Pets can have allergies just as people can, with the main difference being that theirs often lead to skin conditions. For a dog, these allergies can be from food, fleas or from something inhaled, such as mold. Between 3 percent and 15 percent of dogs suffer from allergic inhaled dermatitis or atopy, according to the Long Beach Animal Hospital. The condition can be chronic, but it should not present a serious problem if you take precautions and provide treatment.
An allergy to mold and other environmental antigens is a genetic predisposition that manifests as a skin condition, causing a dog to itch. In addition to mold, some common such allergens are pollen, ragweed, dander, grass, dust and dust mites, and feathers.
Mold is usually inhaled as mold spores. It is particularly prevalent in more humid and unventilated areas. It needs moisture to grow, so it is often found in basements.
A dog reacting to an allergy such as mold will often chew on his feet, rub his face against something rough and scratch at his stomach and sides. He might also develop frequent ear infections, because the ear overproduces wax in response to the allergy.
Other symptoms include skin lesions that develop from excess scratching. Skin in these areas might be crusted over, raw or oily. Patches of fur might also be torn out.
When a dog inhales mold spores, his immune system produces the immunoglobulin E protein, which attaches to tissue mast cells in the dog's skin. This in turn prompts the release of chemicals, including histamines, which irritate the skin. It is for this reason that antihistamines are sometimes used as treatment.
Because mold can develop in any moist, warm area, cleaning can help prevent it. Any areas that are more susceptible to lingering moisture, such as bathroom carpets and basements, should be especially targeted. You should always turn on the exhaust fan after showering if your bathroom has one. It's best to keep your dog away from the area being cleaned to prevent him from being contacted by any airborne allergens.
Try to keep your dog from going into areas that might be hotbeds for mold, and even use air conditioning or humidifiers to get rid of moisture in the air. Clean the filters with chlorine bleach and warm water on a regular basis.
An high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) is particularly useful for getting rid of mold and many other inhalable allergens.
While veterinarians will treat allergies with antihistamines, they are often not effective in many dogs and can cause side effects that include constipation, drowsiness and excitability. They should never be used in pregnant dogs and only rarely in dogs with epilepsy, heart problems or glaucoma.
Although you can also use topical sprays and shampoos, they provide only temporary relief and might also cause further skin irritation.
You vet will often administer prednisone and other steroids to fight allergies, either as injections or in pill form. While they are almost always effective, they should be used sparingly, because they can cause damage to internal organs and other problems.