While cats may regularly lick themselves to stay clean, when dogs lick or bite at their fur, there may well be something else underlying the habit. Often, this is a manifestation of allergies in dogs, and your dog may be seeking relief from the resulting itching. This condition is known as dog atopic dermatitis or atopy.
What causes a dog to suffer from allergies?
Dogs can suffer from the same allergens that inflict human beings. The most common causes of allergies in dogs are pollens (grass, tree, and weeds), mold, dust, and fleas. (Flea bite allergies can trigger intense dog itching for weeks).
If your dog is suffering from allergies, expect to see paw chewing and fur licking. This could lead to bald spots in your pet’s coat as well as hot, raised skin patches known as hot spots. These hot spots can become infected and bloody over time. Your dog may also manifest allergies with hay-fever like symptoms including sneezing and watery eyes.
As you watch your dogs itching patterns, you may be able to ascertain the source of the allergy. For example, if their allergies are consistently worse after they have been out playing in the yard, a pollen allergy may be to blame. If the itching flares after a bath, they may be allergic to shampoos or other products that you are using.
Whatever the cause of the allergies, if you can tell that they are consistently interfering you’re your pet’s quality of life, make an appointment with an allergy veterinarian for dog allergy treatment. Your veterinarian will note your dog’s health history and perform an allergy test if appropriate.
Your veterinarian may then talk to you about dog allergy treatment which may include medications such as antihistamines or steroids. Those can help short term but often have harmful side effects. For a longer lasting approach that addresses the underlying allergy (instead of just its symptoms), your doctor may recommend immunotherapy. This treatment is available through allergy shots. It is also available through sublingual immunotherapy which uses oral allergy drops (such as those available through Pallergy) instead of shots.