How to identify skin allergies in your Bull Terrier

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Before I start with this topic I want to tell you something very personal: 95% of the things in this blog are not only thoroughly researched by me but they are actually based on my own experience. And that means that they are also based on mistakes I made myself. It has happened more than one time in my life that I asked myself: “Why did I not know this sooner? Why did I not ask the right questions?”
But at the end of the day there is no reason to beat yourself up about mistakes made of the past.
We always have the chance to learn from them.
So, when you read this and you find yourself doing things now or in the past I describe here as not so good, please don’t take it personal and don’t feel judged. I’ve been there and I have done them myself.

Allergies, especially skin allergies, sadly are part of many Bull Terrier’s lives. This breed – once rated among the healthiest dog breeds in the world – is actually not so healthy anymore.
I blame this on different factors, such as irresponsible breeding, environmental changes and highly processed modern day food. But most of these are topics for another article.
For many Bull Terrier owners it takes a long time to realize that the health problems their dog is suffering from are actually related to allergies.


Why do so many different things cause skin to react?

The skin is the biggest organ of most mammals and it is connected to our inner system. It is the body’s line of defense against influences from the outside and it is willing to do so. All parts of the dog’s body interact in some ways. Hormones that are released from the adrenal glands are acting all over the body. When the intestines are weakened by say antibiotics this can affect the entire body.
When allergies are causing the body to activate its defense mechanisms this can show in the form of itchy and inflamed skin, even if the trigger does not get in direct contact with the skin, but rather comes from the inside (as in the case of nutrition).

Skin allergies in Bull Terriers can be caused by different triggers, the three main causes being:

  • nutrition
  • parasites
  • environment

Very often when people notice their dog suddenly becoming excessively focussed on cleaning themselves by frequently licking different parts of their bodies these owners do not even realize at first that they are dealing with allergies.

What are the symptoms of skin allergies in Bull Terriers?

  • red or raw paws, redness between the toes and under footpads caused by excessive licking and biting
    discolored fur on the paws (coppery red)
  • pustules
    ear infections
  • red belly
  • hair loss
  • lesions and inflamed areas on different parts of the skin

When owners notice their Bull Terriers suddenly licking their paws or other parts more often they should be alert. This could be the first sign of a skin allergy. Many owners wait this out for too long and secondary infection gets good chances to start unnoticed at first.

Many Bull Terriers like licking themselves, other pets in the household and people to keep themselves busy or show affection. To a certain extend that is ok and normal. But even without allergies being present this can easily become obsessive. As Bull Terriers are a very active breed they are prone to developing obsessive behaviors, such as tail chasing or excessive licking, if they are alone and bored for longer periods of time, for example, don’t get enough exercise or if they are mentally on a constantly overexcited level. But excessive licking and biting can also be a sign of allergies.

If you notice excessive licking don’t fool yourself and think that’s only normal. Don’t hesitate to count the incidents and examine your Bull Terrier. Take a look between your Bull Terrier’s toes because that is often a moist area, optimum breeding ground for bacteria and often a lot worse already than it looks from the outside.
It may as well be the case that you do not notice more licking than usual because your dog only does it during alone time or so. But you may notice the color of the fur changing from white into a coppery dirty red instead or in addition. This discoloration is often a sign of excessive licking (as is hair loss on the paws) caused by minerals in the saliva.

If you want to do something, first here’s what you should NOT do:
If you notice red and raw paws, please, do not go the very common route of putting socks over the paws, or a surgery collar around the neck or even worse tape the paws in order to stop the licking and give things a break. This really does not help anything! In bad cases it does quite the opposite! And that is especially true if it is the ONLY measure you take.


Why?

The Bull Terrier is licking because its skin is itchy.
If you have ever had a broken limb in your life and had the honors of wearing one of those ancient closed casts you will probably know how dreadful that itch developing inside the cast and the fact that you can’t reach down there scratch yourself can be.
That is exactly what your Bull Terrier experiences when you tape those itchy paws.
The itch doesn’t stop. Only your dog can’t reach it any more to relieve itself.


It also does not really help with healing because neither does it stop the allergy triggers nor does it do anything good to heal the inflammation. In the worst case it traps already accumulated bacteria in a very bacteria-friendly moist environment making everything even worse.

What you can do as a supporting measure is to frequently flush or wipe the paws and between the toes or other infected areas with a non-stinging skin disinfectant especially after walks outside to curb the bacterial growth from that secondary infection and aid the healing. Also you can use medicated (anti-itch) dog shampoo for bathing. Please do not use products formulated for humans! These are formulated for a  different skin ph and only make things worse.
Also, just because the belly may be red and the paws raw that does NOT necessarily indicate that you are dealing with a contact allergy to say grass or your carpet cleaner. Allergic breakouts can happen either locally or systemic (= affecting the entire organism). In case of a contact allergy the trigger is something the skin gets in direct contact with, like an insect bite, for example, or plants. Triggers are often easier to find and avoid. Signs of a systemic allergy can show all over the body. Something the dog eats can cause itch and breakouts in any area of the body. Triggers are much harder to identify.

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