Dog Allergies


Q: Why is my dog constantly scratching?
A: Itching is the most common symptom of allergies in dogs.

Also visit our Cat Allergies page.

What symptoms indicate allergies in dogs?

Allergies are common among dogs, regardless of breed or history. Dogs, like humans, have immune systems that can overreact or be hypersensitive to allergens that consist mainly of proteins from food, plants, bugs, and other animals. This abnormal immune response is an allergy. Allergic reactions can be harmful to a dog’s body because they can manifest as inflammation (swelling, redness, and itching) or respiratory distress.

Itching is the most common symptom of dog allergies, either over the dog’s entire body or in a specific area. Other symptoms can include sneezing, coughing, or labored breathing. A runny discharge from the nose or eyes, vomiting, and diarrhea can also indicate an allergic reaction. Even more serious, asphyxiation or anaphylactic shock (although rare) can occur as a result of allergies.

What can cause and relieve allergies in my dog?

There are four general types of allergens: insect, inhalant, contact, and food.

The main insect allergy is to flea saliva. Just one flea bite can cause a severe allergic reaction called FAD (flea allergy dermatitis). Intense itching, particularly at the base of the tail, can result in loss of hair and even infection when scratching breaks the skin. Talk to your veterinarian about strategies for protecting your dog against fleas. After all, prevention is the best medicine!

Pollens are the most common inhalant allergies in dogs. They include tree, grass, and weed pollens. While human symptoms usually include sneezing and runny nose, the main symptom of inhalant allergies in dogs is most likely to be itchiness (especially at the face, feet, and underarms). But sometimes bronchitis and rhinitis can occur. Your veterinarian can suggest therapies to help control this type of allergy.

Although not as common as the other types of allergy in dogs, contact allergies can result from virtually any substance that comes into contact with a dog’s skin. Chemicals and compounds found in flea collars and pesticides, perfumes and cleaning products, rugs and bedding, can all generate skin irritation and itching where they make contact on your dog. The best remedy is to remove the offending substances from your dog’s environment (once they are identified).

Most dog owners think that their dog couldn't possibly have a food allergy because they haven't changed their dog's diet recently. What they don't know is that most food allergies develop in response to ingredients that their dog has had a lot of exposure to. Food allergies are most commonly diagnosed in young dogs (less than a year and half old) and older dogs (over seven years old). In older dogs, most have been eating the same food for months, years, or even their entire lives.

Meat sources, like beef, chicken (in dogs), and fish (in cats), are the most common pet food ingredients that pets are allergic to. But they can also have allergies to other ingredients such as wheat, corn, soy, eggs, milk, and lamb. Since the symptoms of food allergies include some of the same signs as other types of dog allergies, such as skin, digestive, and respiratory issues, we cannot ignore the possibility that a dog may suffer from multiple types of allergies at the same time. To determine the possibility of a food allergy, a special elimination diet may be recommended by your veterinarian.

The accurate diagnosis of dog allergies is a challenging endeavor. Besides an elimination diet in the case of food allergy, skin and blood tests may also be performed by your veterinarian to help identify allergies. In cases where allergens cannot be identified or removed, allergy relief is still possible through immunotherapy or allergy medication. Rest assured, we are here to help your pet find the relief he or she needs!

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