The human animal isn’t the only one affected by allergies. Like you, your adult dog can suffer from allergic reactions to any number of things—in the air, on his skin, and in his food. Allergies must be diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian, but first, you must know what to look for.
The most common signs and symptoms of allergies include:
- Persistent scratching, licking, and skin chewing
- Face and ear rubbing
- Inflamed skin patches, hair loss, and foul odor
- Coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose
- Frequent vomiting or diarrhea
The most common allergy symptoms in dogs are the skin reactions, regardless of the cause. And they can they can crop up at any age. Just because he didn’t have allergies as a puppy, doesn’t mean your dog won’t have them now that he’s an adult. Inhalant, food, contact, and flea allergies are four of the most common types of allergies that might affect your dog.
Inhalant allergies in dogs are caused by the same common allergens that affect you—dust, grass, trees, mold, pollen, ragweed, etc. They can be seasonal or persistent and, while some breeds (especially short-snouted breeds) might experience the same sniffly, sneezy symptoms you might suffer, skin reactions are most common. Inhalant allergies often can be treated with the same medications you take, but please don’t treat your dog’s allergies without veterinary supervision.
Food allergies can be the most difficult to diagnose and manage. Treatment involves a hit-and-miss approach involving a restricted diet and the gradual reintroduction of possible allergens to determine the culprit. Skin reactions to food allergies are common in dogs, but frequent vomiting or diarrhea also can be a sign. Keep in mind that if there is a change in your dog’s diet (or he just ate something he wasn’t supposed to), he might experience an episode of vomiting or diarrhea, but this doesn’t necessarily mean your dog has an allergy. Watch and see if it becomes a persistent problem before scheduling a costly trip to the vet.
Contact and flea allergies generally cause skin irritation and are treated topically. You might be surprised to learn that most dogs are only vaguely bothered by fleas. But those that are allergic can suffer—and so can their owners. Dogs with contact and flea allergies often chew their skin raw, leading to hair loss, odor, and infection, so fastidious flea control is a must.
Allergies can vary from dog to dog, so it is important that you work with your vet to make sure your dog gets the best possible treatment. You’ll both be happier for it.
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Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active
It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.
Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health
At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.
Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite
Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.
Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Continue to use preventive medicines.
Senior Dog Health: Dental Health
Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.
Senior Dog Health: Exercise
Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.
Senior Dog Health: Diet
Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.
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