German Shepherd Allergies: Causes And Treatments
Dogs, like humans, can develop various allergies. Some breeds are more susceptible than others to certain allergies so generalizing wouldn't be a good idea. Today we're taking a look at the German Shepherd and the allergies he's most prone to.
Canine allergy is estimated to be very common, with 1 in 7 dogs suffering from some kind of allergy. Allergies in dogs, as in humans, are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to an everyday substance, for example a certain food or pollen.
While allergies in humans manifest in coughing, a runny nose and itchy eyes, dog allergies mostly manifest in the skin. We’re exploring this matter a bit deeper in this article.
All dogs can develop an allergy, but some breeds are more susceptible to allergies than others. Unfortunately, German Shepherds tend to develop some allergies more often than other breeds.
They are prone to certain allergies, mostly food and pollen allergies. Short haired German Shepherds will more easily suffer from skin contact allergies as well.
Causes Behind Skin Allergies
Even though dog allergies are mostly manifested through skin problems, the causes can be different and vary from dog to dog.
German Shepherds are in most cases affected by three types of skin allergies. They depend on the cause of the allergy.
The possible causes can fall down under these three categories:
1. Flea bites 2. Food allergies 3. Inhalant allergies
We’ll explore each one of them more closely. But first you have to be able to recognize skin allergy.
What Does Skin Allergy Look Like?
As a rule, the skin will become irritated and red. Swelling can also occur, but it’s usually a result of scratching or biting.
If your dog starts to lose hair or gets an ear infection as a result, the cause is probably a long-term food allergy related to industrial dog food.
Other symptoms indicating skin allergies are frequent sneezing and coughing, rubbing the face and constant licking of paws and belly.
Allergy Warning Signs
These signs are good indicators that you should take your Shepherd to the vet.
- Frequent scratching, licking and chewing
- Ear infections
- Hair loss
- Red and flaky skin
- Constant stomach problems
- Reverse sneezing
Now, let’s take a look at the three most common allergy types when it comes to German Shepherds.
1. Flea Allergy
This is the most common skin disease in dogs. Dogs are often allergic to fleas, or more precisely their saliva.
If that’s the case, flea bites lead to constant itching, red spots and inflamed skin. Dogs with flea allergies can develop irritated skin even after one bite.
The best treatment for this problem is flea control on the dog, in the house, yard and other surrounding. When it comes to reducing the itching, steroids and antihistamines can help in making your dog scratch less.
If the cause of itchy skin isn’t flea allergy, you should check for other causes, such as food allergies.
2. Food Allergy
German Shepherds are more prone to food allergies than many breeds. These allergies manifest themselves through itchy skin, so distinguishing various causes that could lead to itchy skin is very important when you want to help your dog.
If your dog has a chronic infection of the skin, but you’ve checked and no fleas are present, it’s probable that a food allergy is behind it. Other possible symptoms are an upset stomach, chronic diarrhea and vomiting.
Which are the most common allergens?
The most common allergens are beef, chicken, corn, dairy, wheat and soy. Of course, there are other allergens, but these are the most common ones.
Preparing Your Own Dog Food
Dogs that are fed dry food too much or too early are more likely to develop food allergies. Naturally, the way to change this is preparing your own dog food and controlling what should be in it.
If you prepare your own dog food you’ll be completely sure of the ingredients in the food. That way you can avoid common allergens, use organic fruit and vegetables and proteins without hormones or antibiotics.
When it comes to getting rid of food allergy, you should try switching to other ingredients or try a raw diet. Try grain-free food with a new protein your dog has never had or try adding supplements that can help.
The best supplement to help with itchy skin are omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and have been effective in reducing skin irritations.
They can be found in fish oil and flax seed oil, so if you’re feeding your dog a high-quality fish-based food, he’s probably getting enough omega-3 fatty acids.
However, it would be a good idea to consult your vet about these diet changes before you start your homemade diet.
3. Inhalant Allergy
Under this category fall down primarily allergies to pollen, dust and various chemicals. Observe for signs of sneezing or coughing at certain times of the year (pollen) or in certain conditions (dust).
German Shepherds are one of the breeds that are very susceptible to pollen-related allergies. These allergies are genetic, so it’s very probable that they will inherit it from their predecessors. Symptoms usually start showing somewhere between three month and six years.
Pollen-related allergies are a consequence of an overactive immune system. It mistakes pollen for a threat and start fighting back with an allergic reaction, which usually starts at the beginning of a new season, especially in the late summer and fall.
Unfortunately, pollen allergies can’t be cured, only treated. A skin condition as a consequence to these inhalant allergies is called Atopic Dermatitis.
A dog suffering from this condition has skin problems caused by pollen, grasses, dust, mold or trees. It’s a genetic condition.
Usually, it begins when the dog is young, as a seasonal reaction. Later it progresses until the dog is allergic to many different substances during the entire year.
Skin irritation manifests itself around the eyes and mouth, stomach, armpits and anal areas. Ear infections can also occur.
As we can see, German Shepherds can suffer from various allergies, as well as cause them. Not all can be cured, but they can be treated, or better yet – avoided.
Avoiding Skin Allergies
In order to avoid skin allergies caused by fleas, make sure to use an effective flea and tick medication. These medications are important not only for flea allergies, but also for preventing from possible sickness.
If you want to avoid food allergies, avoid giving industrial food with too many grain filters to your German Shepherd. Rice is the safest among grains, while corn, soy and wheat are common allergens. Table scraps should be avoided as the substances we eat sometimes can’t be processed by dogs.
Preparing the dog food yourself is the best way when you want to control what’s in the food. Try to avoid industrial food with preservatives, additives etc. Any food that has been ”enriched” with supposedly healthy substances is usually just the opposite and should be avoided.
Treatments depend on the allergy, but two common ways of treatments are medications or environment management, in other words removing the allergen from your dog’s surrounding. Sometimes it’s a combination of the two.
If you start to notice any signs indicating skin allergies, the first thing you have to do is visit the vet who will try to determine the cause. The vet will probably run blood tests and maybe even put your dog on an elimination diet in order to determine what allergens are causing problems.
How does an elimination diet work?
The purpose of these diets is to determine what your dog is allergic to. During a certain period of time you have to feed your dog a special food, given by the vet.
Over three or four months you’ll be gradually adding back other foods to your dog’s diet. When the itching and scratching begins again you’ll know where the problem is and you can eliminate it from your dog’s diet completely.
Treating skin allergies isn’t that difficult when you know the cause. Usually, all it takes is a nutritional change when it comes to food allergies. Inhalant allergies can be controlled with inhalant allergy medications and cream conditioners under running water.
However, not all dogs are the same, so you should always consult your vet and make a treatment plan together. To sum it up, we’ve prepared a list of treatments and tricks to avoid allergies!
Ways To Treat And Avoid Allergies
- Fatty acids can help in reducing allergy symptoms
- Antihistamines, steroids and other medications can help as well, but be prepared that they make your dog drowsy
- If it’s pollen allergy you’re dealing with, avoid walks in the early morning and late afternoon. After walks, wipe your dog with wet towels or something similar and in order to remove the pollen
- If fleas are the problem, follow a strict flea control program and fill your dog’s bed with cedar which will keep fleas away
- When it comes to dust allergies, washing the dog’s bed in hot water regularly will help. If your dog sits on furniture, put a blanket or something of the kind over it so you can easily wash it in hot water.
- Bathe with hypoallergenic dog shampoo to keep the allergic skin from drying out
- Keep your dog away from humid parts of the house, like the basement or the laundry room
- Immunotherapy is a possibility
How does immunotherapy work?
Immunotherapy is often called ”allergy shots”. This therapy isn’t helping in easing the symptoms, but making the dog less allergic by exposing him to small amounts of his allergens. However, this doesn’t work for food allergies.
This is not an effective therapy in all cases. About 60 to 80 percent do well with the shots, while others show signs of some relief or don’t respond to it at all. It’s also a long-term therapy, don’t expect it to work at once, it takes up to a year sometimes!
If your dog is responding well to this therapy, shots on a regular basis will be needed for the rest of his life. A vet will teach you to give the shots yourself, if that what you prefer.
German Shepherds are unfortunately more prone to certain allergies than some other breeds, including food and pollen allergies. As pollen allergies are genetic, it’s probable that your Shepherd will inherit the allergy from its parents or someone else.
Most allergies in dogs result in skin problems so look out for various symptoms indicating allergies. Even though not all allergies can be cured, they can be treated rather easily and they are easy to spot.
Allergies in dogs are very common and usually not serious, so you don’t have to worry if your Shepherd suffers from some type of allergy. Figure out the cause with a vet and start applying the necessary treatment methods and everything will be fine.