Does Your Dog Have Allergies?

A lot of pet owners don’t realize that dogs have allergies much like we do. Their allergies just manifest themselves in different ways. For us it might look like sneezing or congestion -- for dogs it often looks like itchiness or red, irritated skin.
Allergies are common in dogs and can be tricky to diagnose, but with your veterinarian’s advice and some persistence, you’ll be able to find some relief for your pup. 

What Causes Dog Allergies?

Your dog’s allergies could be caused by one or more allergens from their environment. It could be a reaction to flea saliva, dust, dust mites, insect bites, or even something as specific as a certain cloth or food ingredient. If your dog only seems to have allergies for part of the year, it could be seasonal allergies to pollen, grass, fleas, mites, or mold. 

Dog with Allergies and Swollen Face

Signs of Allergies

Signs of an Allergy Reaction in your Dog
  • Itchy skin
  • Red or irritated skin
  • Scratching
  • Licking at paws
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Face rubbing
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Fur Loss
  • Skin and ear infections
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting 

Types of Allergies

Dog with Wet Allergic Eyes

Dog allergies are typically categorized as atopic dermatitis, respiratory allergies, and food allergies. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of dog allergy. Allergens your pup comes into contact with can cause an inflammatory response when inhaled or rubbed into the skin. For this type of allergy, your dog will likely exhibit signs of skin irritation, which can become a serious problem over time, leading to issues like raw skin or paws, rashes, bald patches, broken skin, and even infections or lesions.

Respiratory allergies in dogs are similar to human allergies; however, they are not as common in dogs as they are in humans and cats. This type of allergy results from inhaling allergens like pollen or dust. If your pup has respiratory allergies, you may see symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, coughing, or sneezing, and they may only show up seasonally. 

The third category is food allergies, which are also not very common in dogs. Certain signs of reactions to food are easily spotted and include vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues. But unfortunately the majority of food allergy symptoms are similar to the symptoms of atopic dermatitis (itchy skin, etc.) and will require further testing to diagnose. 


What To Do

Small Happy Dog at Vet
Work with your veterinarian to find out what’s at the root of your pup’s reactions and how to best manage them. Your vet will run a variety of tests that may shed some light on the issue. If tests don’t reveal any clear cause for the reaction, your vet will work with you to try different treatment options to find what works. 
    • Get flea problems under control -- and prevent fleas in the first place by regularly using flea medication.
    • Bathe your pup one to two times a week with a gentle, soap-free dog shampoo.
    • Feed your pup a high-quality diet made with healthy ingredients. 
    • Consider replacing your dog’s bed with a hypoallergenic bed resistant to allergens, such as dust mites, and made with hypoallergenic material. Replace it yearly and wash the cover regularly.

    Looking Ahead

    The best way to prevent allergy symptoms in your pup is to avoid the allergen, but (of course) that is no easy feat! Thankfully there are medications and other strategies that can help relieve your pup once you find out what the root cause is. 

    Managing your pup’s allergies will be an ongoing process, but with your vet’s help and some patience, you’ll be able to find a treatment plan that will help, and your buddy will be happier and healthier for it!


    Merck Vet Manual:

    American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF)

    Hill's Pet Nutrition