Pet ownership always requires a certain degree of responsibility and caring nature to maintain a happy and healthy animal. However, there are some pets that will require more attention than others. One common instance is that of the hypoallergenic dog that may be suffering from a variety of unknown allergies, causing the animal discomfort and resulting in many different and abnormal behaviors. With the proper care and a little extra effort, a hypoallergenic dog can lead a long and healthy life despite any allergies it may have.
What Is a Hypoallergenic Dog?
While many humans suffer from a wide variety of allergies, the same can be said for our pets. Hypoallergenic dogs are normally breeds which are more compatible with those owners who struggle from allergies related to dogs. But what about the dogs who are demonstrating signs of allergic reactions themselves? What can be done to bring them comfort? How can we determine if our dog is struggling with allergies? When a dog has allergies, they often show several symptoms, and recognizing them is the first step to helping bring the dog relief.
Signs of Allergies in Dogs
There are many signs for spotting a hypoallergenic dog suffering from bothersome allergies. Some of these include, but are not limited to:
Possible Sources of Allergies in Dogs
Like humans, hypoallergenic dogs can suffer from allergies related to a wide variety of different sources. These allergies are commonly grouped into the categories of either diet or environmental. Some of the more common allergens from each category include:
Are Allergies in Dogs Common?
Hypoallergenic dogs are fairly common, and although any breed can suffer from allergies, there are documented lists of breeds that are more susceptible to having allergic reactions. Such breeds known for their common allergies include:
- Bichon fries
- Terriers – Yorkshire, Pitbull/Staffordshire, Jack Russell, etc.
- Wheaten Terriers
These breeds have a greater occurrence of allergies, but they can also be completely healthy and non-allergic. On the flip side, just as many other breeds that are not so commonly affected can struggle with allergens as well. It is up to you, the owner, to watch for symptomatic behavior.
Just as with humans, dogs can also develop allergies at different points in their lives. Watching out for the signs of allergic reactions in hypoallergenic dogs is important. Changes in diet or environment, such as moving to a new area, can trigger new or reveal undiscovered allergies in dogs.Something Else?
It is important to note that not all symptomatic dogs do in fact have allergies. There are many cases where dogs exhibit behaviors that are indicative of allergies, such as itching/scratching and biting or licking paws, that are in fact symptoms of stress or anxiety in dogs. This can include separation anxiety. The timing of the dog’s behaviors will help understand if this is the case for your dog.
Tips on Caring for Your Hypoallergenic Dog
Caring for a hypoallergenic dog can mean some extra effort for the owner, but the results are well worth it in having a happier and more comfortable pet. Dogs suffering from allergies can often exhibit unhealthy behaviors, such as relentless scratching, irritability, chewing, stubbornness and other changes from their regular patterns. Finding and removing allergens can help fix such issues.
Isolate the Allergen
The first necessity when caring for a dog you have determined to be suffering from allergies is to isolate what exactly it is that is not agreeing with your dog. If there have been any recent changes that coincide with the start of the allergic reactions, such as a geographical move (even a relatively small one) or a new food or type of dog treat, start with those possibilities.
If your dog is showing signs of skin irritation, first be sure to check that there are no fleas or medical issues, such as mange or other causes for rashes. These issues can often be treated by a vet or by using home remedies and treatments. Such cases are often a random occurrence rather than an ongoing allergy.
Certain symptoms in hypoallergenic dogs can indicate what direction to begin looking. Symptoms such as watery eyes, coughing and sneezing will often point towards airborne allergies, similar to those seasonal allergies that humans suffer from. In these cases, dogs can often benefit greatly from regular, daily doses of Benadryl or other antihistamines. Your vet can suggest the proper dosage. Some cases are more difficult to determine. Skin rashes and persistent, damaging scratching can indicate either environmental or diet allergens. In these cases, as well as those with digestive struggles such as diarrhea or vomiting, diet is usually a good place to start.
When investigating whether your dog’s diet is contributing to their allergies, grains are usually a smart place to begin your search. Dogs digestive systems are not very well suited to processing grains, and it is a common culprit in the search for what is ailing them. Luckily, due to its commonality, many dog food brands now offer special grain-free diets for these cases.
When shifting your dog to a grain-free diet, it is important that ALL grain be eliminated from the diet. This includes treats,as well as table scraps if you choose to give them to your pet. You won’t know for sure if the grain-free diet is helping unless grains are totally and consistently removed. It can often take up to a couple weeks to see if the problem has been resolved.
Grain-Free Didn’t Solve the Allergies?
If you have tried the grain-free diet alternatives for a couple of weeks without seeing any improvement, the next step is to try an even more restricted diet. These foods are often more expensive, but will contain no grain, fillers, and also remove the more common meats in favor of fish. Again, treats must follow the same diet restrictions.
If you have tried these types of allergen-free “Core” diets, without seeing any noticeable improvement after a few weeks, it is likely that there are non-diet related allergens at play with your dog. At this point, you should start considering environmental possibilities, as well as non-allergy related causes for your dog’s symptomatic behaviors.
If your hypoallergenic dog has not seen any relief from allergen restrictive diets, it is time to begin exploring possible environmental allergens or irritants. These are difficult to test for on your own, however, some restriction to exposure can be utilized here as well. Your vet will also offer an allergen exposure panel, which can be a great tool in frustrating cases, although it can be rather expensive and without any guarantees for a successful determination of allergens. It is worth attempting diet and environmental restrictions first where possible.
One extremely difficult circumstance is when a dog is allergic to their own fur/hair or dander. This eliminates the ability to restrict access to the allergen. In this case, as with most environmental allergies, the solution is simple and intended to bring as much comfort and symptom reduction as possible without removing the allergen completely
Treating Environmental Allergies
In cases where skin irritation, itching, redness, and hair loss are factors for your hypoallergenic dog, caring for the dog’s coat is the priority. Daily brushing to remove excess fur/hair and dander, as well as bathing as often as possible, at least once a month, will bring your dog some relief. There are many sprays, shampoos, and lotions designed to help dogs with these issues as well.
In addition to regular baths and grooming, we recommend that blankets and other items that come in contact with your dog regularly are washed periodically wherever possible. This helps prevent dander and fur/hair from accumulating and possibly agitating your dog. Be careful, however, to use detergents and soaps that are gentle.
If your dog has recently started using a new blanket, dog bed, or toys made of a new material, you should also explore whether this could be a possible allergen. Some materials, such as wool, can irritate a dog’s skin and create common allergic reaction symptoms.
Allergies are common among many dog breeds, and any breed can struggle with a wide variety of allergies. Owning a hypoallergenic dog suffering from the many symptoms of allergies can be frustrating at times, requiring extra attention and care. However, we believe a balance can be found and providing relief for the dog is absolutely worth the extra efforts required. We would always advise all dog owners to maintain regular visits with a veterinarian, and if a dog is developing symptoms of allergies, schedule a vet visit to determine what the vet believes is occurring and how to treat it.
There are circumstances where complete relief cannot be obtained. Whether this is the case, or if you have determined your dog’s allergy, remember the following tips for caring for your hypoallergenic dog:
- See a veterinarian–decide whether an allergen panel is necessary
- Regular brushing, grooming, and bathing
- Medicated and soothing shampoos, lotions and sprays
- Daily use of antihistamines–vet recommended dosage
- Try a grain-free or completely allergen free “core” diet
- Wash dog blankets and bedding regularly
If your dog continues to exhibit symptoms and remains uncomfortable or agitated, please be sure to seek your veterinarian’s advice.