Why is it that dogs seem to have more allergies down here in the South?

I have lived with dogs my entire life, including in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, and never experienced what I see in dogs here – food allergies, grass, pollen, fleas, pesticides and who knows what else.

I think part of it might also be the number of white dogs I seem to see more of: Westies, Bichons and English Cream Goldens to name a few. White and light-colored dogs seem to be even more sensitive, but I see the effect of allergies even on black dogs.

Some dogs chew their tails and paws and are scratching themselves. There are other ways allergies present themselves, such as skin sores, biting, fur loss, and intestinal and bowel upsets, leading to soft stools and more.

I have always fed my dogs better than I feed myself with all-natural holistic foods and treats. So, doing the best I can, I might consult with a veterinarian and in some cases that results in dietary changes.

There are a number of prescription foods available that often calm the symptomatic effects of allergies, but in general, unless the allergies are severe, you really don’t want your dog to spend their entire life on them. Nutritionally they are meant to get an issue under control but not generally meant for a lifetime.

In other cases a vet might recommend changing to a grain-free diet to see if that helps. Commercially, there are many available that contain fairly benign ingredients such as duck, venison, salmon and potato. Pro-biotics, skin supplements, vitamins and other supplements might be recommended,depending on the outward signs of the allergies.

Spectrum Vet, offered through your veterinarian, is a bloodwork-based allergy test instead of the skin scrapings test. I opt for this, as it is more comprehensive and can be regionalized (Southeast region) for certain factors in the environment in which the dog lives. It is very expensive, but I prefer it since it allows me to choose the correct treatment based upon the findings.

If environment is the issue, rather than diet, then the treatment is very different. There is also a wonderful (also expensive) daily medication called Apoquel that works great on environmental issues.

There is also an injection called Cytopoint, which is given for a period of time, that also seems to work for many dogs. There are also desensitizing allergy injections but they go on forever. Ask your vet.

If the results are environmental, wash your dog’s paws outside with water or apple cider vinegar mixed with water, before they come inside the house, and with a damp cloth wipe off the body.

I leave shoes outside so as not to track dirt and pollen into the house. If you want a holistic approach, contact a holistic vet specialist.

Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com