All About Belgian Shepherds

The Belgian Shepherd

or Belgian Sheepdog is a name that can actually apply to four distinctive dogs including the Groenendael, Malinois, Tervuren, and Laekenois. Each one is similar in general appearance and size but coat, colors and even the length of hair is very different.
Belgian Shepherd

All four dogs have a solid, muscular body and a very intelligent appearance. They have alert, triangular ears and a slightly tapering muzzle.  The front legs are parallel to each other and the back legs are powerful and muscular. The tail is long and slightly curved to create an arch just at the back hock. The colorations and coat variances with the four breeds include:

  • Groenendael – solid black, moderately long straight double coat
  • Malinois – short, thick coat, fawn to tan with black mask, ears and legs. Some white acceptable.
  • Laekenois – wiry, medium coat in fawn to mahogany with black
  • Tervuren – medium to long straight coarse hair in browns and grays with some black, some white acceptable.

Temperament of the Belgian Shepherd

Belgian Shepherds are a very loyal and intelligent breed that love to be with their families. They are highly motivated to work and will become bored if not challenged with activities. Easy to train, they can become somewhat timid if not socialized properly or if trained using harsh methods. They respond very well to positive praise and attention. They are good guard and watch dogs and can be excellent family pets with children if properly socialized and trained. They are naturally wary of strangers and may not respond well to other children. The breed often goes through a stubborn or timid stage around the age of two years, and will require constant socialization at that time.

Grooming & Shedding

The shorter haired Malinois breed requires regular brushing with a pin brush, but the other three breeds require a bit more brushing, at least on an alternate daily basis to keep their longer, thick coats free from tangles and debris. There tends to be a problem with mats forming between the pads of the feet so the feet should be checked regularly and the hair kept well trimmed at all times. The dogs will shed their coats completely twice a year and are average shedders.

History of the Belgian Shepherd

The four different breeds, although not all officially recognized in all registries, originated from various mixings of the herding and guarding dogs used in the areas in and around Belgium. As the breeds became more distinctive there were efforts made to recognize each of the four variations as separate breeds. The all black Groenendael, named after the kennel that originally bred the breed, is universally recognized as the Belgian Shepherd or Belgian Sheepdog. It has been used a police and military dog as well as a companion, herding dog and watch dog.

Health Issues of the Belgian Shepherd

  • Major Concerns: none
  • Minor Concerns: epilepsy, eye problems, skin allergies
  • Occasionally seen: hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Suggested tests: none

Characteristics of the Belgian Shepherd


Dogs 24-26 inches (61-66 cm)
Bitches 22-24 inches (56-61 cm)


Dogs 65-75 pounds (29-34 kg)
Bitches 60-70 pounds (27-32 kg)


10-12 years




Yes –with regular exercise



Young Children

Yes – with socialization

Need exercise space


All About Bedlington Terriers

All About Bedlington Terriers

Many describe the Bedlington terrier as having the appearance of a lamb but with the heart of a lion. With its arched back, wooly textured, curly, non-shedding fur coat, and pear shaped head, the Bedlinton terrier actually looks like a small sheep. The Bedlinton terriers are solid colored or liver, sandy, blue, or have tan markings. As the dog ages, their colors become paler. These dogs have bright, deep set, small, almond shaped eyes and a low-set, pointed tail.
Bedlington Terrier

Bedlington Puppy

Their distinctive double, thick coat is a mixture of both harsh and soft hairs, which some people describe as feeling crisp.  Especially on the face and head, the hair is inclined to curl.

Temperament of the Bedlington Terrier

Normally a rather quiet, companionable housedog, the Bedlinton terrier is a loyal dog with an affectionate personality, and enjoys life’s comforts.  They make a loving, cheerful, playful family dog, love children, but need to be socialized with other family pets when still a puppy.  Despite their gentle, loving appearance, when challenged by a dominant dog, they become vicious fighters.  They are energetic, courageous, run fast, and love to dig.  Keep them on a leash or in an enclosed area as they are very fast and love to chase things, including small animals.

Grooming & Shedding

The Bedlington terrier sheds little or no hair and is a great choice for anyone suffering from allergies.  Their coat does need specialized clipping every couple of months along with combing or brushing two or three times a week.  To prevent the terrier from getting an ear infection, the inside of their ears need plucking and cleaning regularly.  Bathe the Bedlington when necessary and although their skin does not become dry from frequent bathing, it will become limp.  Show dogs need a higher grooming level.

History of the Bedlington Terrier

The Bedlington terrier is a unique breed of terrier, which comes from the Hanny Hills region of Northumberland, England.  Although the origin is unsure, one of the most popular opinions of their origin is that, in the eighteenth century, they were peculiar to the Rothbury Forest area gypsies but they never actually confirmed this.  The two types of terriers in the eighteenth century were the smooth and rough coated dogs.  Originally, the Bedlington terrier was known as the ‘Rodbery’ terrier or ‘Rothbury’ terrier derived from a dog brought from Staffordshire to Rothbury.  In 1877, they formed the first Bedlinton Terrier Club.

Health Issues for the Bedlington Terrier

  • Major Concerns: Copper toxicosis (liver disease)
  • Minor Concerns: retinal dysplasia, renal cortical hypoplasia, distichiasis
  • Occasionally seen: patellar luxation
  • Suggested tests: eye, DNA

Characteristics of the Bedlington Terrier


Males 16-17 inches (41-43cm)
Females 15-16 inches (38-41cm)


Males 18-23 pounds (8-10kg)
Females 18-23 pounds (8-10kg)


15 - 17years







Young Children


Need exercise space

Yes – long walks will be acceptable

All About Anatolian Shepherds

The Anatolian Shepherd

is a large boned, very muscular dog that is able to walk, run and work for long periods of time without tiring. They have a dense, straight weather resistant coat that is brown in color but may vary from fawn with a black mask to pinto, white or even brindle. The coat may vary in length depending on the particular breeding lines but it is always slightly thicker and longer around the neck and the tail area.
Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian Shepherd

The head is very broad and noble looking with the nose and rims of the eyes black in all color except liver, where the nose and eye rims are brown. The eyes are gold to brown in color and slightly darker eyebrows add expression to the face. The ears are folded over and hang down the sizes of the head about halfway. The tail may be carried high and curled or lower and curved, depending on what the dog is doing. The legs are strong, straight and well-boned and give the impression of sturdiness and strength.

Temperament of an Anatolian Shepherd

The Anatolian Shepherd is a loving, devoted and calm family dog that can also become an excellent watch and guard dog if it senses danger. When properly socialized the breed is very accepting of new people and will respond well to new animals, including non-canine pets. They may become somewhat aggressive with other large dogs of the same sex, especially the males. The breed is gentle and patient with children although they are not overly playful. They tend to learn very quickly and respond to both verbal and hand commands well. Typically the breed is a bit independent due to its herding instincts so may not respond to commands immediately. A firm and consistent training routine works best with this breed, allowing them to be challenge is ideal for keeping them mentally and physically exercised.

Grooming & Shedding

Although a very heavy shedder in the spring and fall season shed times, they are only a light to moderate shedder the rest of the year. The coat is naturally very clean and easy to care for, not usually developing mats or tangles. Twice a week brushing with a pin brush or stiff bristle brush is all that is needed. Anatolian Shepherds should not be bathed unless absolutely necessary to avoid stripping the natural oils from the hair.

History of the Anatolian Shepherd

The Anatolian Shepherd was bred from the Roman war dogs and the Tibetan Mastiffs. They were historically used some 4000 years ago on the Anatolian Plateau in Turkey to guard flocks of sheep. The temperatures in this area vary greatly from freezing winters to incredibly hot summers and the breed evolved able to withstand great temperature changes.  The Anatolian Shepherd dog has also been used for hunting wolves, and its natural proactive nature made it a reliable guard dog for the vast flocks of sheep. Currently Anatolians are used as sheep dogs as well as companion dogs.

Health Issues of an Anatolian Shepherd

  • Major Concerns: hip dysplasia
  • Minor Concerns: entropion
  • Occasionally seen: none
  • Suggested tests: eye, hip

Characteristics of the Anatolian Shepherd


Males 28-30 inches (71-76 cm)
Females 26-28 inches (66-71 cm)


Males 100-150 pounds (45-68 kg)
Females 90-130 pounds (41-59 kg)


10-13 years







Young Children


Need exercise space

Yes– large fenced yard

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  • all about anatolian dog

All About American Staffordshire Bull Terriers

The American Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a medium sized dog that gives the appearance of extreme strength and muscular development. The short, sleek coat can be of almost any color but for show purposes the total body area must be not more than eighty percent white. The head of the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier is very square in appearance with a thick, heavy muzzle and strong jaw. The muzzle is short in proportion to the rest of the body and very wide, giving the eyes a smaller and closer set appearance. The ears are usually shaped or part-docked, but this practice is prohibited in some countries so they may be left natural, longer and folded over.
American Staffordshire Bull Terrier

American Staffordshire Bull Terrier

The tail is long and thin and tapers to a point. The American Staffordshire Bull Terrier is often mistaken for the American Pit Bull although they are usually larger boned and overall weigh more than the Pit Bull.

Temperament of an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier

 The American Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a true companion dog but they are also a ferocious protector of their property and their people. They are a natural watch and guard dog that will defend the home to the death. While not dog-aggressive when socialized properly they will not back down from a fight. Although many people misunderstand the breed and see them as an aggressive dog, they are actually, with proper training and socialization, a very happy, loving and gentle dog. They are great with children of all ages although their size may be intimidating for younger children. The breed is known to be somewhat dominant and does require an experienced trainer. They are not recommended as a first dog for families unless professional trainers and obedience classes are planned. Often housetraining is a challenge with the breed.

Grooming & Shedding

With a sleek and short coat the Staffordshire Bull Terrier only requires minimal grooming with a bristle brush or a grooming mitt. They can be bathed when necessary but not too frequently. Many breeders recommend rubbing the coat with a chamois to bring out the natural shine and luster of the coat.

History of the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Bred in the 1800’s in Staffordshire England as a sport fighting dog, it was also used in the then popular sport of bull baiting as well as hunting. The original Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed was likely developed by crossing a Black and Tan Terrier with an Old English Bulldog. When exported to America the Staffordshire was bred for additional size and weight, as well as to have a broader and more powerful head.

Health Issues for an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier

  • Major Concerns: none
  • Minor Concerns: none
  • Occasionally seen: hip dysplasia, cataracts, gastric torsion
  • Suggested tests: eye, hip

Characteristics of an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier

HeightMales 17-19 inches (43-48cm)
Females 16-18 inches (41-46cm)
(56-61 cm)
Weight57-67 pounds (25-30 kg)
Lifespan10 -15 years
ApartmentYes – with regular exercise
Young ChildrenYes
Need exercise spaceYes – small yard

All About Alaskan Malamutes

All About Alaskan Malamutes



Often incorrectly identified as a Siberian husky, the Alaskan malamute is a strong, large Arctic dog with a coarse, thick double coat.  It has a solid, well-built body, furry feet with tough pads, erect ears, a plumed tail and wide head.  Although the female and male Alaskan malamutes differ in size, their average size ranges up to around eighty-five or ninety pounds and up to twenty-five inches high.  The common colors are pure white, white and red, white and black, white and sable and grey and white.  The Alaskan malamute’s eyes are always brown and almond shaped for show.Read more...
Alaskan malamute Alaskan malamute

Temperament of an Alaskan Malamute

Normally good with strangers and children, the Alaskan malamute is a good natured, friendly, fun loving dog.  They are exceedingly intelligent, strong willed, affectionate, self-assured sweet dogs that are very loyal to their masters.  Although they make wonderful family pets, Alaskan malamutes require sufficient daily exercise and attention to keep them well mannered and from becoming destructive or howling.  Malamutes do require firm training and handling and proper socialization skills with other animals and people.

Grooming & Shedding 

The Alaskan malamute’s dense, thick coat sheds extremely heavily.  Twice a year, its undercoat sheds in large clumps.  Malamutes are odorless and clean and although they do not need bathing normally, because their coats shed dirt very quickly, they do require brushing two or three times weekly.

History of the Alaskan Malamute

Descendents of the artic wolf, this Nordic dogs name comes from the upper western Alaskan ‘Mahlemut’ tribe that raised, cared for, and used them over three thousand years ago.  They were highly valued by the Eskimos, as the Alaskan malamutes were their sled dogs and only mode of transportation.  They also hauled their supplies, food, and other heavy loads.  They are well adapted in the bleak, inhospitable, barren land above the Arctic Circle due to their endurance, strength, sense of smell, tenacity, and terrific sense of direction.  Packs of Alaskan malamutes are the breed of dog that took part in numerous polar expeditions, such as Admiral Byrd’s expeditions to the South Pole.  When miners flocked to Alaska during the 1896 gold rush, for entertainment they often staged races and weight-pulling contests among their dogs.  They used Alaskan malamutes in service during World War II as search and rescue dogs, pack animals, and freight haulers.  It was not until 1935 that the American Kennel Club recognized this breed.  Nowadays, Alaskan malamutes are loyal pets and imposing show dogs.

Health Issues for the Alaskan Malamute

  • Major Concerns: ChD (chondrodysplasia), hip dysplasia, cataracts
  • Minor Concerns: renal cortical hypoplasia
  • Occasionally seen: gastric torsion
  • Suggested tests: hip, eye, ChD


Characteristics of an Alaskan Malamute

HeightMales 24-26 inches (61-66 cm)
Females 22-24 inches (56-61 cm)
WeightMales 80-95 pounds (36-43 kg)
Females 70-85 pounds (32-38 kg)
Lifespan12 -15 years
FamiliesYes – with Supervision
Young ChildrenNo
Need exercise spaceYes

Information About Addisons Disease

Information About Addisons Disease

In short, it is a condition where the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol resulting in weight loss, fatigue, anemia and other symptoms. It is a very rare but treatable condition.

Addison's Disease is named after Thomas Addison, who first described this illness. The true lesion is primary adrenal insufficiency, or poor output from the adrenal gland, a gland that produces cortisol.

When first described, it's most common cause was destruction of the adrenal cortex by tuberculosis. Today, though, it is caused most frequently by autoimmune adrenalitis.

The prevalence of this disease in Western countries is estimated at 35 to 60 per million. Common symptoms of the disease include chronic malaise, lethargy, generalized weakness, anorexia (lack of desire to eat), and weight loss. A variety of other symptoms, including salt craving, also exist but these are the most common.
Addisons Disease

Lethargic Great Dane Lethargic Great Dane

In severe cases, patients may present in Addisonian crisis (adrenal crisis) which is marked by severe hypotension and electrolyte abnormalities (sodium and potassium in particular). Treatment is with synthetic steroids e.g. dexamethasone or hydrocortisone.
If you take your dog to the vets as soon as possible with even symptoms such as:

Lethargy, Can’t jump up on the couch as normal, and no appetite

Signs are often vague at best and most owners that are close to their pets know immediately something is wrong, but they just don’t know what. Get your dog to the vets immediately and work well with the vet. There is treatment and it is successful, and, if caught in time your dog can lead a normal life.

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  • Antihistamines are most popularly used for treating allergic symptoms in dogs as they have minimum side effects They are available in two forms: sprays for topical administration and oral antihistamines Those with diphenhydramine are considered to be the

Information About Adenitis

Information About Adenitis


Adenitis is a general term for an inflammation of a gland or lymph node.

Sebaceous adenitis is an inflammation of the sebaceous glands in the skin. These glands normally produce sebum (skin oil, a lipid-rich secretion) which prevents drying of the skin.

Sebaceous adenitis is an autoimmune, inflammatory, skin disease of currently unknown cause. Research is currently underway to find if there is a genetic predisposition for SA, and the exact mode of inheritance remains unknown. However, it is postulated that it is an autosomal recessive acquired condition. It has no sex-predisposition. There are two expressions of this condition, one for long or double coated breeds and one for short coated breeds, both with differing presentations.

For long- or double-coated breeds such as Poodles, Akitas and Samoyeds, the condition often presents itself with silvery dandruff which adheres to the coat, hair loss (not to be confused with moulting or "blowing coat"), a dull and brittle coat, and later on skin lesions along the back and ears as well as thickened skin and a musty or rancid odour. For short-coated breeds such as Vizslas, the condition causes facial swellings, nodular skin lesions, fine dandruff which does not adhere to the coat, and a general "moth-eaten" appearance to the coat.

Golden Retriever with Adenitis

Weimaraner with Adenitis

Weimaraner with Adenitis

Adenitis Casts

Adenitis Casts

Allergies & Atopy 4

Oral supplementation allows a more accurate and tailored dose, but injectables may be preferred in several situations. Injectables are preferred in animals that are very difficult to give pills to, and in animals that need immediate relief. Once the injection is given, it is impossible to reverse its effects and side effects. With oral administration, if unwanted side effects appear, the product can be discontinued and the side effects will diminish.

Oral: Most of the injectable forms of steroids also come in a tablet form. As mentioned earlier, it is much easier to customize an individual dosing program with the tablet form. The affected animal usually begins with daily therapy for a period of three to five days, and then the dose is reduced to every other day dosing. If the animal needs to be treated for more than a couple of weeks, then the dose is halved weekly until a minimum therapeutic level can be established. The goal with all steroids is to use the minimum dose necessary to alleviate the symptoms. By taking this approach, the side effects are eliminated or reduced.

Side Effects: The potential side effects associated with steroid use in dogs are numerous. Side effects can appear with any duration or form of steroid therapy. Each animal responds differently to each type of treatment. However, the number and severity of the side effects are very closely related to dose and duration of treatment. Most of the side effects associated with minimum effective dose short-term therapy are mild and resolve once therapy stops. The most common symptoms include increased water consumption, increased urination, increased appetite (weight gain), depression, hyperactivity, panting, and diarrhea.

Long-term use has the risk of creating more permanent and severe damage. Some high dose, long term side effects include increased incidence of infections, poor hair coat and skin, immunosuppression, diabetes mellitus, adrenal suppression, and liver problems. The potential problems can be severe, however, it must be stressed that these side effects are dose dependent. Despite the potential side effects, steroids can be used effectively and safely, if a careful dosage schedule is followed. Still, because of the availability of safer yet effective therapies, steroid use is reserved until all other treatment options have been exhausted. Several studies have shown that if fatty acids and antihistamines are used concurrently with steroids that the amount of steroids needed to offer relief is greatly reduced.

Allergies & Atopy 3


Antihistamines are widely used in both the human and animal medical fields. Most of the antihistamines used in veterinary medicine are antihistamines that were designed for and used primarily by humans. Antihistamines have been shown to be effective in controlling allergies in up to 30% of dogs and 70% of cats. When used as part of a treatment plan including fatty acids and avoidance, the percent of respondents goes much higher.

Every animal will respond differently to each of the different antihistamines. Therefore, several different antihistamines may have to be used before an effective one is found. Every antihistamine has a different dose and risk of side effects. Antihistamines should be used with veterinary guidance. Some common side effects include sedation, hyperactivity, constipation, dry mouth, and inappetence. The correct antihistamine given at the proper dose should not cause unwanted side effects. For severely itchy dogs, mild sedation may be a positive and desired side effect.

Antihistamines come in several forms including H1 and H2 blockers. While the H2 blockers (Claritin, Seldane, and Hismanal) have been shown to be very effective in treating human allergies, they have not been shown to be effective in treating canine or feline allergies, and are therefore, not recommended for pet use. There are many different H1 antihistamines available on the market, but veterinary use is usually restricted to the following.

AntihistamineTrade NamePossible Side Effects
DiphenhydramineBenadryl SedationDry mouth
HydroxyzineAtaraxSedation, no dosage for cats
ClemastinefumarateTavistSedation, dry mouth
ChlorpheniramineChlor-TrimetonLethargy, diarrh

Immunotherapy (Hyposensitization)

Immunotherapy has been described as the mainstay of treatment for canine atopy. It is indicated in animals where the avoidance of antigens is impossible, symptoms are present for more than 4 to 6 months out of the year, and fatty acids and antihistamines do not provide satisfactory results.

An animal must undergo intradermal skin testing prior to hyposensitization. After the antigens to which the animal is allergic have been identified through testing, a commercially prepared injection containing the altered antigens is injected into the dog. Depending on the type of product used, a series of weekly or monthly shots are given. The animal then becomes de-sensitized to the offending allergens. Success is as high as 80% with this treatment plan. Treatment is time consuming and requires a dedicated owner and veterinarian. I feel that this treatment is an excellent option in severe cases of atopy, especially in young dogs. This testing and treatment option is currently grossly underutilized in the veterinary profession, but is gaining in popularity. If you have an allergic pet that is not responding to conventional treatment, seriously consider this as a treatment option.


Almost everyone out there has an opinion on steroids and many of them are bad; that is, unless they were suffering from severe itching, coughing, or pain and had to take steroids for relief, in which case, they may sing their praises. Steroids are extremely effective for relieving severe itching and inflammation. The problem is that they can have many short and long-term side effects, if not used correctly.

Steroids are usually administered in one of two forms, injectable and in tablet form. The steroids being discussed here are corticosteroids and are not the anabolic steroids used by body builders. Anabolic steroids are a completely different drug and have no application in treating animal allergies. There are many different forms of corticosteroids currently available on the market. They vary widely in their duration of activity and strength.I have seen steroids grossly abused when used as a cure-all without proper diagnosis of a condition or using other alternative treatments. At the same time, I have also seen veterinarians and owners refuse to use them to alleviate severe itching and pain when they were clearly the best choice and should have been used. Steroids are a drug, and just like any other drug, they can be misused. If used correctly, they can be as safe as any other drug that we use. The problem is that they work so well that they are often overused. Because of their potential side effects, they should be used very carefully, and at the lowest effective dose. They are usually reserved as one of the last lines of treatments, but if nothing else works, use the steroids.

Steroids have a wide range of activity and affect several different systems within the body. They are closely involved with the skin, immune, and endocrine system. The effects on the immune and endocrine system can create the widespread and multisystem side effects seen with their use.

Injectable: Injectable forms of steroids include betamethasone, dexamethasone, flumethasone, methylprednisolone, and triamcinolone. These agents are usually given intramuscularly and have between one week and six months duration depending on the product, the dose, and the individual animal.

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Allergies & Atopy

Information About Allergies & Atopy

Symptoms of allergies

Dogs with allergies may show the following symptoms:

Chewing on feet
Rubbing the face on the carpet
Scratching the body
Recurrent ear infections
Hair loss
Mutilated skin
 In reality, the dog will seldom have these signs. Instead, he will have a mild to severe itching sensation over his body and maybe a chronic ear infection.

A dog who is allergic to something will show it through skin problems and itching, i.e., pruritus. It may seem logical that if a dog is allergic to something he inhales (atopy) like certain pollen grains, he will have a runny nose; if he is allergic to something he eats (food allergy) such as beef, he may vomit; or if allergic to an insect bite (urticaria or hives), he may develop a swelling at the site of the bite.

In addition, allergic dogs will often chew on their feet until they are irritated and red (the feet are the only place dogs have sweat glands and these become inflamed with allergies). They may rub their faces on the carpet or couch, or scratch their sides and belly. Because the wax-producing glands of the ear overproduce as a response to the allergy, they get ear infections. Bacteria and yeast often "over grow" in the excessive wax and debris.

The skin lesions seen in an allergic dog are usually the result of him mutilating his skin through chewing and scratching. Sometimes there is hair loss, which can be patchy or inconsistent over the body leaving a mottled appearance. The skin itself may be dry and crusty, reddened, or oily depending on the dog. It is very common to get secondary bacterial infections of the skin due to these self-inflicted lesions. Such infections may be treated with antibiotics.
Chewing on feet

Chewing on feet




When a dog is allergic to something, his body is reacting to certain molecules called ‘allergens.’ These allergens may come from:

  • Trees
  • Grass
  • Weed pollens
  • Fabrics such as wool or nylon
  • Rubber and plastic materials
  • Foods and food additives such as individual meats, grains, or colourings
  •  Milk products
  • House dust and dust mites
  • Flea bites

The body’s response to an allergen

The reason that all these allergens cause itchy skin is that, simplistically, when allergens are inhaled, ingested, or come in contact with the dog’s body, they cause the immune system to produce a protein referred to as IgE. This protein then fixes itself to cells called ’tissue mast cells’ that are located in the skin. When IgE attaches to these mast cells, it causes the release of various irritating chemicals such as histamine. In dogs, these chemical reactions and cell types occur in appreciable amounts only within the skin.

Genetic factors and time influence allergies

Remember that dogs must be exposed to the allergen for some time before the allergy develops. Exceptions may occur such as an allergy to insect bites, which may develop after only a few exposures. The dog’s body must learn to react to the allergen. It is a learned phenomenon of the immune system that is genetically programmed and passed from generation to generation in several breeds. Allergies are especially common in certain terriers such as the Scottish, West Highland White, Cairn, and Wire Haired Fox; Lhasa Apso; and larger breeds such as the English and Irish Setters, Retrievers, and the Dalmatian. Allergies are also well documented in the Pug, Miniature Schnauzer, and English Bulldog.

In pets, allergies usually start to develop between one and three years of age. They may start as late as age six or eight, but over 80% start earlier. To make matters worse, as the animal ages, it usually develops allergies to additional things and the response to any one allergen becomes more severe.

Diagnosing allergies

A dog who is allergic to something will show it through skin problems and itching, i.e., pruritus. It may seem logical that if a dog is allergic to something he inhales (atopy) like certain pollen grains, he will have a runny nose; if he is allergic to something he eats (food allergy) such as beef, he may vomit; or if allergic to an insect bite (urticaria or hives), he may develop a swelling at the site of the bite.
Allergy testing (intradermal or blood testing)A definitive diagnosis of an allergy and determination of exactly what the animal is allergic to can be made in two ways:

  1. Eliminating things individually from the animal’s environment until the culprit is isolated (the method most often used when food allergies are suspected)

In some instances, it may not be necessary to determine the exact allergen causing the problem. For example, a dog may start chewing his feet, scratching his sides, and rubbing his face on furniture every year for three weeks during the same month. These are often the signs of a seasonal allergy to something such as ragweed or tree pollen. In this case, the veterinarian may choose either tablets and/or a single injection that will suppress the allergy for the 3-4 weeks necessary when that allergen is in the environment. After a short treatment period, the animal is back to normal and only has to wait until the following year when he or she will be returned to the veterinarian with the same problem.

So now you know the basics of canine allergies. If you have more specific questions about the different types of allergies, how to diagnose them or treat them, we encourage you to read the other articles in this section. They provide the newest and most up-to-date information on this very common problem.

Treating allergies Avoidance

This can be a very important part of managing atopy. While it may be impossible to completely eliminate all of the offending agents, many can be reduced with minimal effort on the part of the owner. For avoidance therapy to have any benefit, the offending agents must be identified through intradermal skin testing. Avoidance is rarely a complete treatment in itself, but is used in conjunction with other treatments.

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