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The All-Too-Common Issue: Allergies In Dogs

all too common issue: allergies in dog

Have you noticed your dog scratching more than normal or licking their paws constantly? Has your veterinarian told you that your dog has allergies? If so, then you’re certainly not alone! Allergies plague dogs and humans alike -sometimes seasonally and sometimes all year round -but your dog’s symptoms may be a little different than yours.

Stubborn allergies can be a big problem for some dogs and not so much for others, but, no matter the severity, they need a little assistance. Keep reading to find out more about why dogs have allergies in the first place and how owners and veterinarians can help!

Why Do Dogs Have Allergies?

A dog will develop allergies because their body’s immune system is over-reacting to a substance called an allergen. Allergens can be almost anything, but usually they are due to proteins that are found in plants, foods, other animals and insects. The truly unfortunate thing about allergies is that their bodies are often reacting to something benign that they have been exposed to several times throughout their lives, such as a grass or plant in the backyard or even their favorite chicken treats.

Being exposed to these allergens frequently over time causes the body to become sensitized to them, leading to the immune system’s unwanted response. In these cases, the immune system goes from being something that protects the dog to being something that causes more harm than good.

Symptoms Of Allergies In Dogs

Allergens can be almost anything, but usually they are due to proteins that are found in plants, foods, other animals and insects.

Most owners are alerted that something is wrong when their pet is scratching more than normal, however, allergies can manifest in many ways, such as:

  • Generally itchy skin

  • Chewing or licking their paws

  • Redness and inflammation of the skin

  • Bumps or small pustules on the skin

  • Hives

  • Hair loss

  • Itchy eyes +/-discharge

  • Itchy ears, frequent infections

  • Gastrointestinal upset

  • Sneezing or coughing


Dogs can show the symptoms of allergies as early as 6 months, with the most likely time to be between 1 and 3 years of age. It is not unusual for a dog’s allergies to grow worse over time, sometimes going from being only a seasonal problem to being all year round.

Different Types Of Allergies In Dogs

The reaction and symptoms of your dog’s allergies will vary depending on what kind of allergies your dog has. There are three main classifications for canine allergies:

  • Environmental Allergies

  • Food Allergies

  • Flea Allergies

Environmental Allergies

itchy dog

By far one of the most common reasons for allergic reactions in dogs is the environment that they live in, which isn’t usually something owners have that much control over. These allergens are often a plant, grass, pollen, mold or mildew. Essentially, something that you can’t prevent or remove from their life and environment without putting them in a bubble.

When a dog is having an allergic reaction to something in their environment, the clinical signs are usually:

  • Face rubbing

  • Red rashes

  • Itchy skin

  • Ear Infection

  • Hair loss

  • Paw licking

  • Eye discharge

  • Sneezing

Treating Environmental Allergies in Dogs

Treating allergies can be tricky and unfortunately there is no real cure for them. The best thing to do is to try and eliminate that allergen as much as possible. If there’s no way to do that, then treating their symptoms with oral medications like antihistamines (benadryl) or corticosteroids are the go-to options.

Food Allergies

Food allergies or sensitivities in dogs can happen at any time. Usually, the pet is reacting to some kind of protein or carbohydrate that is in their diet. These foods are most likely chicken, eggs, beef, dairy, wheat or soy.

Symptoms of a food allergy will often manifest in similar ways to environmental allergies, making it quite difficult for owners and veterinarians to nail down a confident diagnosis at first. Some dogs that are having sensitivities to foods will show symptoms of gastrointestinal upset along with itchy skin, rashes and ear infections.

Treating Food Allergies in Dogs

Treating food allergies starts with trying to isolate the component of their diet that is causing the reaction in the first place. Putting the dog on a diet that has limited ingredients and a novel protein tends to render the best results. It takes a minimum of 8-12 weeks to appropriately diagnose a dog with a genuine food allergy, so it’s important to stick with it.

If the pet’s clinical signs improve while they are on the limited ingredient diet then your veterinarian will work with you to decide which food to give them from there. Dog foods like Zignature are a wonderful choice for those that are searching for a limited ingredient diet for their pooch with allergies. They strive to bring only the highest quality ingredients while also including a well-balanced amount of beneficial amino acids, fatty acids and antioxidants. Not to mention there are 11 different diet formulas to choose from!

Flea Allergies

flea allergy in dogs

Flea allergies can be uncomfortable and problematic for you and your dog. Not only does it mean that your dog has a flea issue - and so does your house - but it also means that their skin is having a reaction to the flea’s saliva.

Symptoms of flea allergies manifest in the same itchy way, but with a distinct and obvious hair loss over the rump and tail. This alopecia is not a necessity for diagnosis but it is often a tell-tale sign of fleas.

Treating Flea Allergies in Dogs

Flea allergies usually result in a dog developing flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is a rash and redness associated with the chewing and scratching of the skin from the exaggerated immune response to their saliva.

The first thing to do is to start killing the fleas and tackle the environment. Fleas and their eggs are most certainly in the home and need to be killed with an insect growth regulator spray or powder and treated this way every 3 weeks for 3 consecutive months to prevent reinfestation. Otherwise, the fleas will continue to jump on and bite the dog, resulting in a never ending cycle.

Treating their symptoms with medications like Apoquel or corticosteroids will help calm down their itchy skin so that it can heal. The Veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic if there are any open wounds or infections.

Keeping the fleas away by using a reputable flea and tick prevention is key. This is the best way to avoid ever having the issue again. Even a single flea bite can send a sensitive dog into an itching fit that lasts for hours.

Can A Better Diet Help With A Dog’s Allergies?

When a dog’s immune system is having a reaction to a benign allergen in their environment or food, changing to a more balanced and healthy diet will help. If they have a sensitivity to a specific component in their food they will still have to undergo their prescribed diet trial first, but can be switched to something that works for them after identifying the offensive ingredient.

In order for your dog and their immune system to function at its highest capacity they must eat a well-balanced and healthy diet that caters to their age and lifestyle. Hypoallergenic Dog Foods are a great option for dogs with allergies.

If you’re looking for a company that strives for quality and health, then you can’t go wrong with Zignature! They work with limited ingredients with only the highest quality meat and nutrient dense legumes. Their philosophy of providing the best possible foods with beneficial amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals is one that many dogs will benefit from.

Conclusion: Treating Allergies In Dogs

Allergies are an all-too-common frustration with dogs and their owners. The best thing to do is try and identify and eliminate the offending allergen, whether it’s in their environment or their food. When cutting the allergen out isn’t an option, you can do your best to stay on top of it and address their symptoms before they get out of hand.

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