One of the most frustrating issues with treating dogs with skin allergies is trying to determine exactly what is the source of the irritation, known as the allergen. For many dogs it is fleas, well not exactly the fleas themselves but the saliva they secrete as they bite and feed off the dog. There are many different allergens in flea saliva and these are considered to be some of the most problematic conditions for dogs as they are so concentrated even a single bite can cause irritation across a large part of the dog's skin.
Food allergies are also very problematic for many dogs. Often these allergies are to gluten or wheat products in the food but they can also be from corn, preservatives and even flavorings and colorings used in the food. Since most commercially produced dog foods have the same ingredients, owners may need to go to a BARF or bones and raw foods or other natural type diet to eliminate the problematic ingredients from the dog's food.
Air-borne allergens can also be a concern for dogs. These are often the more seasonal type allergens such as mold, pollen and spores in the air. It is very difficult to restrict your dog to only being inside during the warm growing season so carefully controlling what plants you have in your yard can help, but these allergens are so common it is impossible to completely eliminate them.
Allergies to chemicals, perfumes, cleaning solutions, aerosols, furniture polish and almost any other type of product are less common in dogs but can still occur.
Allergies are often noted in the skin and the respiratory system and may include symptoms such as constant licking, scratching or biting of the skin, especially the paws, rubbing the head and eyes along the ground, carpet or furniture, coughing and sneezing, despondency, lack of appetite and energy and sores and lesions of the skin as infections become problematic.
Treatment for allergies depends on the type or allergen and severity of the reaction. Vets can complete allergy tests for common allergens that can help you manage the environment and prevent contact with the allergen. Changing foods, limiting access to allergens and monitoring the environment is often all that is needed in food and contact allergies. Good flea control as well as treatment of the house and yard is very important, as is treatment of other pets in the house. Antihistamines can be used either in injections or pill form to manage the symptoms and steroids can be used to immediately stop the itching when required.
Dogs with allergies will typically have the sensitivity all their life; it will not lessen or go away as they age. Often the allergic reactions become worse during the breeding season so many vets recommend neutering and spaying those dogs that have severe reactions to prevent hormonal changes that can make the reaction worse.