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Are allergies wreaking havoc with your dog’s lifestyle?

Seasonal changes can play havoc with those of us who suffer from allergies and even though we are privileged to have the most amazing weather in South Africa, it does mean that the high-risk period for allergy sufferers can extend for nine months of the year. “And, just as humans can suffer, so can our dogs,” says Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary affairs manager at Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

As many as 40% of vet visits are due to dogs experiencing skin issues1 which is a sign of a reaction to environmental allergens such as fleas and insects, pollen from weeds and grass and house dust mites. Food allergies, although uncommon, can be caused by some widely used ingredients like chicken and beef. Dr Fyvie says that only 10% of allergic dogs have food allergies but concerningly there is a 20-30% higher2 risk of these dogs developing concurrent environmental allergies. “Traditional allergy diagnostics can be stressful and difficult for pet parents. Which is why we have developed the first and only nutritional solution clinically shown to effectively manage itching no matter the food or environmental cause*.”

So, how do you know if your dog may be suffering from allergies? “The first noticeable sign is your dog’s skin,” says Dr Fyvie “Your dog’s coat should be smooth, soft and shiny and the skin without redness, flaking, scratch marks or any signs of irritation. Their skin should not be too greasy nor too dry and there should be no areas of hair loss.” Common signs of allergies include:

· Itching, scratching, licking or rubbing

· Chronic ear problems, head shaking

· Red patches, spots or pimples

· Scabs, crusts or thickened skin

· Bad skin odour

· Vomiting, diarrhoea, flatulence

· Coughing, wheezing, sneezing

“If your dog is presenting any of the above symptoms, I would recommend taking them to the vet for a diagnosis. Your vet will then recommend the best course of treatment as well as if any further tests are required.”

Even though environmental allergens are invisible they can still be a constant nuisance to many dogs. More than 50% of dog allergies are caused by the environment around them. Dr Fyvie recommends some small and easy changes that can help to manage and reduce the irritation caused by your pet’s allergies.

  • Wash your pet’s beds and blankets regularly – Every second week wash their beds and blankets, ideally in a washing machine on the hottest programme, just be sure that they won’t be damaged. If they don’t fit into your washing machine, a thorough hand wash can also work. Be sure that they are dried through, before allowing your pet to use them again.

  • Bath your dog in cold water – For acute cases this is recommended three times a week. It will help to calm itchy irritated skin and can reduce allergens (pollen etc) in the coat. While plain water is often just fine if you are wanting to wash your dog with a shampoo rather use a pet friendly hypoallergenic and gentle medicated shampoo, which is available from most vet practices. Dog grooming wipes also help to remove loose hair, dirt and odour causing bacteria from your dog’s fur.

  • Consider keeping your pets inside on windy days – It is no surprise that wind increases the pollen count, and just as humans who suffer from allergies are encouraged to stay indoors on windy days, keeping your affected pets sheltered will help reduce the pollen load on their skin.

  • Nutrition – Even if the cause of your pet’s skin condition is not related to nutrition, they will benefit greatly from a high-quality food especially formulated for any skin sensitivity. Hill’s Prescription Diet Derm Complete is the only clinically proven nutrition for both food and environmental allergies* and helps address two primary causes of itching with a novel protein that avoids 96% of food allergies, a breakthrough formula with bioactives and phytonutrients to reduce the signs associated with environmental allergies, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to help support healthy skin to provide a barrier against potential environmental allergens.

“Every pet parent wants to make sure that their pet is happy and healthy and skin health is vital to be able to do this”, says Dr Fyvie. “Proper bathing, regular coat and skin examinations, feeding a food that can help heal and protect their skin and annual vet check-ups are a great way to help pet parents manage allergies that their pet may be suffering with.”

*The only dietetic nutritional solution for both food and environmental allergies in dogs supported by three clinical studies.

1 O’Neill DG et al.Prevalence of Disorders Recorded in Dogs Attending Primary-Care Veterinary Practices in England. Plos One 9(3): e90501

2 Concurrent allergies may occur in up to 20% - 30% of cases in dogs and cats with adverse reactions to food (SACV 5, pp. 630, English language version; Verlinden A, Hesta M, Millet S, Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(3):259-73.)

For more from Hill’s visit the itchyPets website or

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