Can you list the “5 Top Allergen Groups” that can cause your dog’s allergic reactions? Bonus Tips on Avoidance!
Karen Helton Rhodes, DVM, DACVD
Canine Skin Solutions, Inc.
Terri Bonenberger, DVM, DACVD www.HealthySkin4Dogs.com
(certified veterinary dermatology specialists)
Dog allergies can be caused by the same allergens that cause your allergies. Yes, the family cat can be a problem but other allergens are more likely. Allergens are substances that trigger an inappropriate (exaggerated) response from your pet’s immune system. Allergic pets tend to scratch, rub, scoot, bite, and lick their skin as well as experience recurrent skin and ear infections. You can significantly reduce your pet’s allergic symptoms by making simple environmental changes.
There are 5 main groups of environmental allergens. With each group we will outline tips for avoidance!
GROUP #1 Grasses
GROUP #2 Weeds
GROUP #3 Trees
GROUP #4 Molds
GROUP #5 Epidermals & Miscellaneous
Remember, you and your dog can be allergic to one allergen or multiple allergens. It is more typical for us to see dogs allergic to a variety of allergens rather then just one individual antigen. The only way that you can identify the cause of the allergy is by testing. The “gold standard” is intradermal skin testing. This is where we take a small amount of antigen and “prick” the skin so that the antigen is exposed to the skin’s dermis. That exposure will elicit a wheal (or hive) if your dog is sensitive to that antigen. Positive (histamine) and negative (saline) controls are used to make sure the skin is receptive to the test. We will often use up to 60+ antigens in the test procedure. Antigens will often vary with regional location in the states; such as northeast, southeast, west coast, etc. The following antigens are examples of those typically used in the testing process.
Allergy testing via intradermal skin test:
The large red spots are positive reactions and the smaller lighter spots are negative. This dog is allergic to a large number of antigens!
Group #1 GRASSES
Kentucky Blue grass
Group #2 WEEDS
Sheep sorrel/ red sorrel
Group #3 TREES
Group #4 Molds
Penicillium (not the antibiotic!)
Malassezia pachydermatis (yeast that commonly causes skin inflammation)
Group #5 Epidermals and Miscellaneous
Feathers (birds, down feathers)
Dust mites (Dermatophagoides farina, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus)
Storage mites (Tyrophagus putrescentiae)
Pyrethrum (chrysanthemums, insecticide)
Tobacco (cigarette, cigar)
Staphylococcus (Staph bacteria antigens)
TIPS for Avoidance
Groups #1-3 are considered pollens. (Grasses, weeds, & trees)
Tips for Pollen Avoidance include:
1. avoid fields
2. keep grass cut short
3. rinse pet after exposure to high grasses and weeds
4. keep pets indoors while mowing lawns
5. keep pets indoors at dusk and early morning during heavy pollen seasons
Group #4 Molds
Tips for Mold Avoidance include:
1. keep pets out of damp basements
2. use dehumidifiers
3. avoid confining dogs to areas with high humidity such as bathrooms, basements, laundry rooms
4. prevent access to crawl spaces under the house
5. check for mold accumulation around ducts and vents
Tips for Avoidance include:
1. feed good quality pet food and store in an air-tight container; or preferably, place the entire bag in the air-tight container
2. clean pet food storage areas and bins with chlorine bleach solutions
1. wash bedding in hot water weekly
2. avoid letting pets sleep in overstuffed furniture
3. restrict access to bedrooms or use barrier type pillow cases and mattress covers if your pet sleeps on your bed
4. avoid stuffed toys
5. keep pet in uncarpeted areas
6. frequently damp mop in” pet- frequented” rooms
7. change furnace filters frequently and keep humidity low in the home
Yeast (Malassezia) and bacterial (Staph) organisms:
1. Bathe frequently: 1-2 times per week during allergy season
Overall most valuable tip for allergen avoidance! Bathe frequently to remove allergens from the surface of the skin and thus help prevent absorption; which triggers the allergic reaction. Bathing also helps treat and prevent bacterial and yeast overgrowth!!!