Allergies in Dogs
A Guide to Allergy Conditions & Treatment for Dogs
The immune system produces antibodies (blood proteins), which react with antigens presented by the incoming allergen. Antibodies create a chemical reaction with antigens (toxins or foreign substances), in order to ‘defeat’ the antigen by counteracting its effects. During this process, symptoms of an allergic reaction will occur.
What is my dog allergic to?! It can be tough to pinpoint the exact cause, and there are many types of dog allergies to consider. Are your dog’s seasonal allergies to blame for its symptoms? Or maybe it’s something they ate? Could it be their new shampoo? A pet parent could spend weeks trying to pinpoint the cause of their pet’s allergy symptoms, but knowing the most common allergens can be a helpful starting point. Skin allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies are the main types of allergens in dogs and cats.
Are there certain breeds that are prone to skin disorders or skin allergies? These breeds may need additional support in protecting their delicate skin against foreign invaders:
Shar-Pei Allergy Issues
Golden Retriever Allergy Issues
Boston Terrier Allergy Issues
Dalmation Allergy Issues
When assessing allergies in dogs, symptoms can present in a variety of ways.
A dog chewing their paws may be suffering from itchy atopic dermatitis, which can appear as redness, swelling, hair loss, and scaling around the top and bottom of the dog’s paw.
If you notice signs of skin inflammation or irritation like flaking, oozing, hair loss, redness, or swelling, your dog may be suffering from an uncomfortable skin rash. When dealing with a dog allergy, rashes can be quite common.
Conjunctivitis is inflammation affecting the lining of your dog’s eye and can happen as a result of allergies. Signs of conjunctivitis can include watery eyes or a yellow-green discharge from the eye.
Dogs itching their ears, biting their skin, or itching excessively may be dealing with an immune response to an allergen.
Dogs suffering from environmental or seasonal allergies may wheeze or cough in order to expel the irritant, or as a result of a post-nasal trip. Breeds that have flat faces and short snouts (e.g., Pugs, Bulldogs) have more compact airways that can make wheezing worse.
An upset stomach can present as diarrhea, soft stool, vomiting, or bloating. These are often symptoms of a food allergy.
Swelling is a symptom of inflammation, which may be part of the immune response to an allergen. Swelling can occur as hives, facial swelling, or swelling of localized areas like the earflaps, eyelids, or lips.
When trying to help dog allergies, treatment options are vast. Here are a few home remedies for dog allergies for pet parents to explore:
Quercetin is a naturally-sourced flavonoid that can help with symptoms of allergies such as swelling, itching, and watery eyes with its ability to block histamines. Quercetin can be given to your dog during peak allergy seasons when symptoms tend to be at their worst–making it one of the best options for allergy relief for dogs. Finding a delicious dog allergy supplement with Quercetin and other allergy-friendly ingredients is an easy route for pet parents!
Giving allergy supplements to pets may help support their natural immune response to certain allergens. Allergy supplements that support nose-to-tail health–including GI function, skin health, and more–can be beneficial for pets experiencing regular allergy symptoms. Some supplements can be given daily, while others can be used exclusively for seasonal allergies. Using a daily allergy supplement may even reduce your pet’s need for a vet-prescribed dog allergy treatment. There are even allergy supplements for senior dogs!
"I use the Dermabliss line as part of multimodal therapy for my patients to reduce inflammation
and restore the barrier function of the skin and to aid in treatment of secondary infections. The comprehensive product line works to support the skin not only on the outside but from the inside out."
Joya Griffin DVM, DACVD, Animal Dermatology Clinic
Parents of allergy-prone pets know how important it is to vet the products we use on our pet’s skin and coat. Carefully choosing topical products–like shampoo and soap–without irritating ingredients is crucial for protecting pets with atopy and sensitive skin. Finding a pH-balanced, anti-itch allergy shampoo made with gentle, hypoallergenic ingredients or numbing agents like Pramoxine Hydrochloride (for itch relief) is a good place to start.
How do I know what my dog is allergic to? Working with an allergist might yield answers for pet parents finding it difficult to pinpoint their pet’s allergy symptoms. Veterinary offices can also perform allergy testing for your pet, where they will analyze skin and blood tests to determine the source of their allergies.
Perhaps the most commonly used treatment for allergies in dogs and cats is a class of drugs called antihistamines. Similar to Quercetin, antihistamines block histamines in order to reduce or eliminate itching, redness, and swelling caused by an immune response to an allergen. Antihistamines can be prescribed by vets, especially if your pet needs a more targeted skin allergy medicine for dogs.
Wondering how to treat dog allergies at home? In addition to vet-recommended treatments like antihistamines and nasal sprays, treating your dog’s allergies at home can also help manage daily symptoms. There are plenty of at-home treatments for pets needing regular allergy support:
- Daily Supplements– Giving your pet daily chews or powder supplements may help keep daily allergy symptoms at bay while supporting healthy immune function.
- Ear Wipes– Allergens from certain grasses, pollen, dust, mites, and dander can cause allergy symptoms in your dog’s ear. Wiping down your pet’s ears once a day can help prevent these types of debris from causing more irritation.
- Allergy Shampoo– Atopic dermatitis (eczema) can be uncomfortable for your pet, and certain shampoo products can further irritate their skin. Using a soap-free shampoo will help maintain skin hydration without stripping sensitive skin.
- Ear Wash– Allergies can be a potential cause of ear infections and other conditions in the ear. Rinsing the ear can be another way to ensure allergens aren’t spending too much time in your dog’s ear.
- Topical Spray– Pets with skin irritation from allergies may need targeted relief, and there are some medicated allergy sprays and infected hot spot sprays that can help soothe irritation.
Regular antihistamine dosages will depend on the type and severity of your pet’s allergy symptoms, and at-home treatments are a good way to stay on top of chronic allergies. You’ll want to discuss symptoms with your veterinarian in order to find the best combination of treatments for your pet!
Wondering when to call the vet for allergies? Dogs or cats with severe itching that causes bleeding or open wounds should see a vet right away to avoid further injury. Anything that affects your pet’s ability to breathe, see, or function normally should also be treated as an emergency. This includes swelling of the face, tongue, eyes, or nostrils, which are all signs of a severe allergic reaction.
What to do if your pet has a severe allergic reaction (life-threatening or not):
- Secure your dog in a kennel or safe position inside your vehicle, and ensure they have access to adequate ventilation.
- Head to your nearest emergency animal hospital or vet clinic.
- If there’s someone else in the car, have them call ahead to the clinic or vet services to get advice on how to keep your pet comfortable until you arrive.