Our dogs can come into contact with all sorts of things in their environment that can potentially cause skin allergies.  A dog’s exposure to things like grass, pollens and mites can sometimes lead on to allergies and these can show up as itchy skin or other skin related problems. Atopy is the term used for environmental allergies in dogs and the reactions happen when your dog’s body releases excess histamine which causes the symptoms of itchy skin the same as ‘hayfever’ in us. The good news is that you may be able to help manage your dog’s skin by reducing their exposure to the allergens that affect them, alongside feeding them a high-quality diet to better support their skin.

What are environmental allergies?

Atopy is usually genetic and can be more common in certain breeds, typically developing in the first two years of their life. The most common environmental allergies include pollen, grasses and mites (dust and storage mites in particular), but they aren’t limited to the outdoors and can include things around the home like moulds and even carpet fibres. If your dog develops an allergic response to their surroundings, it will most likely lead to itchy skin, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis. The signs of atopic dermatitis can involve red, itchy skin, obsessive grooming and even ear infections. Atopic dermatitis is generally seasonal but it can sometimes be more severe in some dogs and affect them all year long. Because many health problems can first present themselves as itchy skin, it’s a good idea to head to your local vet first to identify the cause to best treat the problem.

Diagnosing environmental allergies

Atopy is usually diagnosed after ruling out a whole list of potential causes that may be causing your dog’s skin problems. If your vet has ruled out any underlying health issues, parasites, infection, flea allergies and adverse reaction to food, the problem will then most likely be attributed a potential environmental allergy (atopy). Testing for allergies will usually be done through an intradermal skin test or blood test. An intradermal allergy test involves injecting small amounts of common allergens under your dog’s skin to see if there’s an allergic response, which typically shows up as a small red bump. After this, then it’s up to you to try your best to limit your dog’s exposure to whatever is causing them harm. It’s not always practical or even possible to completely remove your dog from what they’re allergic to but you can easily manage their reactions with a combination of medications, medical washes and dietary changes to better support their skin. It is even possible now to have a special sensitisation vaccination made for your dog containing the allergens that affect them, and this can dramatically lower their allergic response.

What’s the best food for allergies?

There are specially formulated diets that can help to manage your dog’s skin issue or allergy. These diets work to increase the ceramide production in your dog’s skin to help create a stronger skin barrier, which in turn helps to reduce the skin’s absorption of allergens. This is when a diet with a healthy dose of omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil can naturally help reduce your dog’s inflammatory response and reinforce the skin’s barrier. The entire ROYAL CANIN® Dermatology Range does just this by including a patented Skin Barrier complex that includes a combination of B vitamins and the amino acid histidine to help minimise the water lost through your dog’s skin and to help moderate skin reactions. The ROYAL CANIN® Skin Support diet is ideal for canine atopy and includes very high levels omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil, the patented Skin Barrier complex, and the unique Skin Support complex which also helps to improve the barrier effect of the skin, as well as to assist skin healing.

Atopy is manageable

To really help your dog deal with atopy, have a think about their lifestyle, environmental surroundings along with the treatments and diet prescribed by your vet.  Managing your dog’s atopy is an ongoing issue, and it can take some time to properly control and treat. By doing your best to limit their exposure to allergens and feeding them a specialised diet, along with guidance and possible medications prescribed by your local vet, your atopic dog can lead a happy and healthy life relatively symptom free.