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Allergies

Chihuahua Allergies

Overview

There are 3 main types of allergies a dog can have. 

1) A Chihuahua may have an external contact allergy. This means that the dog may be allergic to an element outside of his or her body such as cleaning chemicals on the carpeting that he lies on, a reaction to detergent that bedding or clothing has been washed in, lawn care chemicals on grass that touch the body and more. 

The most frequent allergy is from chemicals or pollen that have settled onto grass. These are often tracked back into the house after a Chihuahua has been outside and reactions to these elements can continue long after the puppy or dog has been outdoors.

2) The second type of dog allergy is an internal allergy. This will mean that when a dog ingests something, such as a certain food or very rarely a medication, it will trigger an allergic reaction.

3) Third are inhaled. Most common is grass, weed and tree pollen. Though, with year round symptoms, one must also look to possible dust mites as the culprit. 
A Chihuahua puppy may be born with a sensitivity to certain elements or may develop allergies as he or she matures. 

The majority of allergies can be treated by helping a Chihuahua to avoid the allergen or removing it from the dog's environment. In moderate to severe cases medication will need to be prescribed to help a dog recover. Home treatment, such as soothing baths and supplements to aid in skin and coat health can bring additional relief. 

Properly diagnosing the symptoms will be the first step, followed by identifying the trigger.

Symptoms

Over 20% of all dogs experience allergies. 
No matter what the trigger, the most common symptom will present as skin irritation. This can include:
  • Dryness
  • Itching (which causes a Chihuahua to lick, paw at, chew or scratch affected areas)
  • Sores
  • Thinning hairs (commonly due to a secondary bacterial infection, damaged skin can cause shedding in the affected area)
  • Scabs (commonly due to a secondary bacterial infection)
Other signs include:
Less common will be:
  • Sneezing
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Vomiting (most commonly seen with a food allergy)
  • Diarrhea (most commonly seen with a food allergy)
Chihuahua outside in grass
Diagnosing Allergies

It is recommended to bring a Chihuahua to a qualified and reputable veterinarian if the dog is experiencing any of the above listed symptoms or any other signs that are troubling. Blood and skin tests can be done to try and identify the culprit; however these tests are not always accurate and do not test for every possible trigger.

If contact allergies are suspected, the following should be avoided or replaced:
  • Laundry detergent: Using a hypo-allergenic detergent, without dyes, can help to keep all bedding, doggie clothes and other fabrics free of irritants.
  • Grooming products - Only use products made specifically for canines. Gentle or hypo-allergenic products are recommended for shampoo, conditioner and any leave-in grooming products.
  • Flea protection - A Chihuahua can have a very severe reaction to a flea infestation and just one bite from a flea can cause major skin reactions. But in protecting our dog, we can inadvertently cause an allergy since flea collars can also cause issues. Switching to a new method of protection may be warranted.
Limiting Exposure:

Chemicals from yards, pollen and other triggers can be tracked indoors via the Chihuahua and humans. In fact, airborne particles can be close to outdoor levels in the spring and summer if some sort of filtering process is not being implemented. There are some things that you can do:
  • For carpets and flooring, vacuuming with a HEPA certified vacuum will help to eliminate many allergens both in the air and those that have settled to the floor.
Chihuahua puppy hiding in flowers
  • If you suspect lawn care chemicals or pollen in the grass could be the cause, do try to avoid those areas if possible. Also rinse off your Chihuahua with water before entering back into the house (weather permitted) and if the problem area seems to be focused on paws, the use of doggie shoes may work to prevent a Chihuahua's paws and pads from coming into contact with an irritant.
  • Wet dusting often will help to eliminate dust particles and washing bedding in hot water will help to eliminate pesky dust mites. These tiny mites, barely visible to the eye, are one of the leading causes of asthma in humans and allergies for both humans and canines world wide.
  • Air filtering systems, including air conditions, can help to filter out pollens and other airborne allergens in the house.
  • Cover your bedding with dust mite covers which prevent these nasty microscopic insects from burrowing into mattresses where they can keep breeding and live on indefinitely. 
Medications for Contact and Inhaled Allergies in Chihuahuas

While following the above steps to reduce or eliminate triggers, in some cases medications will need to be given. In many cases it will be short-term to help the puppy or dog recover.  Only in the event that the trigger cannot be identified or removed from the dog's environment will long-term doses be required. 

With minor, acute symptoms, a Chihuahua may take Benadryl as prescribed by the vet. For chronic and/ or moderate to severe cases, anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed, and may be used in conjunction with medicated baths. 

Supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids can aid in restoring skin health. If infection is suspected, antibiotics will be given as well. Therefore, avoiding or eliminating the trigger, along with treatment for symptoms often results in a gradual improvement. 
Figuring out Food Allergies

Diagnosing a food allergy can be tricky since manufactured kibble has so many ingredients. Most common is a sensitivity to coloring, additives or preservatives. One of the most important elements will be to allow a Chihuahua's stomach to have a rest from the turmoil of vomiting, diarrhea and other stomach ailments that can be the result of ingesting something that the body is reacting to.

It is often recommended to offer a bland diet that will have little chance of causing symptoms. A meal plan of white, de-boned, boiled chicken meat, along with white rice and sweat potatoes is a commonly prescribed. After several weeks, one new ingredient can be added while allowing 2 weeks to see if the Chihuahua begins to experience any sort of reaction to that element. 
Foods can include: carrots, peas, broccoli, fish, pasta, blueberries, yogurt and more. Also See: Home Cooking for a Chihuahua
Reactions to Vaccinations

Less frequently discussed but equally important and sometimes even more so, is the issue of a Chihuahua suffering an allergic reaction to a vaccination.

The benefits of being protected from the slew of canine disease far outweigh the chances of a Chi having a reaction, however owners should be aware of the signs which include:
  • Swelling - This can be on any part of the body, however facial swelling is a common symptom
  • Trouble breathing and/or wheezing
  • Drowsiness
Since reactions can range from mild to severe and life threatening, it is recommended to only schedule vaccination appointments when someone will be able to stay with the Chihuahua for at least 2 hours afterward. 

In some cases, an allergic reaction will present itself even before an owner arrives back home with their Chihuahua and for this reason, careful monitoring should be done as soon as one leaves the veterinarian office.

It will be important to seek treatment immediately. With mild cases, an antihistamine is given. With moderate to severe cases, epinephrine may need to be given.
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