By Sue Averill, YGRR Kennel Manager with Dawn Burke, DVM

Our Goldens seem to suffer from their fair share of allergies. Whether they are inhaled, ingested or skin irritants, they may cause significant irritations to our dogs. Allergies may manifest themselves in numerous different ways. Hot spots, ear infections, face rubbing, body rubbing on walls or fences and generalized itchiness are most common. Red irritated eyes and foot pad licking are less common.

A trip to the vet will rule out any other conditions that may present with symptoms similar to allergies such as mange, yeast or bacterial infections. It would also be a good time to discuss testing the dog for hypothyroidism, as this weakens the dog’s immune system and slows metabolism, making it harder for the dog’s body to deal with allergens. Make sure to tell your vet if your dog’s skin issues seem more prevalent in the warmer months when the pollen counts are high, which may indicate plant allergens. If itchiness seems constant all year round it could indicate food or household allergens. If the tummy and chest seems to be itchy, inflamed or otherwise irritated, it could be cause by where, or what he’s sleeping on. Wool rugs can be bothersome to some dogs, as can harsh cleaners or detergents. A favorite ‘spot’ that is infrequently cleaned can build up dirt and cause problems.

Your vet will be able to narrow down the source of irritation with the information you provide and a physical exam. If contact dermatitis is the diagnosis, it may require a topical or oral medication in the short term. Over the long term, it can be easily managed by a change of bedding and cleaning products.

Food and airborne allergies can be easy to diagnose but tougher to pinpoint and manage. If your vet suspects food allergies, he might want to try switching your dog to a low allergen food prior to allergy testing. Dogs can be allergic to the protein, carbohydrate or any other ingredients in dog food. This includes, but is not limited to added fats, preservatives, flavor enhancers and preservatives. You can either use a food your vet recommends (a ‘prescription’ diet) or find a good quality limited ingredient food at a high end pet food store. Simply look for a food with a unique protein/carb combination (duck/ potato) and as few other ingredients (usually vitamins and minerals) as possible.

Airborne allergens can be worse in the summer months, although some dogs are bothered year ’round by dust mites, household molds, and even cats! Some of the symptoms may be alleviated by a HEPA filter in the room your dog spends the bulk of his time.

If your vet decides on allergy testing, it’s much simpler that it was in years past. Testing is now a simple blood test, which can be done at your own vet hospital. In the old days, the dogs side was shaved, and multiple tiny injections were made in the skin. Allergic swelling was then monitored, and those sites with the greatest swelling were considered “positive’. The current blood test will show allergy level for trees, grasses and weeds, foods, molds and household allergens. An immunotherapy treatment protocol is then designed.

Your vet may first consider treating mild allergies with antihistamine and topical sprays or powders. Worse or lengthy bouts of itchiness may call for prescribed antihistamines, oral or injected steroids and possibly antibiotics. If the allergies are difficult to control, your dog may need immunotherapy to help reduce the allergic response and make your dog more comfortable. Your vet will give you an injection schedule and will show you how to give the injections. Few dogs seen to mind this, as both the needle and amount of serum that is injected is quite small.

The three pronged approach, appropriate food, healthy environment and a good treatment plan will keep those itchy dogs happy for years to come.


Updated 1/10

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This information is made available to you by the efforts of YGRR volunteers. To join them in helping our homeless Goldens, please consider becoming a member or making a donation.

Thank you.





Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1985.
Rescue and Adoption services for Golden Retrievers from the six New England states.
Address: P.O. Box 808, Hudson, MA 01749-0808
Hotline: 978-568-9700


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