The German Shepherd, a sporty and elegant dog, is unfortunately also subject to many skin diseases (pyoderma, allergies, anal fistulas …), osteoarticular problems (coxo-femoral dysplasia …), digestive and ophthalmic. Here are solutions to German Shepherd skin allergies
Allergies (food and / or canine atopic dermatitis)
The German Shepherd is one of the breeds most at risk of skin allergies. Food sensitivity must always be considered before considering canine atopic dermatitis (allergy to mites, pollens, etc.) when looking for an allergic cause. The only effective method of identifying a food allergy is the +/- 8-week avoidance diet followed by reintroduction of food. Blood tests are of no use in diagnosing a food allergy / intolerance. Itching, which results in scratching, rubbing, licking or biting, is observed in allergies.
Dogs, like humans, can be victims of allergies which are often very annoying, both for the owner, who has to carry out restrictive and often expensive care, and for the veterinarian, for whom the diagnosis requires a long and difficult process.
The truth about German Shepherd skin allergies
An allergy is an overreaction of the body’s defense system (immune system) to agents called allergens. During the first contact with the allergen, the organism undergoes sensitization, which, during the following contacts, will cause this overreaction responsible for various symptoms.
This need for sensitizing contacts partly explains the late appearance of certain forms of allergies. There are allergens of different kinds. Pollens, dust mites and flea saliva are the most common allergens encountered in dogs.
There are 4 main types of allergies observed in German Shepherds:
- Allergy to Flea Bite Dermatitis (PADB) is the most common of them. Dogs are sensitized to flea saliva and a single bite is enough to trigger severe reactions.
- Atopy is an allergic predisposition to different allergens. These are mainly inhaled allergens (pneumallergens): pollens, dust mites, dander (particles of human skin).
- Food allergy is sensitization to allergens ingested in food (trophallergens). The nature of these allergens is difficult to determine as there are allergies to certain meats (beef), certain cereals, etc.
- Contact allergy, is a little different mechanism. It’s not a real allergy actually, but for the sake of convenience, it will be classified as allergies in the broad sense. The skin is sensitized by contact with various substances (household products, pigments in certain plastic bowls, concrete particles, etc.).
How do German Shepherd skin allergies appear?
The first symptoms of allergies can appear as early as 6 months of age, especially for food allergies. But generally, young adults are mostly affected. Symptoms can be seasonal depending on the type of allergen (pollen, fleas, etc.).
Symptoms of skin allergies consist in the appearance of pimples or red patches in different places of the body, depending on the type of allergy. The most frequently affected areas are the lips, ears, paws, around the eyes, elbows and rump. These pimples and plaques can sometimes go unnoticed.
During contact allergies, the areas affected are those in contact with the allergen: testicles, paws, lips, abdomen, etc. The appearance of these plaques causes very severe itching and the dog is scratching insanely. Scabs can then appear, as well as over-infection with bacteria or yeasts. The allergy is often unnoticed until the dog begins to scratch.
Other symptoms may appear, such as digestive symptoms in the case of food allergy (diarrhea, vomiting), conjunctivitis (red eyes), and rhinitis.
How to treat German Shepherd skin allergies?
Treating these allergies is difficult. It is primarily based on the treatment of complications (bacterial infections or yeast infections) with shampoos and various drugs. The use of corticosteroids or antihistamines during severe seizures and calming shampoos is generally recommended.
It is essential to control parasitism, both digestive worms and fleas, which make the dog more sensitive and increase the allergic response. A hypoallergenic diet can also be implemented. There are croquettes specially designed for allergic dogs (based on white meats or lamb and rice).
Of course, we also have to eliminate the allergens from the dog’s living environment if we know them (household products, bowls, fleas, dust, hair, dirty fabric, etc.)
What if none of this works?
When the above treatments fail, veterinarians can use different methods to refine their diagnosis and try to determine the exact nature of the allergens responsible for the disease.
As in humans, we can perform skin tests. They consist of injecting small amounts of the most common allergens in the dog’s dermis and monitor the dog’s condition for the next 48 hours. At this point, a dermatologist (veterinarian) should be involved.
Blood tests can also be helpful to identify the allergens creating the allergic reaction. Different types of blood tests are currently available and your veterinarian will be able to determine which one is most appropriate.
The eviction diet
It consists of giving your dog food he never had. This diet must be extremely strict (no sweets or leftovers from the table!). It will need to be followed for a minimum of 10 weeks before any conclusion can be reached.
If the dog no longer has allergic symptoms, we can then introduce new food to his diet each week, until you can identify what is the source of the allergy (the symptoms will then resume quickly).
This trial and error process is certainly laborious, but it makes it possible to identify with certainty the foods responsible for the allergy. Once the allergens have been identified, it will be possible to eliminate or limit their presence in the dog’s living environment.
With this method, the dog is given injections of allergen solutions. They are often effective and can considerably limit the allergy symptoms.
German Shepherd skin allergies: The final word
An allergic animal remains allergic throughout its life, even if today the diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities are effective.
However, the diagnosis requires a heavy, strict and sometimes difficult process, which requires trust and close collaboration with the veterinarian.
New research is constantly undertaken to assess the best way to treat allergies and will no doubt result in solutions that will facilitate diagnostic and treatment in the future.