Dog Allergy Symptom #5. Bacterial Skin Infections & Skin Bumps

Ahh, the dreaded Dog Cone Collar. A necessity when your pup won't stop licking open sores.

Unlike humans, who display allergy symptoms through watery eyes and sneezing, dogs often show their allergy symptoms through their skin.  In his book “Pet Allergies“, Alfred J. Plechner, DVM refers to a dog’s skin as the “external spokesman for internal affairs.”  Reoccurring skin problems are often signs that your dog is suffering from more serious food or environmental allergies.

Unfortunately, dogs do not understand how bacterial infections are spread.  When dogs have a skin infection, they are usually pretty uncomfortable.  The only way they know to “treat” the problem is to lick and chew where it hurts.  They do not realize that their constant licking, biting and chewing can introduce and spread bacteria – which often leads to more infections.

If you notice red bumps on your dog’s belly, chin, ears, feet or other areas, you should visit your vet.  These skin bumps may be staph or other serious bacterial infections and should be treated. Most veterinarians will recommend antibiotics to treat the infection.

If your dog has frequent infections, you should press your veterinarian to find out what the real cause is.  Antibiotics may treat the problem in the short term, but unless you treat the cause, you will likely find your dog in the same predicament in the very near future.

Dog Allergy Symptom #4. Licking and Chewing Their Feet.

Dog PawsWhen our dog Elsie was less than a year old, she started to lick her paws whenever she was resting. I had read that Boxers were fastidious cleaners, so I assumed that this was a breed trait coming out and thought cleanliness was a good thing.

Over time, her foot licking became more frequent and vigorous, and eventually lead to foot chewing. She would often wake up from a deep sleep and start biting and chewing her feet such intensity that we realized something wasn’t right. Her paws became red and irritated and the hair around her toes became thin.

At closer inspection, we noticed that the skin between Elsie’s toes and the area around her nails were becoming a dark brownish, red color. Our puppy’s beautiful white “socks” were turning a rusty red and she was clearly uncomfortable.

Obsessive foot licking and chewing is a common sign of atopic dermatitis or skin allergies.  If you find that your dog is constantly licking or gnawing at their feet, it is quite possible that they are suffering from allergies.

Before you jump to any conclusions, you’ll want to inspect their feet. Gently check between their toes and the bottom of their paw pads to make sure there aren’t any cuts or splinter.  If you have a dog with longer hair, make sure they don’t have any items like matted fur or sticks or burs which may be irritating their feet.

Once you’ve determined that your dog’s licking and chewing is not related to an injury or irritant, take your dog in to a veterinarian. Too much foot chewing can lead to bacterial infections or other skin problems. Plus, it can make life quite uncomfortable for your furry friend.

Once we found an allergy treatment that worked for Elsie (more on that later), her rusty red feet eventually reverted back to their original pretty white coloring. She no longer licks or chews on her feet and is able to relax like a normal dog.

Dog Allergy Symptom #3. Gas.

For the first two years of Elsie’s life, our family and extended family had several good laughs about our farting dog.  She farted, tooted, squeaked – you name it.  My husband and I were used to it, but it would get a bit embarrassing during holidays or visits from friends.  I always tried to keep a candle going after dinner, in attempts to mask the suspicious odor that would come from her direction.  Inevitably someone would say “Oh, Elsie!” and the room would clear out. Poor smelly dog.

I remember thinking that maybe it was a boxer thing. My family never had boxers growing up. I read once that boxers tend to have digestive issues, so I just wrote it off as a breed problem. When we finally switched her to the right diet, the gas almost completely went away. Thankfully for her, and us, all we live with now is an occasional toot.

If your dog has excessive gas, he or she may have a food or environmental allergy.  Although farting can be humorous, excessive gas is often a sign of a more serious digestive problem and should be checked by your veterinarian.

Dog Allergy Symptom #2. Ear Infections.

Does your dog have frequent ear infections?  Do they continuously flap or scratch at their ears?  Do their ears have an odor? It is often assumed that ear infections are a sign of ear mites. However, in many cases, chronic ear infections are a sign that a dog allergies.

Ear infections were a regular part of Elsie’s life. In the beginning, whenever she had a bath, went swimming, or had any interaction with water, she’d end up with a nasty ear infection. As months went on, her ear infections would flair up for little reason at all.  The weather would change, we’d go out of town for a weekend – any small change in routine would trigger an infection.

In attempts to ease her discomfort, she’d claw at her ears and rub her head on the floor. Her head flapping and ear scratching resulted in cuts and scratches that would open and introduce new infections. It was a pretty ugly scene.

Elsie is now on allergy shots, and thankfully doesn’t have the same ear issues.  However, we still find that regular ear cleaning is an absolute must as part of her grooming routine.  To prevent infections, we clean her ears each week with a solution called Epi-Otic®. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a similar non-irritating cleansing solution.

To clean your dog’s ears, simply squirt the solution in their ear canal, gently rub the ears and then wipe off any excess liquid.  It takes less than five minutes and can make a big difference in your dog’s comfort. If your dog is like most, it will automatically shake its head – so you may want to do this in your bathtub or outdoors to prevent your walls being covered with the cleanser.

If your dog has frequent ear infections, talk to your veterinarian. This is likely a sign of allergies or some other problem with their immune system.

Dog Allergy Symptom #1. Itchy, Scratchy Skin.

All dogs scratch themselves, right?  Of course, it’s part of being a dog.  There’s the occasional, normal head scratching and then there’s allergy itching. Allergic dogs scratch as if they want to remove a layer of skin – and they often will.

The itchiest areas are often their ears, muzzles and chin. If your dog often rubs their chin on the floor, rubs their paws over their eyes or scratches at their ears – they may have allergies. When my dog Elsie’s allergies were at their worst, she would wake up every morning and rub her face on the carpet. When she wasn’t rubbing her face, she was scratching at her mouth and ears.

Elsie with her ear-protecting bandage

Over time, this excessive scratching not only causes open cuts and sores, but can also lead to infections. At one point, we had to wrap Elsie’s head in bandages to prevent her from opening up existing sores on her ears.  During less dramatic scratching sessions, we would stick Band-aids on the tips of her ears to minimize the bleeding.  Sure, she would scratch them off, but they would usually hold for a couple of hours.

Although constant scratching is often a symptom of allergies, it’s important to know that other conditions such as mange and fleas can contribute to this itching.  First consult with your veterinarian prior to taking any steps to treat allergies.

Dog Allergy Symptoms

It’s safe to say that my Boxer dog Elsie has a severe case of allergies.  When her allergies were at their worst, I was convinced she would not live to be four years old. She was on a constant diet of prescription allergy drugs and antibiotics, which did little more than keep her from tearing out her fur. That year alone, we spent over $2,000 on veterinary bills. And all we had to show for it was a sick dog.

Elsie first started exhibiting allergy symptoms when she was less than a year old.  I remember giggling to myself one night as I watched her rub her chin on the floor.  I thought she looked so cute, bobbing her head back and forth on the rug.  “Oh, does someone have an itchy chin?” I said.  Little did I know how itchy that chin and the rest of the dog would get.

Over time, the cute itching would turn into violent scratching and chewing. Her scratching would create sores on her ears which would open and bleed each time she flapped her head. Her chewing would turn her paws dark red and cause hair loss on her haunches.  In the beginning, I thought she was just being a dog.  Later, I learned she was losing a painful battle against her deficient immune system.

Over the next several posts, I’ll share some of the top dog allergy symptoms. If your dog is showing some of these symptoms, it’s possible they may have a food or environmental allergy.  If so, you should consider consulting with a qualified veterinarian for specific instructions on the treatment and care for your dog.

Welcome to Allergy Dog Central

Welcome to Allergy Dog Central – a site dedicated to dog allergies.  If you’re here, you probably have a dog who is exhibiting allergy symptoms.  Maybe they have itchy skin, digestion problems, raw paws, sores, bald patches, etc..  You and your dog are not alone.  There are thousands of other dog owners who are trying to manage their dog’s allergies too.

We’ll discuss symptoms, causes and treatments.  Please feel free to join in and share what you’ve learned.  I’ve learned a lot about dog allergies, but I’m certain I’ve only skimmed the top of the surface.  One thing I’ve learned in my experience with dog allergies is that no two dogs are the same – therefore no two treatments are the same.  What works well for one dog, may be the wrong treatment for another. With this in mind, I hope you’ll continue to consult with your veterinarian as you decide what your best plan of action will be.