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What Allergies Can Dogs Have? (See What The Vet Says)

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Majid Tanveer, DVM

Allergies in dogs are pretty standard, but many dog owners don’t realize that their furry friends can suffer from allergies just like we do. Though practically anything could cause an allergic reaction in your pup, some common triggers occur more often than others.

As a veterinarian and lifelong dog owner, I know that allergies can cause a great deal of discomfort and disruption to your dog’s life. So it is vital to know what allergies your pet may have.

Dogs can be allergic to fleas, dust mites, pollen, mold, specific proteins (like beef and dairy), and environmental irritants. Symptoms of allergies may include sneezing, itching (especially around the face and paws), red or irritated eyes, and skin lesions. Treatment involves avoiding the allergen and providing medication to reduce symptoms.

Let’s look at some of the more common allergies dogs can suffer from and the treatment options available. 

What Is an Allergy?

An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a normally harmless substance called an allergen. Allergens are proteins derived from plants, animals, insects, or foods. They can cause an array of reactions in the body.

When a dog comes into contact with this allergen, its immune system mistakenly identifies it as a threat and produces antibodies to fight it off. This process causes inflammation and other allergic reactions such as sneezing, coughing, itching, red or irritated eyes, skin lesions, hot spots on their skin, and vomiting.

Types of Allergies in Dogs

Dogs may be allergic to anything from pollen to food and even environmental triggers like household chemicals and dust mites – it’s like a Venn diagram. 

Allergens are generally categorized into three main groups (insect bites, food, and environmental). However, dogs have been known to experience sensitivities that fit the criteria in multiple categories. 

Consequently, evaluating all potential elements within each group is essential if you believe your furry friend is suffering from an allergy or allergies.

1.Insect Bite Allergies

Hypersensitive dogs may endure an excessive inflammatory response to the sting or bite of certain insects, arachnids, and fleas. Such pests include but are not limited to:

  • Deerflies
  • Blackflies
  • Horseflies
  • Ants
  • Mosquitoes
  • Bees
  • Wasps
  • Hornets

Common signs of an insect bite allergy in dogs include:

  • Itching, redness, and swelling at the site of the bite
  • Hair loss or bald patches on the skin due to excessive scratching
  • Hot spots caused by biting, licking, or scratching
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea

2. Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea saliva is the most frequent allergy-inducing agent in canines, referred to as FAD (flea allergy dermatitis). 

Dogs may feel some minor irritation around regions of a bite. A FAD dog, however, will act with extreme itchiness upon an individual bite and could repeatedly be seen biting or scratching themselves while removing large clumps of hair primarily at:

  • The base of the tail
  • Back legs
  • Belly
  • Groin area

Unfortunately, this intense itching might lead to worsening issues such as bacterial infection in the damaged skin areas.

3. Food Allergies

Food allergies in dogs develop when they consume food or ingredient – their immune system incorrectly recognizes them as a threat. The body produces antibodies to fight it off and causes inflammation in response. Common culprits of food allergies in dogs include:

  • Dairy products
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy

Common signs of a food allergy include:

  • Itching around the face and paws
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Skin lesions
  • Excessive scratching, rubbing, or licking of the body
  • Hot spots
  • Hair loss
  • Poor skin and coat
  • Chronic foot or ear infections

4. Atopy (Inhalant Allergies) or Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies, also known as atopy, are caused by exposure to pollen, mold, dust mites, and other airborne allergens. These types of allergies can cause your pup to suffer from a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy skin
  • Red eyes and other 
  • Skin lesions

5. Contact Allergies

Contact allergies are caused when a dog’s skin comes in contact with an irritant or allergen, such as:

  • Certain types of fabrics
  • Carpet cleaners
  • Shampoos
  • Flea collars

Symptoms of contact allergies may include redness or irritation on the skin where the contact occurred.

6. Drug Allergies

Drug allergies are caused by exposure to certain medications, either through an injection or ingestion. 

Symptoms of drug allergies may include itchy and inflamed skin, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures. 

Diagnosis of Allergies in Dogs

To diagnose allergies in your pet, the veterinarian will start by taking a detailed history from you about their diet, parasites, etc. Then they will do a physical examination and focus on the skin and any lesions or other areas of concern. 

After this, they can begin to eliminate different groups of potential allergens until they identify the source of the allergy. This helps them provide your dog with the best allergy treatment options.

Test for Skin Sarasites 

To confirm the presence of skin parasites, simple tests are performed, such as:

  • Coat brushing
  • Hair plucks
  • Skin scrapes

Once collected, these samples are further examined under a microscope, allowing us to spot any potential parasites.

In certain instances, however, more extensive testing is necessary. For example, we must collect blood samples shipped to an external laboratory to detect fox mange.

Test for Food Allergies

The most reliable method is to undertake a diet trial to diagnose food allergies accurately. This means introducing your pup to a new protein source like kangaroo or rabbit that they have not taken before and removing all other present foods for at least 8-12 weeks. 

If the symptoms improve during this period, your pup likely has a food allergy.

Test For Atopic Dermatitis

Knowing what your pet is allergic to in its surroundings can be challenging, but two tests can help. These tests are usually done on younger and middle-aged dogs, and they can give you helpful information so that you can reduce the amount of exposure and stop the symptoms from coming back.

Blood Test

The allergy blood test requires collecting a few drops of blood from your pet and sending it off to be tested for antigens associated with atopic dermatitis. This test can provide valuable information about which allergens are causing an allergic reaction in your pet.

Allergy Skin Test

In an allergy skin test,  the vet uses small needles to inject tiny amounts of antigens into your pet’s skin. If a particular allergen causes a reaction, it will be evident on the skin and can be identified as the cause of your pet’s allergy. 

This test is more invasive than the allergy blood test, but it can provide valuable information about what allergens may be causing your pet’s atopic dermatitis.

Treatment of Allergies in Dog

Treating allergies in dogs will often depend on the type of allergy and the severity of symptoms. Treating any allergy reduces inflammation and relieves itching and other uncomfortable symptoms your dog may experience. 

It may include avoiding contact with the allergen, using medications to reduce inflammation, and providing supplements to relieve symptoms.

1. Avoid Contact with Allergens

One of the most important strategies for treating dogs’ allergies is avoiding contact with allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, and other environmental triggers.

This may involve keeping your pet indoors during high-allergen times, such as during the spring season. You should also keep your pet away from areas containing allergens, such as those close to certain trees or plants.

Taking steps to reduce allergens in the home can also be helpful. Vacuuming regularly and washing bedding will help reduce contact with dust mites and other potential allergens.

2. Anti-Inflammatory Medicine

Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as corticosteroids or cyclosporine, can help reduce inflammation caused by allergies in dogs.

These medications can be administered orally and topically, depending on the severity of your pet’s allergy symptoms.

Other medications, such as antihistamines, may be prescribed if these treatments are insufficient.

3. Special Shampoo

Shampoo is another option for treating allergies in dogs and can help reduce inflammation and itching caused by allergens.

Various shampoos are available specifically designed for treating allergies, but it is essential to find one that suits your pup’s needs.

4. Hyposensitization or Desensitization Therapy

Hyposensitization or desensitization therapy is one of the more effective treatments for allergies in dogs. It involves gradually administering a small dose of allergen to your pup over time.

This helps slowly build up his tolerance to the allergen, making it less of a problem for him. It is important to note that this treatment should only be administered under the guidance of a veterinarian, as it can have serious side effects if done incorrectly.

5. Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional therapy is another option that can help reduce allergy symptoms in dogs. A balanced diet, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, can help strengthen your pup’s immune system and reduce inflammation caused by allergens.

Consulting with a veterinarian to determine the best nutritional plan for your pet is recommended. You can also discuss dietary supplements that may help improve the health of your pet’s skin and

Managing dog allergies can take time and dedication to find the best treatment for your pet. Ultimately, it is essential to consult with your veterinarian before beginning any allergy treatment plan to ensure it is the right choice for your pet.

How to Prevent Allergies in Dogs

You can take steps to reduce the possibility of your puppy developing allergies:

  • Regularly vacuum and dust your home to cut down on indoor allergens and keep your pup’s bedding clean. 
  • Inspect your pet often for any signs of infestations from fleas, ticks, and mites which can cause skin irritation and allergies in dogs. 
  • Try to bathe and groom your four-legged friend regularly to reduce contact with allergens; use a mild shampoo and rinse carefully to prevent skin irritation. 
  • Feeding your pup healthy foods like lean meats, fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains can also help stave off allergies. 
  • It is wise to take your dog to the vet regularly. This will help identify potential allergy triggers and advise how to prevent and manage allergies in your dog.

Pet Care Tip: Watch this video to learn more about dog allergies. Learn how easy it is to stop your dog’s itch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a grass allergy look like on a dog?

A grass allergy in a dog typically presents itself as skin irritation, redness, and itching. Other symptoms can include bumps or hives, scabbing on the skin, inflamed and runny eyes, coughing or sneezing, and hair loss.

What human food can I give my dog for allergies?

Several human foods can be given to dogs with allergies. Healthy options include cooked white rice, sweet potatoes, egg whites, and canned pumpkins. Low-fat cottage cheese, unsalted nuts such as almonds or cashews, and boiled skinless chicken are other nutritious choices for feeding your pet.

Can I give my dog human Benadryl?

Yes, you can give your dog Benadryl, but it is essential to check with your veterinarian first for the appropriate dosage. The typical dose of Benadryl for dogs is 0.9-1.8 mg per pound of weight given every 8-12 hours.