Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatments

It is very rare to meet somebody who doesn’t love a four-legged companion. In fact, as of 2020, over half of Americans own at least one dog. For those that have them, dogs are an essential part of their daily lives. Dogs are truly a man’s best friend, whether you need a cuddly lap dog or a buddy to go running with. However, many dog owners deal with a few negative aspects of dog ownership. There are the typical expectations in dog maintenance: vaccinations, grooming, food. However, some owners may notice their dogs struggling with unexpected allergies.

If you think your dog may have an allergy that’s negatively affecting their health, check out these symptoms and treatments.


What are Dog Allergies?

An allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Usually, allergens are proteins from plants, insects, animals, or foods. These allergies can present themselves in different ways. They could be the food your dog consumes or an environmental irritant. Your dog could have a digestive reaction to an allergen or a skin reaction. In more extreme cases, your dog could also suffer from an extreme and severe allergic reaction that poses a threat to their life. Normally the immune system protects the dog against infection and disease, but with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body.

If you’re not sure whether you should take your pooch to the vet, keep reading to see if they are exhibiting allergy symptoms.


Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

The good news is: allergies are extremely common in dogs of all sizes and breeds. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age, with the majority of affected dogs over age one or two. most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin, either localized to one spot or generalized to the entire body. Much like humans, sometimes the symptoms involve the respiratory system (i.e. coughing, sneezing, wheezing). Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from the eyes or nose. In other cases, such as with food allergies, the symptoms affect the digestive system where diarrhea or vomiting could occur.

Here are a list of general allergy symptoms in dogs:

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


Skin Allergies 

Skin allergies ( allergic dermatitis) are the most common type of allergic reactions in dogs. Flea allergy dermatitis, is an allergic reaction caused by flea saliva. When a flea bites a dog, it gets tiny amounts of saliva on the dog’s skin. This creates a reaction for dogs allergic to flea saliva and can cause itching, redness, and scabbing. The second cause of skin allergies is often associated with food. The most common places dogs with food allergies itch are their ears and their paws, and this may be accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms.

Finally, environmental allergens can cause various reactions within dogs. Just like in humans, dogs can suffer with allergies to dust, pollen and mold. Sometimes, your dog can just suffer from seasonal allergies, so you could notice your dog reacting to allergens at a certain time of year. But reactions can be atopic – where it also occurs on the skin. As with food allergies, the most commonly affected areas are the paws and ears (but also include the wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and in between the toes).


Food Allergies

According to some veterinarians, food allergies may not be as common in dogs as previously believed. According to the American Kennel Club, “True food allergies result in an immune response, which can range in symptoms from skin conditions (hives, facial swelling, itchiness), gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and/or diarrhea) or a combination of both. In some rare cases, a severe reaction resulting in anaphylaxis can occur—similar to severe peanut allergies in humans.”

Oftentimes, instead of your dog suffering from a true allergy, they may suffer from food sensitivities instead. You may be wondering what the difference is and why we are being so particular. Well, remember, that an allergic reaction is an immune response. However, a food sensitivity does not trigger an immune response, it is a gradual reaction. Usually because of a specific ingredient in your dog’s food. (beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, milk, etc.)

When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s best to work closely with a veterinarian to determine a course of treatment or if a diet needs to be changed.