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What is an Allergy?
An Allergy is an immediate immune response by the Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody. This antibody binds to cells and when exposed to allergens the cells produce a chemical in your body called histamine. These released chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Food allergies and sensitivities can affect dogs just as easily as humans. If your dog suffers from a food allergy symptoms can include gastrointestinal problems, but itchy skin is also a common indicator that may be misinterpreted as something else entirely.
The majority of food allergies in dogs are the result of primary diet proteins such as meat and seafood, but common non-meat proteins such as corn, wheat, and certain vegetables can be responsible as well.
All skin allergies pose the risk of secondary infection. As your dog scratches, bites, and licks at his skin, he risks opening up his skin to yeast and bacterial infections that may require treatment.
Environmental (Atopic) Allergies
Environmental allergens, such as dust, pollen, and mold, can cause atopic allergic reactions or atopic dermatitis. In most cases, these allergies are seasonal, so you may only notice your dog itching during certain times of the year. As with food allergies, the most commonly affected areas are the paws and ears (but also include the wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and in between the toes).
In an atopic allergy, the dog reacts to airborne allergens such as pollen, molds, fungus, and house dust. These are often seasonal, meaning that the dog itches only at certain times of the year. The itch can be anywhere on the body, but it is common for affected dogs to scratch their ears or lick their paws.
How common are allergies in dogs?
Unfortunately, allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age, with the majority of affected dogs over age one or two.
A very large number of substances can act as allergens. Most are proteins of insect, plant, or animal origin, but small chemical molecules can also cause allergies.