Dog Allergy Symptoms to Look for This Fall

dog allergies

Has your dog been itching or scratching more than usual? Itching and scratching are common dog allergy symptoms. Yes, dogs can have allergies just like humans. According to PetMD, “Allergies are common in dogs—in fact, they are one of the top reasons for veterinary appointments.”

The problem is that many dog allergy symptoms mimic other health issues, which makes it hard to diagnose. If you suffer from allergies, you understand. Sometimes a runny nose is due to allergies, and other times it is the start of a common cold.

That’s why we are taking time today to share the basics about common dog allergies and discussing what you should do if you suspect this is an issue for your four-legged family member.

Common Dog Allergies

According to the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), “Allergies are intense sensitivities to triggers found in normal environments such as pollen or dust.  Normally these items are not harmful to dogs, but some individuals react to the substances as dangerous.  The immune system responds to the perceived threat by releasing histamines that cause inflammation, swelling and itching symptoms.”

There are three common dog allergies: skin, environmental, and food.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) claims, “Skin allergies, called allergic dermatitis, are the most common type of allergic reactions in dogs.” Unfortunately, one of the most common skin allergies for dogs is caused by flea bites. A dog suffering from flea allergy dermatitis will react to just one single flea bite. One bite will cause your dog to itch, chew, and scratch at the bite spot. That’s why flea preventatives are so important.

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from environmental allergens, such as dust, pollen, and mold. Also, like humans, it is common for dog allergy symptoms to begin as a result of the season – in other words, your dog can suffer from seasonal allergies just like you. With environmental allergies, your dog will itch or scratch in certain environments or at certain times of the year, such as when the pollen count is high.

Also, like humans, dogs can have food allergies. However, dog food allergy symptoms are uncommon and only make up about 10% of allergies or less in dogs. Often, dog owners mistakenly believe their dog is allergic to a certain food, but their dog may just have a food sensitivity. The AKC explains, “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.” Food sensitivity does not involve an immune response.

In addition to these three common dog allergies, a small number of dogs can have acute allergic reactions, such as having severe reactions to bee stings or vaccines. If a dog has an acute allergic reaction, the dog can go into anaphylactic shock. To be clear, veterinarians say this is exceedingly rare.

Dog Allergy Symptoms

Most often, dog allergy symptoms include itching, scratching, and biting. However, these are reactions to how their immune system is responding to the allergen.

Here are dog allergy symptoms to look for according to Smarty Paws Health:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Respiratory congestion
  • Itchy flaky skin
  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Ear infections
  • Shaking their head and scratching one or both ears
  • Smelly and/or “dirty” ears
  • Licking of the paws and anus
  • Patchy skin or skin irregularities

Generally, dogs tend to experience issues around their ears and paws, but they may also experience issues eyes, ankles, groin, or underarms.

The problem with these dog allergy symptoms that are caused by skin or environmental allergies is that they often lead to secondary issues. As the dog scratches to relieve the pain or itch, he or she runs the risks of getting another infection.

Dog Food Allergy Symptoms

While there is some overlap with dog allergy symptoms, you may notice different symptoms if your dog is suffering from a food allergy.

Here are dog food allergy symptoms:

  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Facial Swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

According to Chewy, “A study published in 2016 found that the most common triggers for dog food allergies are beef, dairy products, chicken and wheat.”

What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog Has Allergies

If you think your dog may have allergies, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to diagnose dog allergies. The easiest allergy to diagnose is flea allergy dermatitis because the dog owner or the vet can see fleas on the dog’s skin or flea bites.

If it is not a case of flea allergy dermatitis, then the veterinarian may recommend allergy testing after eliminating other possible causes for itching. Unfortunately, this type of testing for dogs doesn’t always yield helpful results. The tests don’t work as effectively for dogs as they do humans, and they don’t necessarily identify the allergen. For example, the test may tell you that your dog has allergies but not say to what.  

If your veterinarian suspects a food allergy, then you will begin with an elimination diet. WebMD explains, “A dog is fed one protein and one carbohydrate for 8 to 12 weeks. For example, if your dog follows a beef and wheat diet, the vet may have you switch to salmon and rice to see if the symptoms go away.” An elimination diet needs to be performed with guidance from your veterinarian.

How to Treat Dog Allergy Symptoms

How you treat dog allergy symptoms depends largely on the type of allergy. As mentioned above, food allergies will likely be treated using an elimination diet so you can identify the ingredient causing the issue. A skin allergy due to fleas can be treated with a ‘rapid kill’ flea treatment by your veterinarian. Environmental allergies may be treated with antihistamines or medicated shampoos.

Please seek guidance from your veterinarian for all of these treatment options to avoid adverse side effects. For example, you should never give your dog human antihistamines, such as Benadryl, without consulting your veterinarian for the correct dosage.