How to Identify and Treat Dog Allergies


If you have a dog, you may have noticed that they sometimes scratch, lick, or chew their skin, or sneeze and cough more than usual. These could be signs of dog allergies, a common condition that affects many dogs of all breeds and backgrounds.

Dog allergies are a misguided reaction to foreign substances by the body’s immune system, which can cause discomfort and health problems for your furry friend.

In this article, we will explain what are dog allergies, what are the different types of dog allergies, what are the symptoms of dog allergies, how to diagnose the cause of your dog’s allergy, and how to treat and prevent dog allergies.


Common Signs and Symptoms of Dog Allergies


The symptoms of dog allergies are usually like those of any other nasal allergy. They include:

  • Coughing and wheezing

  • Red, itchy eyes

  • Runny, itchy, stuffy nose

  • Sneezing

However, unlike humans, dogs also tend to show allergic reactions on their skin. This is called allergic dermatitis, and it is the most common type of allergic reaction in dogs. Collars can sometimes cause discomfort and even allergies in dogs. The signs of allergic dermatitis include:

  • Itching, scratching, licking, or biting at the skin

  • Redness, inflammation, or scabs on the skin

  • Hair loss or bald patches

  • Ear infections or ear discharge

  • Hot spots or sores on the skin

Some dogs may also have gastrointestinal symptoms if they have a food allergy or sensitivity. These include:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

  • Flatulence or bloating





In some rare cases, a severe allergic reaction can result in anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary attention. The signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat

  • Pale gums or blue tongue

  • Rapid heartbeat or low blood pressure

  • Collapse or loss of consciousness

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, contact your vet right away.


Types of Dog Allergies and Their Causes


There are three main types of dog allergies: flea allergy dermatitis, food allergies, and environmental allergens.


Flea allergy dermatitis

Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to flea bites. Some dogs are allergic to flea saliva, which causes them to itch intensely after being bitten. This usually affects the base of the tail, but can also spread to other parts of the body. Flea allergy dermatitis can also make your dog more susceptible to secondary skin infections.

The best way to prevent flea allergy dermatitis is to keep your dog free of fleas. You can use flea prevention products such as collars, sprays, shampoos, or spot-on treatments that kill fleas on contact or prevent them from reproducing.

You should also treat your home and yard for fleas by vacuuming regularly, washing bedding in hot water, and using flea foggers or sprays.


Food allergies

Food allergies are caused by an immune response to certain ingredients in your dog’s diet. The most common food allergens for dogs are beef, chicken, dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, corn, and fish. However, any food can potentially cause an allergy in some dogs.

Food allergies can cause skin problems as well as gastrointestinal issues in dogs. They can also be difficult to diagnose because they can mimic other conditions or be confused with food intolerances.

The only way to confirm a food allergy is to do an elimination diet trial with your vet’s guidance. This involves feeding your dog a novel protein and carbohydrate source that they have never eaten before for at least 8 weeks and observing if their symptoms improve. If they do, then you can gradually reintroduce other foods one by one until you find the culprit.

The treatment for food allergies is to avoid the offending ingredient completely. You may need to switch to a hypoallergenic or prescription diet that is specially formulated for dogs with food allergies. You should also read the labels of any treats, supplements, or medications that you give your dog to make sure they don’t contain the allergen.


Environmental allergens

Environmental allergens are substances that are found in your dog’s surroundings that can trigger an allergic reaction. These include dust, pollen, mold, grass, weeds, trees, insects, and chemicals. These allergens can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.

Environmental allergies are usually seasonal, meaning they only occur at certain times of the year when the allergen is present. However, some dogs may have year-round allergies to indoor allergens such as dust mites or household cleaners.





The treatment for environmental allergies depends on the severity and frequency of the symptoms. Some dogs may benefit from antihistamines, corticosteroids, or immunotherapy injections that can reduce the immune response to the allergen.

Others may need topical treatments such as shampoos, sprays, or creams that can soothe the skin and prevent infections. You can also try to reduce your dog’s exposure to the allergen by keeping them indoors during peak seasons, wiping their paws and coat after walks, and using air filters or humidifiers in your home.


How to diagnose dog allergies with a vet


If you suspect that your dog has allergies, you should consult your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Your vet will ask you about your dog’s medical history, symptoms, diet, and environment. They will also perform a physical exam and look for signs of allergies such as skin lesions, ear infections, or inflammation.

Depending on the type of allergy suspected, your vet may also recommend some tests to confirm the diagnosis. These may include:

  • Skin tests: This involves injecting small amounts of different allergens under your dog’s skin and observing if they cause a reaction. This is usually done for environmental allergies.

  • Blood tests: This involves taking a blood sample from your dog and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. This can detect antibodies to specific allergens in your dog’s blood. This can be done for both food and environmental allergies.

  • Food elimination diet trial: This involves feeding your dog a novel protein and carbohydrate source for at least 8 weeks and monitoring their symptoms. This is usually done for food allergies.

Treatment options for dog allergies


The treatment options for dog allergies vary depending on the type and severity of the allergy. The main goals of treatment are to relieve the symptoms, prevent secondary infections, and avoid or minimize exposure to the allergen.

Some of the common treatment options include:

  • Medications: These include antihistamines, corticosteroids, cyclosporine, apoquel, or biologic drugs that can reduce inflammation and itching. Some of these medications may have side effects or require regular monitoring by your vet.

  • Immunotherapy: This involves injecting small doses of the allergen under your dog’s skin over a period of time to desensitize their immune system and reduce their allergic response. This can be effective for environmental allergies but may take several months or years to work.

  • Hypoallergenic diet: This involves feeding your dog a diet that does not contain any of the ingredients that they are allergic to. This can be effective for food allergies but requires strict adherence and label reading.

  • Topical treatments: These include shampoos, sprays, creams, or wipes that can soothe the skin, reduce itching, and prevent infections. These can be used for any type of allergy but may need to be applied frequently.

  • Supplements: These include omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, or antioxidants that can support your dog’s skin health and immune system. These can be used for any type of allergy but may not be enough by themselves.





Prevention tips and home remedies for dog allergies


While some dog allergies may not be completely preventable, there are some steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of developing them or worsening them. Some of these include:

  • Keeping your dog flea-free by using flea prevention products regularly

  • Avoiding feeding your dog table scraps or human foods that may contain allergens

  • Choosing natural or hypoallergenic products for your dog’s grooming and cleaning

  • Vacuuming and dusting your home frequently to remove allergens

  • Washing your dog’s bedding in hot water weekly

  • Limiting your dog’s outdoor time during high-pollen seasons

  • Wiping your dog’s paws and coat after walks

  • Using an air purifier or humidifier in your home

  • Giving your dog plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated

  • Consulting your vet before giving your dog any over-the-counter medications or supplements

There are also some home remedies that you can try to ease your dog’s allergy symptoms. However, these should not replace professional veterinary care and should only be used as a supplement or temporary relief





Dog allergies are a common condition that can cause discomfort and health problems for your furry friend. However, with proper diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, you can help your dog live a happy and healthy life. If you notice any signs of allergies in your dog, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for advice and assistance.

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