Dog Allergies & Itching: Symptoms & Treatment Options

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies when weather changes and seasons come and go. If you suffer from even mild seasonal allergies, you know how uncomfortable the symptoms can be. As with humans, confirming symptoms are actually allergy-related can be a little tricky.

Here, we look at common dog allergies and itching to help pet owners understand the symptoms and treatment options available.

What are Common Dog Allergies?

Allergens refer to the substances causing common dog allergies. For seasonal allergens, there are several possible culprits, but the most common include:

  • Pollen
  • Grass
  • Weeds
  • Mold
  • Fungi
  • Flea saliva

The environment becomes populated with these allergens in the spring and fall which is why the summer and winter tend to be more comfortable for seasonal allergy sufferers.

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

Your dog might have allergies if they have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Sneezing

While many dog allergy symptoms are not considerably different from those we experience, one of the biggest differences is skin reactions in dogs. These commonly include:

  • Itchy flaky skin
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Constantly itching at their ears or shaking and scratching their head
  • Their ears smell
  • Itching and licking their paws and anus frequently

In fact, when it comes to seasonal allergies in pets, skin symptoms tend to be the most common in dogs.

Why are Skin Reactions Important in Dog Allergies?

One of the primary concerns with a dog’s skin reactions is that they can easily lead to secondary infections. With constant licking and scratching, dogs can develop new complications and suffer from yeast or bacterial infections. These should be diagnosed as soon as possible as prescription medication or immune-boosting treats are often required.

What’s the Difference Between Seasonal and Food Allergies?

The itching is usually related to environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, or dust. These allergies are often triggered seasonally, which is why it is easier to spot them. Your pup will display unusual itching due to their allergic reaction as the seasons change most commonly in the spring and fall.

As it relates to food allergies, the symptoms are more often year-round. However, if you suddenly change dog foods, or the manufacturer changes their recipe, this can lead to sudden symptoms as well.

Can Dog Seasonal Allergies be Diagnosed?

Yes! One of the most common tests for seasonal allergies is an intradermal skin test. This is the same type of skin test used on humans, injecting allergens into the skin to look for reactions such as swelling, hives or redness. While this might seem an unpleasant process, your pet only suffers a bit of discomfort that can lead to longer-term relief from their overall allergies. Following the test, a trusted vet can create an allergy shot to keep your dog comfortable during allergy season.

How To Treat Dog Allergies

Your first step is to take your pup to the vet so they can rule out other causes for your pet’s symptoms. Once allergies are confirmed, as mentioned above, your vet might recommend allergy shots. However, there are other ways to help keep your dog more comfortable including:

  • Reducing triggers: This is a lot easier said than done. Since seasonal allergies are related to the environment, controlling the allergens can be close to impossible. However, you can try using HEPA filters in your heating and cooling system to reduce the number of allergens in the air. You can also keep your windows and doors shut to reduce more allergens entering the home.
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines: Your vet might also recommend antihistamines for your pet.
  • Frequent bathing: Adding a few more baths to your pet’s routine can help reduce symptoms.
  • Prescription medication: Depending on your pup’s symptoms your vet might also provide prescription medicine such as Prednisone, Cytopoint, or Apoquel to treat the itching.

In the unfortunate case where a secondary infection takes hold, your pet might also need antibiotics/anti-yeast medication.

Are Antihistamines Safe for My Dog?

It is best to speak to your vet before deciding to give your dog the antihistamines available at your local drug store. The dose for dogs is different from humans so you want to be sure you are handling the medications properly for your pet. As well these medications can cause sleepiness or hyperactivity. Some antihistamines contain ingredients unsafe for dogs such as decongestants or pseudoephedrine. Your vet can recommend the antihistamines safest for your dog.

Are there Natural Remedies Available?

Yes, but as with any “remedy” you want to speak to your vet to see what they consider to be safe natural remedies for your pet.  

If your pup is constantly itching or displaying symptoms of seasonal allergies, a trip to the vet will diagnose the issue and find solutions to keep your pet comfortable.