What to Do When Your Dog Has Allergies?

What to Do When Your Dog Has Allergies?

Dogs are not immune to allergies, just like humans. If your furry friend is constantly scratching, sneezing, or showing signs of discomfort, they may be suffering from allergies. Allergies in dogs can be caused by various factors, including food, environmental elements, or even certain medications. But how can you handle allergies in your dog?

When your dog has allergies, the first crucial step is to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Once the type of allergy is identified, whether it's food, environmental, or flea-related, you can take targeted steps to manage the condition. This typically involves allergen avoidance strategies, such as changing your dog's diet for food allergies, minimizing exposure to environmental allergens, and maintaining strict flea control measures. Medications prescribed by your vet, like antihistamines or corticosteroids, can help alleviate symptoms, and in severe cases, allergen-specific immunotherapy may be recommended.

Understanding Allergies in Dogs

Before diving into what to do when your dog has allergies, it's essential to understand what allergies are and how they affect your four-legged friend. Allergies in dogs are abnormal reactions to substances that are typically harmless. These substances are known as allergens and can be found in various forms, such as pollen, dust mites, certain foods, or even flea saliva.

Allergies in dogs are broadly classified into three main categories:

Food Allergies

Food allergies are caused by an adverse reaction to specific ingredients in your dog's diet. Common food allergens for dogs include proteins like beef, chicken, dairy products, and grains such as wheat and corn. It's important to note that food intolerances are different from food allergies. Food intolerances generally result in digestive issues, while food allergies can cause skin problems and itching.

Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies, also known as atopic dermatitis, are triggered by environmental factors such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, or even certain types of grasses. These allergies often manifest as skin issues, including itching, redness, and hot spots. Dogs can be allergic to a wide range of environmental allergens, making it challenging to pinpoint the exact cause.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergies are among the most common allergies in dogs. These allergies are not caused by the flea bite itself but rather by the proteins found in flea saliva. Even a single flea bite can trigger an intense allergic reaction in a sensitive dog, leading to severe itching, skin irritation, and discomfort.


What are the Symptoms of Dog Allergies?

To help your dog when they have allergies, it's crucial to recognize the symptoms early. Allergies in dogs can present with various signs, and these symptoms may vary depending on the type of allergy your dog is experiencing. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

Excessive Scratching and Itching

One of the most apparent signs of allergies in dogs is excessive scratching and itching. Your dog may scratch, chew, or bite at their skin, paws, or ears in an attempt to relieve the discomfort caused by allergies.

Skin Irritation

Allergies often lead to skin issues such as redness, inflammation, and rashes. You may notice that your dog's skin becomes dry, scaly, or develops hot spots – localized areas of intense itching and irritation.

Ear Infections

Dogs with allergies are more prone to ear infections. If your dog frequently shakes their head, scratches their ears, or you notice an unpleasant odor coming from their ears, it could be a sign of an allergic reaction.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Food allergies can cause gastrointestinal problems in dogs. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, and an upset stomach. If you notice these signs alongside skin issues, it's worth considering the possibility of food allergies.

Sneezing and Watery Eyes

Environmental allergies often manifest as respiratory symptoms, including sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes. If your dog exhibits these signs primarily during specific seasons, it may indicate seasonal allergies.

Hair Loss

Chronic scratching and itching can lead to hair loss in affected areas. If you notice bald patches or thinning fur in specific spots, it could be due to allergies.

Licking of Paws

Dogs with allergies may lick their paws excessively. This behavior can lead to red, inflamed paws and may be a sign of both food and environmental allergies.

Changes in Behavior

Allergies can make dogs uncomfortable and irritable. You may notice changes in your dog's behavior, such as increased restlessness or irritability.

If you observe any of these symptoms in your dog, it's crucial to consult with your veterinarian. Proper diagnosis is essential for determining the type of allergy your dog is experiencing and developing an appropriate treatment plan.


How are Allergies in Dogs Diagnosed?

When you suspect that your dog has allergies, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough diagnostic process to pinpoint the allergen responsible for your dog's discomfort. Here's what you can expect during this process:

History and Physical Examination

Your veterinarian will start by taking a detailed history of your dog's symptoms, including when they first appeared and their progression. A physical examination will also be performed to assess your dog's overall health and any skin issues or signs of allergies.

Allergy Testing

There are two primary methods for allergy testing in dogs:

  • Intradermal Skin Testing: In this test, small amounts of suspected allergens are injected under your dog's skin, usually on their side. The veterinarian will then monitor your dog's skin reaction to each allergen. This method is more invasive but provides accurate results.
  • Blood Testing: Blood tests can identify specific antibodies related to allergies in your dog's bloodstream. While less invasive than skin testing, blood tests may not be as precise.

Elimination Diet

For suspected food allergies, your veterinarian may recommend an elimination diet. This involves feeding your dog a special hypoallergenic diet containing novel proteins and carbohydrates that your dog has never consumed before. If the symptoms improve during the elimination diet, it suggests a food allergy.

Allergy Challenges

In some cases, your veterinarian may perform allergy challenges, where your dog is exposed to suspected allergens under controlled conditions to observe their reactions. This method is less commonly used but can be helpful in challenging cases.

Flea Control

If flea allergy dermatitis is suspected, your veterinarian will recommend thorough flea control measures. This includes flea prevention products for your dog and treating your home and yard to eliminate fleas.

Once your veterinarian has identified the specific allergen(s) causing your dog's symptoms, they can create a personalized treatment plan to manage your dog's allergies effectively.


How to Manage Your Dog's Allergies

Managing your dog's allergies involves a combination of strategies to reduce exposure to allergens and alleviate their symptoms. Here are some steps you can take to help your furry friend feel more comfortable:

Allergen Avoidance

Depending on the type of allergy your dog has, allergen avoidance may be the most effective way to manage their symptoms. Here are some allergen-specific avoidance strategies:

  • Food Allergies: If your dog has food allergies, eliminate the offending ingredient(s) from their diet. Switch to a hypoallergenic or limited-ingredient dog food recommended by your veterinarian. Avoid feeding your dog table scraps or treats that contain allergens.
  • Environmental Allergies: Minimize your dog's exposure to environmental allergens. Keep your home clean by regularly vacuuming and using air purifiers. Wash your dog's bedding frequently, and consider using allergen-proof covers on their bed. Keep your dog indoors during peak pollen seasons or when allergen levels are high.
  • Flea Allergies: Maintain a strict flea prevention regimen for your dog. Use flea prevention products recommended by your veterinarian, and regularly check your dog for fleas. Treat your home and yard for fleas as needed.


Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to help manage your dog's allergy symptoms. Common medications for dogs with allergies include:

  • Antihistamines: These drugs can help alleviate itching and sneezing in dogs. They are generally safe and have few side effects.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs that can provide rapid relief from allergy symptoms. However, they should be used with caution due to potential side effects when used long-term.
  • Immunosuppressive Drugs: In severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend immunosuppressive drugs like cyclosporine or Atopica to control allergies. These drugs work by suppressing the immune response that causes allergic reactions.

Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)

Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots or sublingual drops, is a long-term treatment option for dogs with allergies. It involves administering small amounts of the allergen to your dog in gradually increasing doses. Over time, this can help desensitize your dog's immune system to the allergen, reducing the severity of their allergic reactions. Immunotherapy is typically reserved for cases where allergen avoidance and medications alone are insufficient.

Topical Treatments

For dogs with skin issues related to allergies, your veterinarian may recommend topical treatments such as medicated shampoos or sprays. These products can help soothe irritated skin and reduce itching.

Diet Management

If your dog has food allergies, follow your veterinarian's dietary recommendations carefully. Feeding your dog a hypoallergenic diet with novel protein and carbohydrate sources can prevent allergic reactions. Be vigilant about avoiding any foods or treats that contain allergens.

Regular Vet Check-Ups

Schedule regular follow-up appointments with your veterinarian to monitor your dog's progress and adjust their treatment plan as needed. Your veterinarian can also check for any potential side effects of long-term medications.


Natural Remedies and Home Care

While traditional veterinary treatments are often necessary for managing allergies in dogs, some natural remedies and home care techniques may complement your dog's treatment plan. Here are some options to consider:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Supplementing your dog's diet with omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate skin issues associated with allergies.


Regular baths with a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo can help remove allergens from your dog's skin and coat. Be sure to follow your veterinarian's recommendations for bathing frequency.

Allergy-Friendly Home

Create an allergy-friendly environment for your dog by minimizing dust, pollen, and other allergens in your home. Use HEPA air filters, wash your dog's bedding regularly, and vacuum frequently. Consider using allergen-proof covers on furniture.

Herbal Supplements

Some herbal supplements, such as chamomile and licorice root, may have anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe allergic reactions. However, always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any herbal remedies.


CBD oil has gained popularity for its potential anti-inflammatory and calming effects. Some dog owners have reported positive results in managing their dog's allergy-related symptoms with CBD oil, but it's essential to consult with your veterinarian before using any CBD products for your dog.


When to Consult a Veterinary Dermatologist

In some cases, especially when allergies are severe or challenging to manage, your regular veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist. These specialized veterinarians have advanced training and expertise in diagnosing and treating skin conditions and allergies in dogs.

A veterinary dermatologist can perform more in-depth allergy testing, including intradermal skin testing and allergen-specific immunotherapy. They can also offer specialized treatments and therapies that may not be available through a general practitioner.


Dealing with allergies in your beloved dog can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can help them lead a more comfortable and happy life. Remember that allergies in dogs are manageable, and a combination of allergen avoidance, medications, immunotherapy, and proper care can make a significant difference in your dog's quality of life.

If you suspect that your dog has allergies or notice any of the common symptoms discussed in this article, don't hesitate to seek help from your veterinarian. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to managing allergies effectively and ensuring your furry friend's well-being. Your dog's health and happiness are worth the effort, and with the right care, they can enjoy a life free from the discomfort of allergies.

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