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Allergies in Dogs: Causes, Signs & Treatment

Written by: Dean Eby

Last Updated on April 26, 2024 by Dogster Team

sick dog

Allergies in Dogs: Causes, Signs & Treatment

For most people, part of every year involves buying extra tissues as the nose starts to alternate between running and stuffing up and sneezes become a regular occurrence. But allergies affect more than just humans. In fact, many of the same things that cause allergies in people can cause allergies in dogs too. So, if you notice your dog frequently sneezing, they’re probably suffering from allergies just like you.

Of course, you don’t want your dog to needlessly suffer, and you want to make sure they’re really suffering from allergies and not an undiagnosed underlying disease. Therefore, you need to understand what allergies look like in dogs, what causes them, and how to treat them. In this article, we cover all these important topics so you’re prepared to deal with your dog’s allergies whenever they arise.Dogster_Website dividers_v1_Jan 18 2024-01-TEST

What Are Allergies in Dogs?

Allergies are reactions caused by certain substances known as allergens. Allergens come in many forms, most often produced by plants, animals, insects, or foods. Continued exposure to an allergen causes a sensitivity to it in the immune system, resulting in an overreaction when the same allergen is introduced again in the future.

sick dog
Image By: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

Three Types of Allergies in Dogs

Dogs can have allergies in three main varieties, depending on what caused the reaction. Unfortunately, sometimes the signs that these types of allergies present can overlap, making it more difficult to pinpoint a specific cause.

Food Allergies

Food allergies aren’t as common as many dog owners believe. You’ll often hear people talking about their dog’s food allergies, but generally, these are sensitivities and not allergies. There’s no immune response to a food intolerance like there is with a true food allergy. Instead, a food tolerance creates a gradual reaction. A food allergy can result in vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, and infections of the ear or foot.

Skin Allergies

A skin allergy is also known as allergic dermatitis, and this is the most common allergic reaction in dogs. Ironically, skin allergies can be caused by food and environmental allergens, which makes it difficult to know when you’re dealing with a true skin allergy or just clinical signs from another type of allergy.

Skin allergies can also be caused by flea allergy dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction caused by flea saliva. The bites from fleas will make these dogs itchy, with signs of skin rash. Environmental allergens can also result in atopic dermatitis.

Environmental Allergies

Usually, environmental allergies are seasonal. This category includes things like dust and pollen allergens, which cause allergic reactions in many humans and dogs.

Austrian black and tan hound-dog-eating-the-grass_Shutterstock_Wirestock Images
Image Credit: Wirestock Images, Shutterstock

What Is an Acute Allergic Reaction?

This is often the most worrisome type of allergic reaction. This severe and immediate reaction can become fatal if treatment is not administered quickly. Similar to humans, dogs can go into anaphylactic shock in such situations, though this is rather rare with canines. Sometimes, this type of reaction is caused by routine vaccinations or insect stings like bees. If one happens to a dog, you’ll probably notice swelling of the face, eyes, and lips, just like you might see in a person. A vet can treat this with antihistamines, and it’s rarely fatal.

Common Allergy Signs in Dogs

Many of the common allergy signs that dogs present can be caused by any of the three types of allergies that dogs can suffer from. This makes it challenging to diagnose the particular cause of the allergy, though it’s relatively easy to pick out the signs of allergies in general. That said, a few of these signs can also present from other conditions that aren’t related to allergies at all, so you’ll want to get a vet’s opinion for a proper diagnosis.

sick dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: EugeneEdge, Shutterstock
The most common signs of allergies in dogs include:
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive licking
  • Red skin
  • Swelling around the face
  • Hives
  • Diarrhea

How to Diagnose Allergies in Dogs

Since many of the allergy signs in dogs are similar to those that they might present for other conditions, you’ll want to get a professional prognosis if you think that your dog has allergies. A veterinarian can test for specific allergies, rather than you simply guessing. Granted, these tests aren’t always accurate, and it can still be difficult to pinpoint a cause. That said, some allergies are easier to identify than others, such as flea allergy dermatitis, which is considered the easiest to diagnose.

sick dog_Christin Lola_Shuuterstock
Image Credit: Christin Lola, Shutterstock

Treatments for Allergies in Dogs

Several treatments are available for dogs with allergies, and the one that your dog needs depends on what is causing their allergies. For example, a flea shampoo might solve allergic reactions to flea allergy dermatitis by killing off the fleas, though this wouldn’t do anything for a food allergy. Once your veterinarian diagnoses your dog’s allergies, they can suggest a method of treatment that will be effective for the specific allergies that your dog is experiencing. For instance, food allergies might require a change in diet. Other allergies might simply require you to administer allergy relief medication to your dog regularly.

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Final Thoughts

Allergies are incredibly common in canines, and there’s no reason to worry if your dog is experiencing allergy signs like sneezing, runny eyes, itchiness, and rashes. Usually, these conditions aren’t serious and they can be treated quite easily. However, you’ll want to get your vet’s opinion first to make sure it’s really allergies that your dog is suffering from and not an underlying condition that’s undiagnosed. Once allergies are determined to be the problem, your vet can suggest a treatment path to help alleviate the clinical signs and get your dog back to full health.

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Featured Image Credit: MeHe, Pixabay

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