Dog Allergy Stories. Opal the Shar Pei.

Opal the Shar Pei

Opal is a five year old purebred Shar Pei and a champion show dog.  She is one of the top dogs of her breed in the country and also a wonderful family pet. Opal’s owner Sarah inherited Opal after she retired.  Opal lives in the same home as Bailey, another of our featured allergy dogs.  

Sarah says Opal never showed signs of allergies until she moved from her kennel into Sarah’s house.  Sarah isn’t certain what the cause of Opal’s allergies is, but she does know that her symptoms started after she moved indoors.  Sarah first discovered that Opal might have allergies when she started scratching her skin until it started to bleed. Opal also suffered from hair loss.

“Even top quality dogs from great breeding can have allergies,” said Sarah.  “The key for owners is to find a way to make their dog comfortable.”

Opal and Bailey - Allergy Dogs

When Opal shows signs of allergies, Sarah has found that giving her a Benadryl once a day does the trick. She’ll give Opal two per day if her allergies are particularly bothersome.  The Benadryl keeps Opal comfortable and stops the itching.

Allergies aren’t keeping Opal down.  Sarah plans to enter Opal in Rally and Obedience next year. Go Opal!

Does your dog have allergies too? If so, we’d love to hear your story. Please email us at to share your dog allergy story.

Bad Breeding Practices and Dog Allergies

bad breeding can spread dog allergiesMost dog allergies are inherited.  Owners of an allergic dog are discouraged from breeding their dog to prevent the allergies from being passed on to their puppies. However, bad breeding practices continue to contribute to the growing number of dogs diagnosed with skin allergies each year.  In this post, we’ll discuss improper breeding practices and their impact on dog allergies. 

Bad Breeding Practices

Purebred dog breeding involves mating dogs of the same breed to maintain traits that will pass on to other generations.  Good breeders strive to only breed the “best of the best.”  These dogs are reviewed for superior physical and mental characteristics and, in most cases, take genetic tests to prove their long-term health. Purebred dogs can be registered with official papers from the American Kennel Club or other national registration organizations. 

You’ll find that most reputable dog breeders are highly involved in their dog’s breed.  They are usually members of their local dog club, compete in breed-specific dog shows and events, and generally are experts on the breed.

Unfortunately, with the growing popularity of certain purebreds and designer breeds, the financial aspect of dog breeding has attracted less dedicated individuals and businesses to the industry. 

Backyard Breeders

Backyard breeders are generally small, family operations who breed a small group of dogs for money or a family dog for the experience of raising a litter.   

In most cases, these breeders are not deeply involved or knowledgeable about the breed and do no health screening.  Although many backyard bred dogs have purebred papers, this does not necessarily mean they were bred with quality and long-term health in mind.  Many backyard breeders do not think about how health issues like allergies will affect an entire litter.  Not only are they passing health problems to each puppy, but if any of those puppies are later bred, these allergies will continue to spread throughout the canine population.

Most backyard breeders advertise their puppies in newspapers or classified advertisements.  These types of breeders are often attractive to prospective dog owners because their dogs are usually less expensive than those from reputable breeders.

Now is when I have one of those shameful “Do as I say, not as I do” moments.  I’ll admit that I acquired Elsie from a backyard breeder.  Before we found Elsie, we knew we wanted a boxer dog.  I read extensively about boxer breeders and why you should avoid backyard breeders.  However, in the end, price and convenience prevailed. The boxer breeder we purchased her from was within an hour’s drive from our home and the price was at least $200 less than some of the other more certified breeders. 

At the time, I thought I was making the right decision.  The price seemed right, the breeders seemed pleasant, we met the litter as well as the father and mother (both family pets) prior to committing.  I also asked the breeders for the contact information for their veterinarian, which they gave me.  When I called the veterinarian’s office and asked to see the parent’s medical records, they complied and sent only yearly vaccination information. I asked the vet if there were any documented health issues and the answer was no. They seemed like healthy boxers.

I have a hard time believing now that one or both of Elsie’s parents did not have atopic dermatitis.  Perhaps it was never diagnosed.  I also wonder how well her fellow littermates fared.  Hopefully they did not inherit the severe allergies that Elsie has, or at the very least, they were placed in families who are willing to treat the allergies and not just dump the dogs at the nearest shelter when times get tough.

Believe me, I don’t regret getting Elsie one bit.  She is a wonderful family pet who we love dearly.  And, now that her allergies are under control, she’s living a much healthier and happier life.  However, I would definitely do my research and not cut corners the next time I bring a dog home.  Lesson learned.

Puppy Mills

Like many backyard breeders, Puppy Mills are in the breeding business to make money.  Puppy mills are generally larger farms or businesses that breed several different dog breeds with little care for the health and well being of the litters they produce.  Unlike most backyard breeders, puppy mills often keep their dogs in substandard living conditions.  These dogs are often sold to pet stores.

Acquiring a dog from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill doesn’t guarantee that your dog will have allergies.  Nor does acquiring a dog from a reputable breeder guarantee that your dog will not have allergies.  However, purchasing a dog from a reputable breeder gives you a higher chance of having an allergy-free dog.  A reputable breeder should not breed a dog with known health problems, like atopic dermatitis, so your chances of purchasing an allergic dog should significantly decrease.

Mixed Breeds Can Have Problems Too

After all of this talk about purebred dog breeding issues, one may assume that a mixed breed won’t have allergy problems.  Although the chances of a mixed breed dog inheriting allergies decreases, unfortunately, the possibility is not eliminated.  Since many purebred dogs accidentally breed, allergy problems can be passed down to mixed breeds as well.

Unfortunately, bad breeding practices have a way of affecting all dogs.  As a potential purebred dog owner, the best thing you can do is ask questions about the parents’ health and do your research on the breeder.  For mixed breed dogs, you likely won’t have access to one or both parents, so you’ll want to talk to the dog’s current guardian or the dog shelter’s veterinarian to discuss whether the dog or puppy may already be exhibiting allergy symptoms.