Understanding and Treating Allergies in Dogs


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Did you know your pet can suffer from allergies just like you? Living out in the country, my dog, Quincy, is exposed to different allergens on a daily basis, whether it’s from plants, dust kicked up from tractors harvesting corn, or even fresh cut grass. When Quincy starts obsessively chewing on her paws, I know something is wrong, and one of the most frustrating parts of having a dog in the family is when they’re hurting and can’t tell us why. Why are you obsessively chewing on your paws? Why are you rubbing your ears against the furniture again? Why are your eyes so watery? If you have ever wanted to ask your pet any of these questions, they might be trying to tell you that they are suffering from allergies.

Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

As your pet’s body struggles to rid itself of unwanted allergens, he or she may display respiratory, digestive, or skin abnormalities that a pet parent must take note of. These symptoms include:

  • Chronic ear infections and itchy, watery eyes
  • Excessive scratching, constant licking, and paw chewing
  • Sneezing and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hot spots

“Hot spots, otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis, are patches of irritation on the skin that are warm, wet and red.  Hot spots grow quickly if left untreated, so it is necessary that your pet see a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible,” says Veterinary Technician Molly Bonacci.

Types of Allergies in Dogs

Allergies in pets can be classified as atopic allergies, contact allergies, or food allergies.

Atopic allergies are the second most common type of allergy dogs develop. Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease caused by reactions to environmental allergens. These allergens are caused by seemingly harmless things that dogs come into contact with on a regular basis through skin contact or inhalation, including the following:

  • Mold and dust mites
  • Pollen, trees, ragweed, and grass
  • Fleas

Contact allergies (known as contact dermatitis) are not as common as atopic and food allergies. In this instance, your dog will show sensitivity to something that has touched his skin, which can cause dry, itchy skin. Causes of contact allergies include:

  • Salt on a road
  • Poison ivy
  • Carpet fibers and rugs
  • Lawn chemicals, floor wax, and household cleaning supplies
  • Insecticides

The most common allergy in dogs, food allergies, account for up to 15% of allergy cases in pets.  Some foods have been commonly associated with allergic reactions in dogs, including:

  • Pork, chicken, and beef
  • Corn, soy, and wheat
  • Dairy

Diagnosis and Treatment of Allergies in Dogs

Allergies in your dog can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian, and the course of action will depend on what kind of allergy is diagnosed. The first action often includes avoidance therapy. For example, if atopic allergies are suspected, your veterinarian may recommend avoiding walks in long grass, going outdoors for long periods of time, and contact with carpeting.

With food allergies, an “elimination diet” in which potential allergens are gradually removed from the dog’s diet may be recommended. During this process, which may take as long as 12 weeks, the dog’s diet will be limited to a single protein and carbohydrate (like chicken and rice) at any given time.  Keeping a food journal is recommended in this stage, so a veterinarian can keep track of the reactions your dog may have.

Topical therapy, in the form of anti-itch solutions or regular baths with hypoallergenic shampoos, may provide short term relief. Weekly or twice-weekly baths are not a cure, but do provide relief during treatment. Baths with a moisturizing shampoo soothe the skin and add shine to the coat, as well as remove dirt and debris that may cause itching.

Supplements have also been used to improve coat quality, particularly omega-3 fatty acids (like fish oil) and biotin. While biotin supports healthy skin and hair, one of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, EPA, supports skin health.

More intensive treatment may be directed by a veterinarian, including the use of antihistamines (like Benadryl), prescription allergy medication (like Apoquel and Temaril P), or even steroids if the allergy is serious enough. Steroids come in both injectable and tablet form, and are typically reserved for the most debilitating allergy cases.

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7 Comments

  1. Grace scott
    Posted December 29, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    My son has dogs, so i would to help him with them

  2. Posted January 17, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    jack pug has all these symptoms!! have to try this over cutting human allergie meds to put in her food~~~

  3. Marcia
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Prior to getting my 3rd pit bull I didn’t know that pit bulls have devastating skin allergies. I even took my Mindy to a Canine Dermatologist! She suffered so much I “put her to sleep” to end her itchy welts and rashes. There were more allergens than I could avoid, indoors and outdoors. I miss her so much. Maybe you would have saved her life with this.

    • New Mexico Glo
      Posted April 1, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Hi Marcia, I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Mindy. It’s hard to know what to do sometimes, and we do what we feel is best. I am curious, did you know that a lot of dogs are highly allergic to corn, one of the most common ingredients in a lot of commercial dog foods? I used to have a pit bull who had nasty ears for a very long time, and all it took to get rid of them was a couple bags of a grain free dog food. Since then, I have switched to home cooked, whole food for my dogs, so know exactly what they eat, but still run across the occasional allergy when I try something new in their meals with one my dogs who has a very sensitive tummy. It does make it a lot easier to identify the allergen this way! Just like us, dogs need high quality nutrition, not hard, extruded fast food. I wish you all the best with any new (or current) fur babies. :-)

  4. Pam
    Posted April 1, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I have a Collie that has severe stomach issues like upset stomach and gurgling. She’s allergic to meat, grains, gluten and some vegetables.
    We had her allergy tested at the vet and that’s what was found. Also environmental allergies like grass, etc.
    she can eat only one dog food (grain free-gluten free chicken or turkey with potatoes. It’s a dry food.) and I give her NaTurvet enzymes with probiotics powder. I mix it in her food every morning and in a week no more stomached issues! Also no more skin allergies or upset stomach or diarrhea!!! This product is fantastic!!! She’s been in it for over a year and has never had any stomach or allergy problems.
    This truly is a remarkable product.

  5. Lisa
    Posted April 1, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    You didn’t mention the importance of probiotics for allergy relief. It helps boost the immune system. Please do your research before using prescribed drugs as many cause more harm than good. I have a lab/pit bull that developed allergies and joint problems after receiving the full set of shots recommended by his vet.

  6. Sharon garvey
    Posted April 3, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    My kitty has asthma. I have taken him in for shots twice. Last November and last week. The shot only lasted five weeks last fall. These shots contain steroids. Is there any other option.

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