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Maltese Allergies



About 20% of all dogs suffer from allergies at some point. And the triggers can vary quite a bit.

There are 3 main types of allergies:
  1. Environmental - This includes pollen, weeds, and other airborne elements.
  2. Contact - This includes elements that a dog comes into physical contact with.
  3. Food - While some dogs are indeed allergic to certain whole foods, many suffer from reactions to additives. 
While it can be hard to pinpoint what is causing a dog to be allergic, and it can take some time to treat this, making some changes, and seeking professional treatment when needed can help resolve the most serious allergy-related issues for many Maltese dogs. 

Symptoms of Maltese Allergies

The symptoms and signs may vary depending on the type of allergy that a Maltese dog has. 

These are the top signs:
  • Itching - This is seen in most cases, no matter the trigger. A Maltese may scratch or chew at himself. A Maltese may scratch so much that the skin breaks open. 
  • Rash or irritated skin - There may be bumps or hot spots of inflamed skin patches. Skin may appear dry, red, or scaly.
  • Thinning hair - If allergies persist, scratching or chew at the body, along with poor skin health can cause the coat to thin. In severe cases there may be balding areas. These thinned patches may be anywhere; however it is most commonly on the face, elbows, and/or back.
  • Wheezing, breathing issues. You may notice raspy breathing, and this is most often seen during or right after exercise. There may be slight to moderate coughing, as well. 
  • Eye, nose, and/or ear issues. Though this does vary from dog to dog, there may be runny or thick eye discharge, runny nose, and/or ear infections. 
  • Gastrointestinal distress. Most commonly seen with food allergies, a Maltese may have an upset stomach, diarrhea, and/or vomiting.

Immediate Steps to Take

While you will want the allergies to be diagnosed with prescribed treatment, there are steps you can take to reduce discomfort and lower possible triggers. 

1) If your Maltese is vomiting or having diarrhea, and a food allergy is suspected, place him on a bland diet.

A blend of white-breast chicken meat and plain rice (no seasoning at all) works for many dogs. 

This should be given for 1 to 2 weeks, to allow the body to receive a break from the allergen. 

If grains are suspected, a switch to a grain-free food should be done. 
2) Reassess common items that your Maltese comes into contact with. This would include fabrics (bed sheets, dog bed cover, etc.); these should be washed in hypo-allergenic shampoo. However, if you suspect an allergy to the actual fabric, you'll want to switch it out for a different material and see if this makes a difference.

Included in this as well are a Maltese's bowls. Plastic bowls are a culprit in many cases, even those that are BPA free. For Maltese that have discoloration around the eyes and/or discoloration in nose pigmentation, often a change to stainless-steel bowls clears up the problem. 
3) Take steps to remove allergens from the house. You will want to:
  • Use HEPA filters if you have central air. Even if you are not running the AC, running the fan with a HEPA filter removes 99.97% of [articles as small as 0.3 micrometers. This means that it will remove dust, dust mites, mold spores, and pollen, which are top allergy triggers.
If you do not have a central air system, you may want to consider obtaining a free-standing, portable air cleaner that uses HEPA filters. 
  • Wash your Maltese's paws off each time you bring him back into the house after being outside. It is often easiest to do this in the kitchen sink.
  • Wipe the coat down with a quality canine wipe each time you come back inside, even if it was only for a few minutes for bathroom needs. 
  • On high pollen days, skip the early morning walk. While you will want to exercise your Maltese twice per day, pollen counts are often highest between 5 AM and 10 AM. Limit exposure by taking an afternoon and then an evening walk.
  • Vacuum the house with a HEPA vacuum. Just like the AC filters, a HEPA vacuum can help. As the machine runs, it pulls in air, which is then filtered, with allergens removed. So, it not only will clean up triggers embedded in carpeting, but also clean the air. 
4) Use quality shampoo and coat products. Choose a shampoo that is good for skin affected by allergies. Those with oatmeal and aloe work well to soothe skin and help relieve itching. 

5) Treat hot spots. For areas of very irritated skin or thinning areas on the coat, use a quality hot spot treatment. 

Having Allergies Diagnosed

While you may be able to somewhat control allergies at home, and relieve some of the symptoms, in many cases this will require professional veterinary treatment.

The vet will be able to try and diagnose the exact allergen triggers.

There are two types of tests, ELISA and intradermal skin testing. Each has its pros and cons.

Intradermal skin testing is usually the more reliable of the two; however, a dog needs to be lightly sedated for the testing, as it involves shaving a patch off the coat and then pricking the skin with tiny amounts of common allergens to see which, if any, cause a skin reaction. 

Treatment for Allergies

At home: Many of the steps mentioned under 'Immediate steps' will help treat symptoms that a Maltese may be suffering from. This includes an allergy shampoo, and quality coat care sprays. 

If allergies are minor to moderate, you may want to speak to your vet about giving Benadryl to your Maltese. While this will not cure allergies, it can provide good temporary relief. The standard dosing is 1 mg per each pound of body weight, i.e. 5 mg for a 5-pound Maltese. 

To improve skin and coat health, an Omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acid may work, when given for 1 to 3 months. 

Prescribed medication: Many Maltese that have moderate to severe allergies will need to be seen by the vet, not only to try and pinpoint the triggers, but to also receive prescription medications. 

This often includes 

1) Antihistamines. Types most commonly give include Benadryl, clemastine, chlorpheniramine, or hydroxyzine. 

2) Topical hydrocortisone for  localized itching. 

3) Topical antibiotics will be given for any areas that look to be infected. 

4) For severe issues, steroids including cortisone or prednisone may be given.

5) If steps taken at home cannot result in avoidance of the allergen trigger, 5 months have passed with chronic symptoms, and other treatments are not controlling allergies, immunotherapy may be suggested. 

With this, a dog will be given skin tests to check for hypersensitivity. Once a trigger is identified, altered antigens are injected on a slow and steady basis. These are given either weeks or months apart, depending on the type. This helps a dog to become desensitized to the allergen and can be very effective. Up to 80% of dogs show marked improvement.  
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