Allergies in Dogs
like people, dogs can show allergic symptoms when their immune systems begin to
recognize certain everyday substances-or allergens- as dangerous. Even though
these allergens are common in most environments and harmless to most animals, a
dog with allergies will have an extreme reaction to them. Allergens can be
problematic when inhaled, ingested or contact a dog’s skin. As his body tries
to rid itself of these substances, a variety of skin, digestive and respiratory
symptoms may appear.
What Are the General Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs?
- Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin
- Increased scratching
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Itchy back or base of tail (most commonly flea allergy)
- Itchy ears and ear infections
- Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
- Paw chewing/swollen paws
- Constant licking
Allergic dogs may also suffer from secondary bacterial or yeast
skin infections, which may cause hair loss, scabs or crusts on the skin.
Which Dogs Are At Risk for Getting Allergies?
Any dog can develop allergies at any time during his life, but
allergic reactions seem to be especially common in terriers, setters,
retrievers, and flat-faced breeds such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston
What Substances Can Dogs Be Allergic To?
A few common allergens include:
- Tree, grass and weed pollens
- Mold spores
- Dust and house dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Food ingredients (e.g. beef, chicken, pork,
corn, wheat or soy)
- Prescription drugs
- Fleas and flea-control products (The bite of
a single flea can trigger intense itchiness for two to three weeks!)
- Cleaning products
- Insecticidal shampoo
- Rubber and plastic materials
Can Dogs Be Allergic to Food?
Yes, but it often takes some detective work to find out what
substance is causing the allergic reaction. Dogs with a food allergy will
commonly have itchy skin, breathing difficulties or gastrointestinal problems
like diarrhea and vomiting, and an elimination diet will most probably be used
to determine what food he is allergic to. If your dog is specifically allergic
to chicken, for example, you should avoid feeding him any products containing
chicken protein or fat.
Please note that food allergies may show up in dogs at any
What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Allergies?
Visit your veterinarian. After taking a complete history and
conducting a physical examination, he or she may be able to determine the
source of your dog’s allergic reaction. If not, your vet will most probably
recommend skin or blood tests, or a special elimination diet, to find out
what's causing the allergic reaction.
How Are Dog Allergies Diagnosed?
If your dog’s itchy, red or irritated skin persists beyond
initial treatment by a veterinarian, allergy testing, most often performed by a
veterinary dermatologist, is likely warranted. The diagnostic test of choice is
an intradermal skin test similar to the one performed on humans.