If you suffer from allergies, you’ll know how awful they can be. A runny nose, watery eyes, itchy skin… allergies are lots of things, but fun they most certainly aren’t. What may come as some surprise to learn is that our dogs are just as susceptible to allergies as we are. Food, chemicals, plants, another animal… you name it, and your dog can be allergic to it. If you notice your pet displaying any (although hopefully not all) of the below symptoms, an allergic reaction could well be to blame:
- Itchy, irritated-looking skin
- Excessive scratching
- Frequent biting or nipping of the skin or tail
- Itchy, runny or watery/bloodshot eyes
- Itchy or inflamed ears
- Incessant licking of the skin
- Coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Diarrhea or other bowel problems
- Frequent sneezing
- Hair loss
- Nasal discharge
- Paw chewing/swollen paws
- Scabs, and/or lesions on the skin
- Yeast infections of the skin
- Sudden snoring
- Vomiting or signs of nausea
Fortunately, most dogs will get through their life trouble-free, but it pays to be vigilant and to be aware of the kinds of things that can cause a reaction. While dogs are rarely allergic to just one thing, there’s a handful of common household culprits that could be at the root of their trouble. Here, we take a look at the top five causes of allergies that can be found in your home.
1. Indoor Plants
Plants may look beautiful, but behind their lovely exteriors lies a troublesome secret. Just as humans can be troubled by hay fever, so can our dogs be troubled by seasonal allergies to the airborne or contact allergens that indoor plants can harbor. “Any flowering houseplant has the potential to cause pets to have an allergic reaction,” Dr. Travis Arndt, DVM, assistant medical director at the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America tells Pet MD “Symptoms typically occur seasonally and present as itchy skin, excessive grooming, rashes, sneezing and eye discharge.” While some plants are more prone to causing allergic reactions than others, all plants, no matter what variety, are susceptible to harboring mold, one of the worst offenders when it comes to household allergy causes. Fortunately, it’s something that can be easily enough avoided, provided you resist overwatering the plants and keep them in well ventilated, well-lit rooms.
2. Chemical Skin Irritants
Some allergies are caused by airborne allergens, while others come about by contact allergens. One of the most common causes of the latter variety is household cleaners; if you haven’t yet switched to eco-friendly, natural brands, this may be just the push you need. The list of household cleaners and chemical products that can cause contact dermatitis is almost endless, with some of the most common irritants being shampoos, detergents, soaps, and hair sprays. Given that the number of products we use in our homes on an almost daily basis is so large, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly which one is causing problems. It’s therefore advisable to replace all chemical cleaners (or at least as many as you can) with natural products that are free from dyes or perfumes and to take particular care about the type of detergents you use to wash anything your pet sleeps on. Sometimes, the cause of your pet’s dermatitis can extend beyond the home: if you’ve replaced all your household cleaners but still find your dog is suffering from skin problems, the problem could lie in your backyard… or it could if your backyard has a pool, in any case. Chlorinated pool water is notorious for causing allergies in dogs, so it may be time to switch to a chlorine-free alternative.
Believe it or not, your dog’s beloved bed might be at the root of their problems. Some beds are made of materials that can cause an allergic response, and despite popular opinion, it’s not just man-made fibers that can cause a problem. Natural fabrics as wool, down, or feather-based materials are some of the most common offenders. If possible, switch to a bed made from 100% cotton or hypoallergenic material to mitigate the risk. That said, it’s important to stay vigilant and wash the bedding regularly as well. Even if the bed is made from purest cotton, there’s still a possibility it could attract dust mites (a huge contributor to skin problems) if you’re not careful. Make sure to wash the bedding regularly to remove any lingering mites, and as The Spruce recommends, try and replace the bed at least once a year.
4. Other Pets
It’s not just us who occasionally get red-eyed and runny-nosed around pets- dogs can develop an allergy to other animals as well. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as relying on your pet’s history of tolerance to other animals to know how they’ll react to a new addition to the family menagerie. Like us, dogs can develop an allergy at any point in their life, which makes it tricky to predict how they’ll fare to a newcomer. However, before you start getting too worried, take heart – allergies to other pets is quite rare, and given the number of other things in your home your pet may be allergic to (and the fact that dogs are rarely allergic to just the one thing), most animal experts recommend you speak to your vet about other possible causes before pinning all the blame on another family pet.
While cats are usually more sensitive to smoke than dogs, canines can also have an unwelcome response. If you smoke in the house, your pet is at an increased risk of developing atopic dermatitis, a type of allergic response that causes inflamed, itchy skin. Their chance of developing asthma is also increased. Unfortunately, you don’t get away scot-free if you don’t smoke – any kind of smoke (including from cooking) can cause a reaction. If you notice your pet has watery eyes, difficulty breathing, or any shortness of breath, they may well be sensitive to smoke… in which case stamp out the cigarette and speak to your first as soon as possible.