Guest post by Isabella Lovett
It is estimated that 70% of homes have mold behind the walls. Awareness of the health risk posed by mold is growing, but the focus tends to be on humans. If you share your home with a dog, however, their health is just as important as yours, and if there is mold in the home, this could affect both of you. In small quantities, most molds are harmless, but some dogs are more sensitive than others, and many have mold allergies. If you’re concerned, here’s what you need to know about mold allergies in dogs so you can make sure your best friend stays healthy and happy.
Molds are multicellular fungi that live in the air and on a variety of surfaces, including wood, walls, floors and soft furnishings. They do well in damp and humid environments, and dogs, known for their nose-led explorations, are likely to find them if you have them in the home. Stachybotrys Chartarum, colloquially referred to as ‘toxic black mold’ stands out from other varieties, as it releases mycotoxins into the environment. This can lead to serious health problems in humans and pets alike, but in small quantities, most molds do not pose the same level of risk.
However, some dogs have an increased sensitivity to mold, and this can prompt an allergic reaction. This happens when their immune system overreacts to a substance. While symptoms can remain mild, a mold allergy can cause your dog pain and discomfort, and if it is not treated, they may develop more serious health issues in the future.
Symptoms of mold allergies
Mold allergies in dogs are usually seen as a skin condition. If their skin is irritated or inflamed, they scratch frequently, or they experience any hair loss, this could be a sign of an allergy. Excessively chewing or licking their paws and experiencing chronic ear infections are also common symptoms. Less commonly, symptoms include respiratory conditions such as sneezing, coughing and labored breathing, a loss of appetite, lethargy and discharge from the nose or eyes.
If your dog has a mold allergy, you may have noticed that they have skin problems all year round. Symptoms may come and go with changes in humidity, but if the mold is still in the environment, their skin will still be affected when their reaction is milder. Dogs between six months and three years old are the most likely to be affected, but they can develop a mold allergy at any point during their life. Dogs who have other allergies may be more susceptible.
Diagnosis of a mold allergy
If you suspect that your dog may have a mold allergy, take them to the vet. Mold allergies can’t be diagnosed without allergy testing, and your vet will want to rule out other causes first. Allergy testing is usually conducted through blood serum testing or intradermal skin testing, which involves injecting small qualities of allergens into the dog’s skin. If a visible swelling occurs, the vet is able to determine which allergen is causing the reaction. In a blood serum test, a blood sample is sent to a laboratory for testing, where it will be searched for antibodies.
Treatment for mold allergies
Usually, a combination of therapies is required to treat a mold allergy. Your vet may prescribe antihistamines, corticosteroids, cyclosporine capsules or Lokivetmab. They may also suggest allergen immunotherapy, in which desensitization is reached through controlled allergen exposure. This treatment can take up to 12 months, but it can stop an allergy in its tracks and prevent the onset of new allergies. For skin conditions caused by a mold allergy, vets may prescribe topical antimicrobial therapy shampoos or sprays to treat the affected area.
You can also help by minimizing the amount of mold your dog is exposed to in the home. Keep your dog away from damp garages and basements, and bathe them frequently to remove mold spores. Clean away obvious mold and treat affected areas to prevent regrowth. For large areas and in severe cases, it may be best to get a professional mold removal service to do this.
Most mold is harmless to your dog, but for animals with allergies, it can cause discomfort and lead to other health problems. If you suspect your dog has a mold allergy, take them to the vet to determine the best course of action.