Skin problems are the most common conditions affecting the dogs. Usually, their cause is difficult to decipher at face value except through the intervention of a qualified vet or highly experienced pet owner.
Nevertheless, the major causes of these skin problems are allergies. Allergies have different etiologies.
Usually, food, fleas, contact, pollen, spores, dust mites and several other environmental factors are the main causes of skin allergies.
What is allergic dermatitis?
Allergic dermatitis is a skin problem caused by allergic reactions to certain external stimuli.
Ideally, this skin condition ranks second among the major skin conditions affecting dogs.
Though common, the condition is a delayed type of hypersensitivity whose symptoms take time to develop.
The condition might go unnoticed in the first year of infection. It usually becomes apparent in the second year after infection.
Allergic dermatitis is also called atopic dermatitis and is more common in dogs than cats. Three-month-old puppies and 6-year-old adult dogs can similarly acquire the disease.
Family history of skin allergies
Skin allergies are prone to occur in dogs with a family history of allergic reactions. This genetic predisposing makes the dogs more susceptible to developing hypersensitivity to allergens.
An allergen is a substance that can induce severe hypersensitive reactions in the body.
- Dust mites
- Spores from molds
- Animal dander
Some dogs react to certain drugs. These drugs can lead to excessive immune system reaction that can cause allergic dermatitis.
Some food such as wheat, eggs, soy, and dairy can potentially cause allergic reactions in dogs.
However, it takes time for a dog to develop food allergies. Like as with other allergens, the dog needs to be sensitized first. This means that no food allergy can occur during the first exposure. But, subsequent exposure can result in severe hypersensitive reactions.
As the disease progresses, the symptoms keep on increasing and continuously worsen.
These symptoms are most prominent in areas such as ears, muzzle, and groin, belly, around the eyes, underarms, and paws. However, the ears and the paws are the most commonly affected.
The following are the symptoms associated with allergic dermatitis.
Itching is common to all infections of the skin. When the skin is infected, the body responds by initiating an inflammatory response. This causes the cells around the infected area to secrete histamine and bradykinins which mediate itchiness and pain.
Itchy spots always prompt the dog to scratch. There is a feel-good-feeling that comes by when the dog scratches itchy spots.
Since the paws of a dog have very sharp and mostly unhygienic nails, the dog can cause self-induced injury to his/her skin.
The paws can also introduce bacteria to the scratched wounds leading to secondary bacterial infections of the skin.
In most instances of allergic dermatitis, some itchy spots in the skin can make the dog rub himself against hard objects.
It is unusual for a dog to rub excessively against surfaces. If you notice such a behavior then you should be wary of an impending or an underlying skin disease.
Felines and canines usually lick their coats as a natural grooming technique. However, dogs also lick wound or irritated skin. Licking serves to reduce pain and discomfort caused by allergic dermatitis.
You should take note when your dog displays this behavior since incessant licking can perpetuate the proliferation of bacteria hence causing infection in the skin.
In allergic dermatitis, the hypersensitive skin sheds some hair. Shedding of hair may be common to certain species of dogs depending on the prevailing climatic conditions.
However, if you notice an unusual loss of hair, do well to inform your veterinary officer.
A stained fur is an indicator of allergic dermatitis. This usually happens secondary to excessive licking.
As the symptoms progress and the wounded skin go untreated, a foul odor emanates from these wounds.
This smell can also indicate that the wounds have been infected and need immediate attention.
Red bumps and scaly skin
Allergic dermatitis is an inflammatory process. Redness and swelling are classical signs of inflammation.
As the swellings get filled with fluid or pus, they burst when they are scratched or rubbed against rough objects.
The exposed wounds can then dry out forming scaly appearances that are dry on the surface and very soft beneath.
The aforementioned symptoms are consistent with almost all disease of the skin. To arrive at the specific cause of the skin problem, take your dog to the veterinary officer who will make a clear diagnosis of the underlying disorder.
Diagnosis of allergic dermatitis
Diagnosis is usually done by ruling out other potential causes of skin infections such as:
- Fungal infections
- Immune system disorders
- Systemic diseases
The veterinarian performs a physical exam by making a detailed observation of the presenting symptoms.
He or she will also inquire from you the medical history of your dog such as previous medications and diseases that have affected your dog previously.
To determine the cause of these symptoms, a series of laboratory tests will be performed using samples from; the blood, skin scrapings, exudates from wounds and hairs from infected areas.
Once it has been ascertained that your dog is suffering from allergic dermatitis, further tests are performed. These tests will help in determining what your dog is allergic to.
The lab report will help determine the course of treatment for your dog.
Treatment for dog atopic dermatitis
There is certainly no direct treatment for allergies. The medications that are administered help in managing the symptoms and any secondary infections but do not cure the susceptibility to allergic reactions.
The following medications can be used in managing allergic dermatitis:
Antihistamines and corticosteroids
Antihistamines and corticosteroids are useful in reducing pain and itching associated with inflammation.
The dosages are prescribed by a qualified veterinary officer. Some formulations of these medications are available for topical use such as hydrocortisone which is a corticosteroid.
For dogs that are genetically predisposed to an allergic reaction (dogs with a family history of allergies), immunosuppressive drugs may be used to down-regulate the immune system.
In such dogs, the immune system is hyperactive to substances that are less harmful.
Allergic dermatitis can predispose your dog to skin infections by Staphylococcus bacteria. When this happens, your veterinary officer will prescribe antibiotics to help combat the infection.
Best dog shampoo for atopic dermatitis
Several dog shampoos are available in the market. You can rely on your veterinarian for advice on the best shampoo to use or try and find out the best one for your dog.
Here are the top four dog shampoos that have a reputation for sweet fragrance and efficient cleaning properties.
Soapberry Naturals Dog Shampoo
This is an appropriate formulation for dogs with allergies. Soapberries produce a substance called Sapindus. This substance has some herbal properties and can function as soap.
It is made with additional eucalyptus fragrance that will leave your dog smelling nice.
Doggie Sudz Natural Shampoo
This an oatmeal formula that helps in relieving allergic dermatitis and flea bites. It does not contain any alcohol, dyes or detergent.
It is also supplemented with mango and neem oil which keeps it sweetly scented.
4-legger organic dog shampoo
This particular shampoo is made of aloe and lemongrass. It is very effective in removing debris from skin wounds.
It also has antiseptic properties and does not contain any toxins. It is patented by a small family in the United States.
Oster Oatmeal Naturals Shampoo
This sweetly scented shampoo is very affordable. It helps in removing scaly patches in the dog’s coat.
Additional add-ins are included making it smell like mangoes and peaches.
Home remedies help in managing the symptoms experienced by your dog while at home. Don’t sit back and watch your dog suffering in pain.
You can use one of the following remedies to manage atopic dermatitis in your dog:
Coconut oil is essential in preventing flea infestations. It can be administered orally or applied directly to the skin.
Vitamin E oil
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant mostly used to prevent wrinkling of skin. It is helpful in maintaining the youthful look of the skin.
This property can maintain the coat of your dog. Some studies also posit that vitamin E has a protective role against UV light.
Oatmeal for Itchy skin
Oatmeal bath soothes the skin when itchy. Since allergic dermatitis is an inflammatory condition, it is associated with so much itchiness.
Oatmeal can provide an immediate relief. It is also nontoxic and very delicious.
How to make a homemade shampoo to ease itchiness for your dog
If you run short of ideas on what type of skin treatment to purchase, you can make your own homemade shampoo.
Here is what you will need:
- 3 cups of distilled water
- Liquid castile soap – 1 tablespoonful
- Aloe Vera – 3 tablespoonfuls
- Vegetable oil – 1 tablespoonful
- 5 drops of rosewood essential oil
- Colloidal oatmeal – ¼ of a cup
All these oils are not entirely necessary. You can choose to use all of them or not. However, the more the number of oils you use the better the outcome of your preparation.
Mix all the ingredients and shake with vigor so that the contents can mix evenly.
Some dogs may react to certain ingredients in your formulation. Start by applying the mixture to a small patch of the skin and wait for a day to find out if it reacts with the skin of your dog.
If it doesn’t react, apply the treatments over the affected areas on the skin and leave to stand for a few minutes.
You will need to monitor your dog so that he or she does not lick the treatment that has been applied on the skin.
Use the treatment to bathe the dog until the condition improves.
Atopic dermatitis is very common in dogs though there is no cure for allergies. You should be wary of people who sell to you products, claiming that they can cure allergies.
The medications administered on help to relieve symptoms and prevent predisposing your dog to allergens.
Always consult your veterinary to help your dog lead a healthy and better life.