that has been touched. Areas affected are usually the feet, and along the abdomen. Common causes are grass (especially fresh cut grass) and Wandering Dew.  Management of contact allergy involves avoidance if possible and topical application of steroid based creams and ointments.  

Flea Allergy (very common) 

This is caused by an allergy to flea saliva which is injected into the blood when a flea bites.  This leads to itching and hair loss typically around the tail base.  In allergic dogs it only takes a small number of flea bites to cause a reaction so typically fleas are not seen despite the irritation they cause.  Management of flea allergy involves strict all year round flea control and short courses of anti-itch medication to provide relief.  

Atopy (very common) 

Atopy is caused by an allergic reaction to environmental allergens e.g. pollens, moulds, dust mites. Clinical signs include itching and inflammation especially. involving the ears, inside the elbows and back legs.  The underlying reason for these dog’s allergies is a genetic based weakness in the skin barrier allowing allergens to trigger an inflammatory response.  Breeds commonly affected are Labradors, Boxers and Staffordshire terriers. Atopy typically starts in young dogs 2 – 4 years old and is usually seasonal in nature.   Management of atopy involves avoidance of environmental allergens (if possible), regular shampooing, fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation and anti-itch/ anti-inflammatory medication.  

Food allergy/ intolerance

This is caused by an allergy to an ingredient in the diet. Clinical signs include itch and inflammation often affecting the ears, paws and under the tail base.  Common ingredients that trigger a reaction include beef, lamb, and pork products.  This allergy is managed by avoiding the triggering ingredients, typically by feeding a chicken or fish based diet.  

Many dogs have a combination of the allergy types above and the underlying causes combine together to produce an itch. This is known as the itch threshold.  Managing and eliminating the causes that we can will often drop the allergens below the itch threshold and result in clinical improvement.  

For example, consider a dog that has concurrent atopy and flea allergy. Even if we don’t know the trigger for the atopy the itch may be sufficiently managed by strict flea control.  A dog with concurrent atopy and food intolerance may respond to dietary changes alone.  

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergic skin disease but there are a number of ways we can minimise its effects.  Strict flea control, regular shampooing, fish oil supplementation and skin diets are the first step. When these don’t give the relief needed anti itch drugs like steroids and apoquel are used.  

It is important to remember that dogs can itch for a number of reasons other than allergy and the first step in achieving a diagnosis, treatment and relief is giving us a call and booking a consultation with one of the veterinary team.  



Preventing Unwanted Kittens

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Importance of Cats Drinking Water

Read more >Monday 12th of September 2016: With summer approaching, it is important to make sure your cat has a fresh water supply available at all times. Cats are not very good drinkers and partly as a result of this are susceptible to lower urinary tract inflammation or, even worse, kidney insufficiency which can lead to kidney failure.

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Read more >Friday 9th of September 2016: Rearing orphan lambs can be an enjoyable and rewarding job for a whole spectrum of people â from a lifestyler with a couple of pets lambs to the owner of a highly productive stud flock fostering triplet lambs of high genetic merit. Pet lambs are also easy for children to rear and are a great way to teach them some of the responsibility of pet care. No matter what the situation though, the rules for successful lamb rearing are the same for every situation.

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Read more >Tuesday 23rd of August 2016: On 27 May 2016, Diana and Jerry Greer's Labrador, Tiggy, whelped and had 6 puppies. Unfortunately one was stillborn, which left five.

Two days after whelping Diana noticed that the firstborn puppy was losing weight and on closer inspection found that he had difficulty suckling.

On day three I offered to take him and attempt bottle feeding him and see if we could get him going again. When I arrived home I saw that he had a cleft palate. This is where the journey of 400g Olo and I started. Of course I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

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Read more >Thursday 16th of June 2016: I have a habit of trying anything at least twice so when the National Aquarium asked if I liked reptiles, I was keen to get involved. The playing field changed somewhat when the reptile in question turned out to be an American Alligator, but I was definitely still enthused, so long as the staff were happy to restrain her

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Read more >Tuesday 14th of June 2016: It's coming to that time again - soon the cows will be calving and the calf sheds will be full of happy, healthy, bright eyed calves. They will have all had a good drink of high quality colostrum soon after birth, and will be well set up to become a great dairy cow.

Rat Bait Poisoning

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Case Study- Urinary Stones

Read more >Tuesday 7th of June 2016: Ziggy is an active 7 year old Bichon Frise who's owner brought him into the clinic after noticing him urinating more often than usual but only being able to pass small amounts of blood tinged urine. He also seemed in pain and was not his usual bouncy self.

Dental Disease in Cats and Dogs

Read more >Tuesday 7th of June 2016: Most cats and dogs over 3 years old will have evidence of dental disease. Dental conditions we commonly see in the clinic include peridontal disease, broken teeth, retained temporary teeth and feline resorptive lesions.

Lice in Cattle

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Winter is the season for lice and if they are there in numbers in winter they will be there en masse by spring.

Benefits of Rumensin

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Parasite Control in Young Cattle

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Nutritional Consultancy & Intelact

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Dairy production systems are changing from the traditional NZ all grass, seasonal systems to more supplement based, often split-calving systems. Dairy nutrition is a complicated process and a lot of research is done all over the world to optimize the way we feed our dairy cows.

Heifer Health

Read more >Friday 1st of April 2016: Be vigilant with young dairy stock at this time of the year to ensure they have adequate feeding and parasite control in place.

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