Allergies in Dogs: Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

If you have allergies, you know how annoying they can be and how they can really affect day to day life if you don’t have the proper medication to keep them under control. Lucky for us humans, we can help ourselves. Not so lucky for our dogs, who rely on us to notice the signs – that usually go unnoticed – and get them help. 

Maybe your dog has allergies, or you know a friend’s pup that has allergies. Either way, you’ve probably realised that dog allergies are just as much of a hassle as human allergies are! Here we detail everything you need to know about dog allergies – types, symptoms, diagnosing, and finally how to treat them.

dog with allergies itching face

Types of Allergies in Dogs

There are three main areas that cause allergies in dogs – skin allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergens. We’re going to break down each of these, but it is important to point out that some of these symptoms overlap, so diagnosis requires a vet’s opinion.

Skin allergies in dogs are the most common type of allergic reaction and can be caused by three main causes: Flea allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergens.

Flea allergies are simply an allergic reaction to flea bites. If your dog is allergic to their saliva it can cause a reaction that makes them extremely itchy; their skin can become red, inflamed, and scabbed. You may notice they are extra itchy around their tail or even see fleas or flea dirt on your dog.

If your dog has a food allergy, you may notice them itching their ears and paws more than normal as well as having itchy skin and/or gastrointestinal symptoms.

Just like your everyday human allergies, dogs can experience allergic reactions to environmental allergens like dust, pollen, and mold. Also, like in humans, these allergies are usually seasonal, so you may only notice your dogs symptoms at certain times of the year. Usually, the paws and ears are the itchiest, but symptoms can also include itchy eyes, wrists, muzzle, ankles, underarms, groin, and in between the toes.

dog with food sensitivity eating dinner

True food allergies

Here we are talking about true food allergies, not food intolerance or food sensitivity. If your dog has a true allergy, they will have an immune response when that food is consumed and will result with symptoms of all or some of the following: hives, facial swelling, itchiness, vomiting, and diarrhea.

There are a lot of dogs who have gradual reactions to some ingredient in your dog’s food, but that reaction does not involve an immune response. This is what a food sensitivity is, and it can escalate to vomiting or diarrhea, itchy skin, poor coat, or chronic ear or foot infections.

Acute Allergic Reactions

Dogs can go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen, which can be fatal if not treated. The most common causes of this are bee stings and vaccine reactions, so it is very important to keep an eye on your dog after they receive a new vaccination, drug, or food item. Thankfully these types of reactions are rare in dogs. While other symptoms from bee stings and vaccines can develop (hives or facial swelling in the face, throat, lips, eyelids, or earflaps) and look alarming, they are very rarely fatal and easily treated by your vet. 

Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

The following symptoms can be a sign of an allergic reaction:

  • Constant licking
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy ears
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Hives
  • Itchiness
dog with allergies in spring

Diagnosing Allergies in Dogs

Your vet is most likely going to rule out any other conditions before testing for allergies. When they do test for allergies, keep in mind that it is not always possible to determine the cause of an allergy with testing.

Food allergies will usually be diagnosed by using an elimination diet: a food trial consisting of feeding a dog one source of protein and carbohydrates for 12 weeks.

Flea allergy dermatitis can usually be easily diagnosed – your vet will look for signs of fleas on your dog and then apply a product that will kill fleas before they bite to see if this solves the issue.

Treating Allergies in Dogs

Depending on the allergy, you may need to seek medical assistance for treatment. Generally, the best way to treat allergies is to avoid the cause and the allergen, which isn’t possible sometimes. If an allergy is diagnosed, your vet will let you know the best way to treat it. They will most likely prescribe medication to control itching and any skin infections that may appear.

Always remember that over itching, biting, or scratching, can risk opening up your dog’s skin that can lead to a yeast or bacterial infection that would require treatment. Also, note that some of these symptoms can also be a sign of other conditions; consulting your vet is always the best decision before jumping to a conclusion. If your dog is having a severe allergic reaction, you’ll want to take him to an emergency vet hospital as quickly as possible.

dog with flea allergies itching behind ear

Some people aren’t aware that their dog has allergies and they could be suffering in silence. Share this article to help make all dog owners aware of the symptoms and how to deal with it.