At first you suspect fleas. But after a few days, he also starts sneezing and wheezing. Hmm. Sounds like you during allergy season.
Allergies and related sensitivities can be wide and varied. Your dog can be allergic to one thing or several. And it’s important not only to figure out what he’s reacting to, but also if there are any related underlying immune system problems (hypothyroidism, for example) involved.
But first and foremost, you’ll need to figure out what your dog is sensitive to. Here are some common triggers to look into if you suspect your dog has allergies or sensitivities.
Yes, your dog may actually have fleas that are causing the itching—but not in the way you think. Flea allergy dermatitis is actually an allergy to flea saliva that causes incredible itch. A dog with a flea allergy can have weeks of itching from just one flea. If you find a flea on your dog, bathe him, and never find another flea or flea dirt, but the itching continues for some time—you could be dealing with a flea allergy.
Grass, Flowers, Trees, and Plants
Dogs that are allergic to outdoor sources of allergens like grass and trees may get worse after a walk or going outside. Your dog’s paws may be inflamed and itchy, and you may notice your dog incessantly licking them. Be aware of leaves on the ground and any other greenery your dog steps on on those days he seems itchier—it may help you narrow down the source of the allergy.
Dust mites are common in carpets, bedding, and even cloth toys. If your dog is allergic to dust mites, he’ll likely have problems year round. The more carpet and upholstered furniture you have, the more places these microscopic mites will have to thrive.
While there are many possible food sensitivities, chicken should probably be on the top of your list of potential culprits if you suspect food as being the problem. Dogs with food sensitivities can exhibit a range of issues, including itching, sneezing and digestive problems like diarrhea. Chicken is a very common ingredient in pet food and treats—which may make sensitivity more possible.
Itchy dogs can develop yeast problems from immunosuppressive medications given to them to help control the itch and related skin issues, according to integrative veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker. Because sugar feeds yeast, carbohydrates can become a problem in these yeasty dogs. Even something seemingly healthy like sweet potato may make these dogs more itchy.
Take a look at cleaners and other chemicals you may be using in your home—these could be triggering symptoms in your dog. You’re better off with more natural alternatives like vinegar to avoid overloading your itchy pet’s already overworked immune system.
No one wants to see their dog itching, sneezing and miserable. If you suspect an allergy or related sensitivity, contact your vet to figure out a treatment plan. It’s important to get to the root of the problem and treat your dog as a whole—not only removing the allergen or trigger, but also feeding your dog better and making him generally healthier.
Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.