Allergies in Border Terriers (Itching & Paw Licking)
Our Border Terrier, Alfie is the ideal specimen for this post.
Alfie has followed the typical path for border terrier allergies.
Border Terriers are famous for contracting Atopic Dermatitis (an inflammatory skin disease associated with allergies).
In this post, I’ll reveal our discoveries regarding Border Terrier allergies and explain the testing methods that we used.
Sit back and see how we helped our own BT.
Border Terriers and Skin Allergies
1 – The most common skin allergy in all dogs is Flea Allergy Dermatitis.
2 – The second most common skin ailment in all dogs is Atopic Dermatitis.
3 – The third most common source of skin allergy problems in all dogs are dog-food-related allergens.
Because we know the Top 3 most common causes of skin allergies in dogs, that small piece of knowledge can help us to self-diagnose our Border Terrier’s allergy issues.
Or at least, it can help us to work through the possible causes in the most logical manner.
Let’s take a look at each of those Top 3 most common causes of skin allergies in more detail.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Border Terriers
Let’s take a look at the Number 1 most common source of skin allergy in dogs, and that, of course, includes Border Terrier dogs.
While it’s not been 100% proven, vets believe that it is the saliva of the flea that causes the allergic reaction.
There’s some good news and bad news for detecting flea allergies in Border Terriers.
The good news is that typically, a flea allergy affects the rear end of the dog on it’s back, close to the tail, and down the rear-thigh area.
A border terrier having itching exclusively in this region of the body can be a clear indication that a flea allergy is the source of the itching.
The bad news is that border terrier’s that are over-sensitive to the flea bites can have itching all over their bodies, and not just the rear end.
As with all things ‘medical’ there are no hard and fast rules.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis Video (Duration 1:50)
Detecting Flea Allergies in Border Terrier’s
BT’s are susceptible to skin allergies in any case. So identifying (or excluding) particular causes can be a challenge.
Flea allergies do have one advantage over other skin allergies, and that is, that flea allergies leave evidence that fleas are the cause of all that scratching.
The first thing to do is to buy a flea comb.
A flea comb has very narrow spaces between the teeth of the comb to comb-out the tiny fleas.
Fleas are tiny. Approximately 1 to 2 mm in size.
If you normally wear reading glasses, then wear them when using your flea comb on your border terrier.
If you do see fleas on the comb during the grooming session, then at least you have some firm evidence of the cause.
You can now purchase any of the well-known flea products such as the spot-on liquids, or a flea collar.
Flea shampoo is also a good idea if you have clear evidence of fleas.
If You Didn’t See Any Fleas on The Flea Comb…
Not seeing fleas on the flea comb doesn’t mean that your border terrier is in the clear regarding flea bites.
Highly sensitive border terriers can be bitten by just one flea and can suffer an allergic reaction.
This means that the offending flea could bite and then leave your dog, and you’d still have an itchy BT (but no sign of fleas).
Fortunately, flea combs are not the only way to find evidence of fleas on your BT.
Fleas, like all other living creatures, leave other evidence behind.
Flea feces can be recognized by seeing small black spots on your border terriers’ skin.
When the small black spots are wiped with a white tissue, flea feces will leave rust-colored marks on the tissue paper.
If you run this test and it proves positive, then you can once again purchase any of the good flea control products such as the liquids or flea collars.
So, while flea allergies are the most common skin allergy you’ll find in your BT, it is an allergy that does at least give signs of its presence.
Unfortunately, the 2nd and 3rd most common causes of skin allergies in BT’s are not so easy to identify, as you’ll soon discover.
Atopic Dermatitis in Border Terriers
Atopic dermatitis is a skin disease brought on by being exposed to an allergen which then causes an allergic reaction in your BT.
While that sounds like a simple enough explanation, the trouble comes when you discover what are the two most common causes of atopic dermatitis.
The Two Most Common Causes of Atopic Dermatitis in Border Terrier Dogs
- Dust Mites
On the face of it, these two sources of the allergen may seem like fairly simple allergens to identify.
However, the symptoms are identical, and dust mites are everywhere and pollen is everywhere.
Dust mites are present in every home, and pollen is present everywhere outdoors. So you can’t avoid your dog being inside and outside at the same time. Your BT is unable to avoid the allergens.
Technology doesn’t usually play a huge part in dog allergies, but fortunately, it can play a huge part in helping a dog with a dust mite allergy or a pollen allergy.
Welcome to Hepa filters.
Hepa filters are extremely fine mesh filters that are designed to capture very fine airborne substances such as dust and pollen.
The world of technology has done dogs (and people) a huge favor with dust an pollen allergies.
Buying an Air Purifier fitted with a Hepa filter, and also a vacuum cleaner with a Hepa filter can reduce allergies in your BT almost immediately. They also help people who suffer from the same allergies too.
I’ll add my own recommendations for both devices to my recommended products page so you can read more about them.
Clue: It’s what finally helped our own BT, Alfie to stop his scratching!
This brings us to the last item in the list of the most common sources of skin allergies in border terriers.
Dog Foods Allergies in Border Terriers
If your border terrier has a food allergy then there is at least a process for testing this yourself at home.
The first thing to appreciate is that even if your BT has been eating the same foods for years, then he can still develop an allergy to that food.
When Alfie first started with his itching problems, we didn’t immediately consider that his food may be the cause.
Alfie had been fed pretty much the same ingredients for years (with minor changes here and there), so it didn’t seem likely that his food could suddenly cause any allergic reactions.
This is not the case, however.
Dogs (and even humans) can develop an allergy to foods very suddenly. Even out of the blue.
In reality, your dog has been struggling with a particular protein for a long time but has shown no symptoms.
A particular protein can eventually be seen as a problem by your dog’s immune system and the allergy symptoms can then be noticed very rapidly.
So, a big tip with allergies in your border terrier is not to discount his dog food, even if he’s been eating it for many years.
The cause still can be dog food.
Testing Your Border Terrier for a Food Allergy
With dog food allergies, it’s time to put on your laboratory coat and conduct some tests.
The method for testing for a food allergy in your border terrier is conducted as follows:
- Make a note of the date you start the first phase of the testing.
- The first phase is to feed your BT a totally different food for the following 6 weeks.
- If your initial recipe was chicken, rice, and carrots, then try lamb, potato, and oats (for example).
- Just make the test diet ingredients 100% different to his previous diet.
- Set a calendar reminder on your phone or computer to remind you of the end date (6 weeks from today).
- During the 6 week test period, if your border terrier’s itching has stopped, then a food allergy is ‘possible’
- I say ‘possible’ because it could simply be a coincidence that the food was the actual allergen.
- If the itching has not stopped at all over the 6-week period. A food allergy is unlikely.
- If the itching hasn’t stopped, then rule out a food allergy entirely.
- Carry out Phase 2 if the itching has stopped over the course of the previous 6 weeks.
- Make a note of today’s date.
- For the following 6 weeks, you’ll be feeding your border terrier the first diet that he used to have before.
- (in my example, you’d now be feeding him chicken, rice, and carrots once again).
- Set a reminder on your phone or computer for the end date of this test (6 weeks from today).
- Monitor your border terrier’s itching over the course of this latest 6-week period.
- If the itching returns, it is a pretty safe bet that the cause of the itching is a dog food allergy.
- The most likely cause of the allergy would be the chicken in this test.
- Chicken always comes very high on the list of the most common dog food allergies.
- If the itching doesn’t return then rule out a food allergy.
This final phase, phase 3, is the conclusion of the previous 12 weeks of tests.
By this stage, you will have either ruled out a dog food allergy or confirmed that the initial diet did indeed contain the allergen.
If your tests concluded that a dog food allergy was the cause, then simply avoid those ingredients completely in the future.
If your tests showed that the dog food was not the allergen, then you can now consider either flea allergy dermatitis or atopic dermatitis as being the cause.
Conclusion to Allergies in Border Terriers
There are no quick fixes for finding allergies in dogs.
If one is easier than the others, then that one is perhaps flea allergy dermatitis as that one has the most visible evidence.
Virtually all other allergens are less easy to identify.
Even tests conducted by vets can take weeks or months to conduct, and they still may not find the exact allergen.
Dog allergy tests often reveal that your dog is allergic to many different allergens. The test results may list various types of grass, various trees, various food proteins, Etc.
In the end, the precise allergen that caused your border terrier’s itching may never be known.
But rather than hunting forever to try to locate the exact allergen, your vet will offer advice and medication to help alleviate the symptoms.
In the end, that’s really all you can ask for.
And, in the end, it’s all your BT really wants.
I wish you and your border terrier the best of health.