Relieving Poodle Allergies

Allergies to food or pollens are not uncommon in poodles, or dogs in general. An allergic reaction is an immune response to something to which the body is overly sensitive. Generally, allergies in dogs manifest themselves in itchiness. Your poodle might lick his paws or scratch his ears or the back of his front legs. Allergies can also lead to red, goopy eyes or gastrointestinal problems.

Inhalant Allergies

Inhalant allergens such as grasses, pollens, mold, or dust tend to make a dog very itchy and can lead to miserable skin problems. However, it is very difficult to avoid allergens in the air. Since allergies are essentially caused by an imbalance in the immune system, there are two approaches to take: suppressing the immune system so that it won't react, or balancing the immune system.

Fact

If your poodle is suffering from allergies, don't vaccinate him. Vaccinations introduce foreign proteins into your dog's system and give an already out-of-balance immune system an unpleasant jolt. Vaccinations should be given only to healthy dogs; allergic dogs are not healthy.

Conventional therapy for severe allergies is to use corticosteroids like prednisone to suppress the immune system. Unfortunately, long-term steroid use is hard on your dog's body and can potentially lead to serious problems. While cortisone can provide your poodle relief — which can be very important — it can also shorten his life.

Alert!

If your dog is on cortisone (prednisone) therapy for allergies, you may be able to wean her off with holistic support. But never cut her off abruptly, which can lead to shock (and even death). You must always gradually wean a dog off steroids.

Another conventional approach is allergy shots, which contain small amounts of the allergen that your poodle is sensitive to. These allergens are injected into your dog, in hopes of slowly reducing his sensitivity to the allergens.

An alternative approach is to consult with a holistic vet about nutritional therapy to help balance the immune system. Other holistic modalities, like homeopathy, glandular therapy, herbs, acupressure, and acupuncture, can also be helpful. Once the immune system is balanced, it will stop overreacting to the allergens.

No matter how you deal with the problem, avoiding the allergens — to the extent possible — can give your poodle some relief. Use HEPA air filters or air deionizers (like the Ionic Breeze from Sharper Image) to help clear the air of allergens. Vacuum frequently using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Once your dog's immune system is balanced, you may be able to expose him to those allergens and not get a reaction.

Food Allergies

Fact

Lamb and rice foods aren't any more “hypoallergenic” than other foods. You can feed your dog any food that is totally new to her if she develops an allergy to her regular food. Foods made from lamb, duck, even kangaroo are helpful only if your dog has never eaten them before.

Food allergies, which happen when a dog becomes overly sensitive to an ingredient in his diet, can lead to itchiness, inflamed ears, and gastrointestinal problems. Dogs become hypersensitive to ingredients they eat day in and day out. Grains are often a source of allergies. If your poodle develops a food allergy, you can switch diets to avoid the offending ingredient and seek to increase your dog's overall health with holistic support.

You may want to consider switching to a home-prepared diet. This will give you more control over what goes into your dog's body. Also, the fresh ingredients in the home diet can lead to increased health, which can, in turn, reduce the allergic reaction.

Diagnosing Allergies

Food allergies are often diagnosed through an elimination diet. This means you feed your dog a very limited diet of ingredients he's never eaten before. Then you slowly add the ingredients of his old food to determine what is causing the reaction.

Alert!

If your poodle has itchy skin or a poor coat, and you suspect allergies, ask your veterinarian to draw blood for a complete thyroid panel. An underactive thyroid can cause these symptoms. Your vet should run a full panel, not just a T4 test, which is an unreliable indicator on its own.

This type of strategy doesn't work with environmental or inhalant allergies since you don't have control over the environment the same way you do over food. But two types of tests are available to determine the allergens. One is the intradermal skin test, done under sedation, in which antigens are injected into the skin so the sites can be examined for reaction. A less invasive option is blood testing. Some veterinarians say that blood tests aren't reliable for allergies, but many holistic vets have used them with great success. They're easy to do and provide detailed results.

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