What are the usual causes of allergies in dogs?
In dogs, hypersensitive reactions are most often the result of inhaling proteins from substances such as pollen, dust, mold, tobacco smoke, cleaning agents, and aromas such as perfumes or the smell of formaldehyde from new rugs and furniture. Dogs may also be allergic to: wool, drugs (penicillin, as but one example), plastics (in food dishes for example), pesticides, herbicides, grasses, trees, and even other pets.
There are at least five categories of allergies in dogs, including: atopy (an immediate reaction to any allergen or antigen, often due to a genetic predisposition to the condition); flea allergies (the allergen here is the flea’s saliva), allergies that somehow develop to the bacteria found on the normal and healthy skin of most dogs; contact allergies (to poison ivy, for example), and food allergies.
Like humans, dogs can be allergic to foods, many of them the same ones humans are allergic to, and any food or food ingredient can theoretically cause an allergy. Dogs are not typically born with food allergies; most commonly it takes a long-term exposure to any food source to create a true food allergy.
Dogs are thus most typically allergic to the nutrient sources commonly found in the foods they are being fed, especially the proteins in meats: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, fish, or horsemeat. Other food sources that may cause allergic responses include corn, soy, wheat, nuts, eggs, and dairy products … once again, foods commonly found in typical dog foods.
Basically, allergies are an over-reaction of the dog’s immune system to exposure to a foreign substance (an allergen or antigen). While immediate reactions may sometimes occur, most often the exposure has occurred with some frequency and over an extended amount of time.
Normal and healthy immune systems are able to deal with allergens without undue reaction, but a compromised system may have the tendency to over-react, and there is evidence that some animals may be genetically programmed to be allergic to particular substances.
Dogs with high-functioning immune systems and healthy intestinal tracts tend to be free from any form of allergic response. As a holistic veterinarian, I feel it is vitally important to enhance the dog’s immune system with anti-oxidants such as omega fatty acids and immune-boosting herbal remedies and to help maintain intestinal health with good quality foods along with probiotic and prebiotic supplements.