Dogs are just as susceptible to allergies as human beings but they don’t have the chance to go to the pharmacy to pick up Claritin, Zyrtec or similar medicaments. All they can do is lick, chew or scratch if the allergy affects their skin and they can reach the affected area.
Allergic reactions in dogs manifest primarily in the skin, while allergic reactions in humans primarily manifest in a runny nose, coughing, and itchy eyes.
If your dog starts to show any of the warning signs of a Skin Allergy, initially the vet should be your first point of contact, because they must determine what type of allergy it is (see below). However, there are quite effective ways to avoid Skin Allergies altogether.
Who Gets Skin Allergies
Any dog can contract a Skin Allergy. However, dogs that are fed dry food too early or too often are more susceptible to suffer a food allergy, and short haired German Shepherds are more likely to suffer from skin contact allergies (caused by eg flea bites).
Conversely, should your German Shepherd be one of the few that are from a family line bred for water sports or hunting, then it will be less susceptible to flea bite allergies and moisture issues. Still, any German Shepherd can suffer allergies from dampness and flea bites.
There are three main types of Skin Allergies that can affect your German Shepherd. Most Skin Allergies are a consequence of 1) flea bites, then come 2) food allergies, and finally 3) inhalant allergies (primarily pollen, dust, and chemicals).
In all cases the skin will often grow irritated and red. Swelling may occur, but this will most often be a result of scratching, biting, or excess licking by your dog.
If your dog starts to lose hair as a result of the reaction or gets an ear infection too, it might be a long-term food allergy related to serving processed food – a common problem that occurs in many dogs that eat industrial dog foods.
Other warning signs are frequent sneezing or coughing, or rubbing the eyes.
Avoiding and Treating Skin Allergies
To avoid Skin Allergies, first make sure your German Shepherd is given effective flea and tick medication on a regular basis if you live in an affected area. This will avoid the first type of Skin Allergies. It is important not just for flea bite allergies, but for avoiding potential sickness from tick bites and other parasites that will latch on to your dog when it is outside.
Second, avoid feeding your German Shepherd industrial food with too many grain fillers. This can help to avoid the second type of Skin Allergies. Rice is the safest grain, but corn, soy and wheat are all allergenic. Processed meats can also cause food allergies, and table scraps should strictly be avoided due to the substances in human food that a dog's metabolism cannot process.
Best is really to prepare your dog's food yourself, fresh and natural - like for yourself (hopefully). If you don't do this, or if you don't have the time to do this for your dog regularly, at least consider what we write about healthy dog meals in The MYGERMANSHEPHERD Health Manual, on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.org in general, and particularly in the MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL.
By all means, aim to avoid industrial food with preservatives, additives, fillers etc, high fat - high protein - high calcium - high sodium food, and generally any food that has been "enriched" with presumably "healthy" substances. The healthiest food is a balanced diet of natural food, not artificially "enriched" food, ie processed food!
Finally, to avoid the third type of Skin Allergies, inhalant allergies, observe your dog for signs of frequent sneezing or coughing in certain conditions or at certain times of the year. Also notice when your dog is frequently rubbing its eyes or ears. All of this can indicate that something in the environment is impacting your dog. For example, pollen, dust, or a specific scent that is carrying eg chemicals, like air refreshers in rooms.
By the way, air refreshers are always, in every situation, hazardous for your entire family, not just for your German Shepherd. Brilliant marketing by the producers doesn't change the fact that they pollute your lungs and bronchi. The consequence regularly are respiratory problems - sometimes immediately, sometimes many years later, but always chronic! If you want refreshed air, guess what, open the window.
If your dog starts to show any of the signs of a Skin Allergy mentioned above, initially visit the vet to establish the genuine cause of the symptoms. They will likely take blood tests and possibly put your dog on an elimination diet to see how its allergic reactions respond.
To treat Skin Allergies, very often all that is needed are basic nutritional changes and lots of regular outdoor exercise. The symptoms of some inhalant allergies can effectively be controlled with effective inhalant allergy medication. The skin condition should be treated with the soothe cream conditioner under running water. If you can afford it or if you have a tube of ClearSkin-E Cream for yourself anyway, apply a flimsy coating to the most affected skin areas.
If you use the soothe cream conditioner and apply the ClearSkin-E Cream mentioned above, you probably won't need to hard-bandage the affected area either: What is not itching, your dog won't lick, scratch or bite.