There are a variety of conditions that can make a dog itch or have hair loss, including endocrine, autoimmune, and parasitic skin diseases. Therefore, it takes some detective work to identify the right cause.
A veterinarian may be able to come up with the right diagnosis. However, they may refer your dog to a veterinary dermatologist, who is a specialist in treating skin conditions in animals.
If allergies are suspected, the first thing a veterinarian will usually ask is if the dog is on a flea-control product. Flea allergies are the most common type of allergies and are the easiest to control. Dog owners have many options for flea control on dogs and in their environment.
If flea allergies are ruled out, and if the itch is non-seasonal, food allergies are checked next. Food allergies are not related to a season, whereas many atopic allergies start out as a seasonal problem.
Dogs that develop atopic allergies usually show symptoms when they are 5 years of age, but food allergies can be a problem at any time. They are high up on the list of suspects when a dog first gets itchy skin at an age of over 5 years, or less than 6 months.
When testing for food allergies, the dog is put on an “elimination diet” for around 10 weeks. This means it is fed food, which is high in protein and carbohydrate. which it has not eaten before, such as venison, duck, and potatoes.
These special foods, which come in packets or cans like normal dog food, may be found in pet stores. Or, the owner may choose to feed the dog a homemade diet of foods recommended by the veterinarian.
Should the dog’s itching subside by at least half, the allergen is considered to be one or more food ingredients. For confirmation, the owner can reintroduce the regular diet to see if the symptoms worsen again.
To find the specific ingredients that trigger the allergy, the dog owner should feed the special diet again and add one ingredient at a time from the old diet. This should be done for at least a week until the itching increases, indicating that the last added ingredient is an allergen.
Alternatively, the owner may choose to stay with the special diet to avoid causing the dog any further discomfort. Either way, while the dog is being tested for food allergies, it should not be given treats, table scraps, or rawhide toys that may contain an allergen.
To check a dog for atopic allergies, veterinary dermatologists use an intradermal allergy test, or skin reaction test. The dog is mildly sedated, a small area on the side of it is shaved, and small amounts of common allergens are injected into the skin on the shaved area. If the dog is allergic to a particular substance, the skin will become slightly inflamed, showing that the cause of the allergy has been found.
Learn More: Dog Allergies Treatment