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Akita Allergies

The Akita Inu can most certainly have allergies, both Japanese and American alike, and this section will go into detail regarding this sometimes serious issue.  We are going to talk about:
  • The elements that most often cause allergic symptoms
  • What those symptoms are
  • Steps to take to help your dog
  • Different types of allergies

More often than not, an Akita will not be triggered by any certain element until prolonged exposure occurs. This is why some owners have trouble figuring out that it is indeed allergies that are causing problems.  For example, an owner may think, “My dog always plays on the grass” and does not make the connection that a trigger from the grassy area is the culprit since there was not always a reaction.

Being Pro-Active

Akita bloatYou cannot know in advance if your puppy or older Akita is going to have allergies, however there are steps that you can take to immediately narrow down the list of possible culprits quickly and then take appropriate steps for treatment.  Allergies are not genetic and therefore a particular Akita may have reactions when his littermates do not.

In regard to Exposure/ Contact allergies, the Akita breed does not usually have a problem with these since the fur is so thick. However, is a high sensitivity is present, symptoms triggered by contact (an element that the dog actually touches) can show on the stomach area.

Most sensitivities are going to be triggered by elements that are inhaled.  There are so many elements that may cause a problem… Grass, pollen, air pollutants, dust, chemicals…and these are easily brought in from outside.

Carpeting in the home then holds onto the irritant, making what would have been an outdoor trigger into a round-the-clock problem.

Wall-to-wall carpeting attracts and holds dust, dirt, micro-organisms and toxic pesticides, even with regular cleaning. In many cases, regular vacuuming can stir up allergens and cleaning can add to the toxicity of the problem.

Aside from replacing the flooring with laminate, hardwood and/or tile, it is recommended to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.  HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air and the correct type can trap the extremely tiny particles that are often the cause of an Akita’s allergies. It is important to use a model that can catch 99.97% particles that are .3 microns.   When used, the air that is expelled is cleaner and purer than the intake air and this can help quite a bit.

When working to determine the cause of allergies, it is suggested to use a HEPA vacuum every day, regardless of any visible dirt or soiling. 

Contact Allergies

As stated above, this is the less likely of the possible culprits (contact or inhaled), however many an Akita has suffered from this due to misdiagnoses.

Common Akita Skin Allergies:

Plastic bowls – Heavily dyed plastic bowls can cause havoc to this breed’s body. Not only does the coloring very slowly leak into food and water, causing an eventual discoloration to the coat, the chemicals used to manufacture these bowls can cause reactions.  For this breed, always use a stainless steel bowl for both food and water. 

Pine-oil disinfectant/ Cleaner – The residue from pine oil is easily absorbed into the Akita’s skin.  Intense itching and tiny pimples in the groin area are the clues that this is the culprit.

Grass (more precisely, what is on it) – This is a frequent Akita puppy allergy and the most common signs that your Akita is having a reaction to something in the grass is what is called a “grass rash”. The rash will appear on the underbelly of the pup and on the inner thighs. This is more often seen in puppies rather in adults since pups do not yet have the long legs that keeps their body far away from grassy surfaces.  Most often it is the morning dew (exposure happens during morning bathroom times) that aids in the reaction.  The dew holds the residue of many various airborne pollutants.

To prevent this from happening, avoid the location of the grass if possible.
If it is not feasible to find a different area for bathroom needs, rinse and the pat dry the area after exposure.

To treat this, plain talc will sooth the irritation that will gradually resolve once contact is halted.

Soap – Shampoo residue can wreak havoc.  When grooming, it is particularly important to rinse the groin area since it is the area that will most often develop a rash from this.  When giving baths, rinse until you are sure that no shampoo remains, and then rinse one more time.  Any area of the body that retains heat and moisture, along with the addition of soap, is sure to lead to a moist eczema and possibly an infection.

How Flea, Ticks AND the Treatment/Prevention for Them Can Cause Allergies

Flea collars and treatments are safe to a certain degree; however do keep in mind that they release a vapor that can cause issues.  For double coated dogs such as the Akita, a reaction will not happen immediately. However, with prolonged use, the vapors can eventually reach the skin.  The skin may erupt into tiny blisters (which often cause intense itching) and then even more irritation as the dog scratches.  It is not uncommon for an owner to wonder if the collar is not working and the dog has fleas…as opposed to realizing that the dog is actually allergic to the prevention of them.

Removing the collar or stopping the use of a particular prevention may not show immediate improvement since the protein compound which has formed in the skin will remain there for quite a while and a secondary infection may have set in. It can take up to 3 weeks to see a lessening of allergic symptoms.

What to Use:

There are several good choices to use instead of manufactured chemical treatments:
  • Pennyroyal Oil – This should be diluted with water and sprayed on after each bath.
  • Brewer’s Yeast – A safe, excellent choice to repel fleas
Airborne Allergies

Humans and canines alike can be allergic to airborne triggers such as pollen, ragweed and the like. However, the difference is that humans tend to sneeze and canines tend to have skin irritation that leads to itching.  Therefore, since both types of issues: contact and inhaled, both cause the same problem: itchy, red and/or inflamed skin, it can be a bit difficult to determine the cause.

  • Canines are often allergic to the same elements that humans are, in regard to inhaled allergies: weeds, pollen, etc. It is helpful to vacuum as stated above with a HEPA filter to trap microbes that become embedded in carpeting, give baths on schedule and run the air conditioner on hot days, as the filter will catch some (but not all) that is in the air) .
  • Avoid bringing your dog out on high-pollen days, if possible.
For moderate to severe symptoms, it will be time for a veterinarian checkup at which time a range of medication may be prescribed.  This includes antihistamines, topical creams and low dose cortisone if needed.

Food Allergies

The most seemingly innocent food ingredient can cause reactions... and the symptoms and signs will be similar to those discussed above, however for some Akita dogs, upset stomach, diarrhea and/or vomiting (or dry heaving) will be present.

Testing can be done, however it is not uncommon for the results to be inconclusive.  For this reason we suggest taking on the role of detective, as you may see faster, more accurate results.  In the meantime, moderate to severe rashes or other issues should be professionally treated.

You will want to begin by feeding a very plain diet for 3 weeks. This will consist only of plain, white, de-boned chicken meat and white rice. No spices. No additions.  The goal is to eliminate all possible culprits and then once the body has calmed down, reintroduce each one in order to determine which is the cause of the food allergy.

It does not matter which food ingredient you add at the beginning of Week 4, the only important factor is that it is one and only one element.  An owner will want to wait 3 weeks, feeding just those 3 ingrediatents before adding a 4th at the beginning of Week 7.

In this way, it is easier to decipher what is causing the reaction and from that point on the item should be taken off the menu.

Itchy Skin that Masks as an Allergy

One of the health issues that this breed is prone to is hypothyroid disease, for any skin issues that occur that cannot be connected to allergies, testing should be done in regard to hormonal thyroid levels. You can read more about this in our Akita Thyroid section.  Other possible skin disorders include Sebaceous Adenitis and Pemphigus Foliaceus.

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