dog with allergy square

Dog Allergies, Vaccinations & Popular Hypoallergenic Breeds

Just like humans, pets also suffer from allergies, especially during seasons like spring and summer. This is normally attributed to the dispersal of allergens by the wind which affects the eyes, nose and skin, among other organs. It’s not unusual during such times for your dog to develop itches that keep him scratching incessantly.

Causes of Dog Allergies

      1) Insect bites and stings
      2) Common Household Allergens

  • Pollens
  • Dust
  • Mold spores
  • Dander
  • Feathers
  • Perfumes
  • Cleaning products
  • Fabrics
  • Shampoo
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Rubber and plastic materials

Certain types of food and medication can also bring out allergic reactions from your pup.

      3) Food allergies
Genuine food allergies are rare in dogs, but when they do occur, they create an immune response, such as the development of hives and facial swelling or GI infection which causes vomiting and/or diarrhea. Sometimes – although it’s rare – a dog can suffer from anaphylaxis due to a severe reaction in the same way that some people get severe peanut allergies.

Pet parents sometimes confuse food sensitivity with food allergies. Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities do not result in an immune response but are instead a slow reaction to an offensive substance in your dog’s food.

Dogs, like people, can also go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen, which can be fatal if not treated.

      4) Medication
Any medication, irrespective of what the kind it is or who it’s for, is a potential cause for an allergic reaction in the patient. Reactions to vaccinations can cause an anaphylactic response in some dogs. That’s why it’s important to closely monitor your pup after he’s received a vaccine or drug.

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Suffering From Allergies

Some of the symptoms you should be on the lookout for include:

  1. Eye redness and discharge: if you notice your pet pawing at his eyes and rubbing his face on surfaces, this is a classic case of allergies affecting the eyes. A close examination may reveal conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissue lining the eyelids) and Scleritis (inflammation of white of the eyes) caused by Allergens which enter the eyes.
  2. Ear discharge: this can be caused by the accumulation of allergens in the ear canal and inner pinna (ear flap) which cause inflammation and discomfort. Once allergens set in secondary bacterial or yeast infection can take root since these are usually already present in the ear canal. The result is ear discharge, redness, scratching or pain, and show head shaking or rubbing on environmental surfaces.
  3. Sneezing and nasal discharge: the fact that dogs explore the environment using their noses exposes them to environmental debris which enters the nasal passages causing irritation. As a consequence you may see your pet sneezing and sometimes a mucousy nasal discharge may be seen.
  4. Coughing and gagging: this may be caused by allergens which enter the nasal passage and find their way into your dog’s mouth when he licks his running nose. Nasal discharge can also trickle down the throat via the oropharynx – an area which connects the nose to the mouth.
  5. Hives or facial swelling: allergic reactions can lead to swelling of the face, lips, eyelids, or earflaps. While this may cause you anxiety it rarely results in fatalities and can be treated by a vet with an antihistamine.
  6. Itching and hot spots: pets with dermatitis try to alleviate the problem by licking and scratching parts such as the feet, groin, tail, flanks and armpits. In the process, a dog can end up with inflammation, hair loss, and even infection known as Pyo-traumatic dermatitis –or hot spots.
  7. Other symptoms that may be exhibited by your dog include paw chewing, excessive rolling, rubbing and body odor.

In case of severe allergic reactions, you should make an immediate visit to an emergency veterinarian for professional treatment. Be on the lookout for the following signs of severe allergic reactions that require a doctor’s attention:

  1. Labored breathing caused by inflammation or swelling of the throat
  2. Shock – usually signified by a quickened pulse and low blood pressure
  3. Irregular heartbeat
  4. Pale gums
  5. In extreme cases, the collapse of your dog

Diagnosis and Treatment of Allergies

To find out whether your dog has food allergies, the vet usually administers an elimination diet, but only after ruling out all other reasons for your pet’s symptoms. During the food trial, you’re required to feed your dog on a strict diet of protein and carbohydrate from one source for twelve weeks. This is important so as to avoid coming up with a false negative result.

Unlike food allergies, flea allergy dermatitis is a much easier condition to diagnose. All you have to do is look for fleas on your dog’s body and apply a product to kill them off. If that works, then you’ve solved the problem.

      1) Home Remedies for Dog Allergies

Immediately you start noticing that your dog is scratching, licking and chewing more than usual you should act fast to quell a possible allergy symptom. Milder forms of treatment work best when allergic reactions are at an early stage.

Make a point of bathing your pup once or twice a week to remove allergens that are trapped in his coat. If symptoms are more severe, using medicated shampoos could be the answer.

Some home remedies that can help with allergies include:

  1. Bathing your dog with warm water mixed with Epsom salts to alleviate swelling. This works well when used in combination with prescribed antibiotics under the supervision of a vet.
  2. Apple cider vinegar, aromatherapy oil or use of a flea collar are examples of homemade solutions for allergies from flea bites. They are covered more comprehensively in our Home Remedies to Get Rid of Dog Fleas and Ticks
  3. Finely ground oatmeal – you can grind it yourself, or use baby oatmeal to prepare a bath for your dog.

Giving antihistamines to dogs in conjunction with other treatments or to prevent the onset of symptoms

      2) Treatment Using Medication

Your vet will typically prescribe the following medication to treat an allergic reaction:

  1. Antihistamines – can be used to treat mild reactions at home
  2. Corticosteroids
  3. Epinephrine – used only in rare cases for severe life-threatening reactions

      3) Prevention

The best treatment for an allergy is to avoid the source of the allergen altogether. In the case of flea bites, for example, killing the fleas by using borax can eliminate the problem. If your dog has food intolerance, you can consult your vet about changing his diet. The bottom line is, while it may not always be easy to do, allergic reactions can be managed if you remain pro-active by always looking out for warning signs.

What Vaccinations Are Vital?

Different people have differing opinions on the need for some dog vaccinations and what time frames should be used for vaccinating your dog.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) suggests that only a few vaccines are absolutely necessary. In its opinion, some are only required in unique circumstances, while others should not be administered at all. It also advises that “annual” vaccine should be given once every three years.

According to the AAHA’s guidelines issued in 2006 and revised in 2011, four core vaccines should be administered to every dog for the following diseases:

  1. Parvovirus
  2. Distemper
  3. Rabies
  4. Adenovirus

The noncore group of vaccines includes the diseases: parainfluenza, Bordetella, and Lyme disease and should only be administered where your dog has a high probability of being exposed to the disease.

Some vaccines such as for coronavirus are simply not recommended by the AAHA as puppies rarely succumb to such diseases. Leptospiral vaccines and giardia vaccines are also not endorsed by the organization.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule

As a pet owner, you should know is that there doesn’t exist one puppy vaccination schedule that is applicable to all dogs. You should consult your vet about your dog’s vaccinations.

The table below is a generally accepted guideline for the first year of administering vaccines.

Puppy’s AgeRecommended VaccinationsOptional Vaccinations
6 – 8 weeksDistemper, measles, parainfluenzaBordetella
10 – 12 weeksDHPP (vaccines for distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parainfluenza, and parvovirus)Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
12 – 24 weeksRabiesnone
14 – 16 weeksDHPPCoronavirus, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis
12 – 16 monthsRabies, DHPPCoronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 – 2 yearsDHPPCoronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 – 3 yearsRabies (as required by law)none

Source: AKC

Boosters and Titers After Adulthood

Opinion is split on whether dogs should be vaccinated every year. Some vets believe that too many vaccinations can lead to health complications, while others believe that yearly vaccinations prevent dangerous diseases like distemper.

A way out of this is to get a titer test for your dog before giving him an annual vaccination. However, rabies vaccines should be administered as a matter of course as it is also a requirement by law.

Dog Breeds Most Likely To Suffer From Allergies

Typically, both Golden and Labrador Retrievers are more susceptible than most breeds to allergies, as are English and Irish setters and a number of Terriers including the American Pit Bull, Hairless, Bolston, Bull, Cairn, Cesky, Fox, Sealyham, West Highland White and Wheaton. Other notables prone include Beagles, Bichon Frises, Boxers, Chinese Shar-Peis, English Bulldogs, Poodles, Spaniels and Doberman Pinschers.

Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds

If you are prone to allergy attacks yourself whenever you’re around dogs but love the idea of owning one, then you should consider getting a hypoallergenic dog breed. Although there is no single dog that is 100% hypoallergenic there are certain breeds that go well with people who suffer from allergies. These dogs do not shed their coats and produce less dander – the main culprit responsible for pet allergies.

For a more comprehensive guide to choosing a dog breed that’s both really popular and hypoallergenic, you can cross-reference the following list with our post on The Top 10 Small, Medium and Large Dog Breeds, Fun Facts and Names. Below are 10 dog breeds that don’t cause allergies:

      1) Poodle
Poodles come in toy, miniature and standard sizes and make very smart and active dog companions. Although they require daily grooming, they do not shed their coats which make them ideal for allergy sufferers. They’re easy to train and good with children making them excellent family pets.

      2) Bichon Frise
These fluffy white dogs come with a soft coat that sheds very little fur. If you like adorning your pet with ribbons, then the Bichon Frise, with its cotton ball shape, may be the ideal dog for you. Most importantly its hypoallergenic nature makes it a great choice for pet owners with allergy issues.

      3) Maltese
Weighing less than eight pounds and covered by a silky white coat, these toy dogs are infrequent shedders that are a great match for pet owners who suffer from allergies. Although they’re classic lap dogs, they are docile and respond well to training and are great family companions.

      4) Bedlington Terrier
For those who love speed, the Bedlington terrier is an active but graceful dog with an uncanny resemblance to sheep. They are easy to train and shed their coat infrequently, making them good if you’re sensitive to fur and dander.

      5) Portuguese Water Dog
This breed is the pet dog of the Obama family, who chose it for its hypoallergenic qualities. A loyal worker and companion, the PWD has a waterproof coat which makes her ideal for a Sunday swim with the family. Her curly coat comes in different colors like black, white or brown – or combinations of these colors – making her a beautiful dog to show off.

      6) Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
These exuberant dogs are set apart from other terriers by their soft, silky and gently waving coats that resemble the color of ripening wheat. They are non-shedding dogs that require brushing twice a week and a haircut every so often. Needless to say, they are excellent family companions.

      7) Giant Schnauzer
Strong, active, and loyal, these muscular dogs come with a double coat that has a solid-black or “pepper and salt “color. They are hypoallergenic and shed their coats seasonally.

      8) Chinese Crested
These almost hairless dogs are an obvious choice for someone looking for a hypoallergenic breed. Even the coated variety do not shed fur, making them suitable for allergy sufferers. Not only are they alert, they are also funny and love to please their owner, which makes them fun dogs to have in the family.

      9) Afghan Hound
Famous for their elegant beauty, these sighthounds are a hardy lot that spots an unmistakable thick flowing coat. They are infrequent shedders and love running, which makes them ideal if you have an active lifestyle.

      10) The Peruvian Inca Orchid
Not only are these small sized dogs hypoallergenic, they are also well mannered around the house. They are not the ideal outdoor dog and require sunscreen during sunny weather. Apart from weekly grooming they require the occasional bath to keep them in tip-top condition.

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How do you diagnose your dog's allergies and treat them with vaccinations

About the Author Andy

When not writing about himself in the third person, Andy spends many an hour walking his mischievous, mixed breed rescue Mr Wox, aka Soxy Woxy. A leading authority on all dog-related topics, Andy is highly respected, deeply appreciated and widely admired.

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