Does your dog sneeze a lot? Does your dog compulsively scratch, lick, or chew its skin or fur whenever you visit your favorite park? If yes, you may be curious as to whether dogs can have allergies or if dog allergies are common. The short answer is yes, but it’s a bit complicated. To help bring relief to your pet, you must first understand the different types of allergies that can affect your canine companion. Here’s what to look for and how you can support your dog’s wellbeing.
Common Dog Allergies
It’s estimated allergies in cats and dogs account for about 25% of vet visits, according to Cornell University. Pet allergies are much like the ones their humans suffer from; dogs can suffer from environmental, food, seasonal, and other types of allergies.
Environmental (airborne) allergies
Genetics are usually behind a dog’s predisposition to being sensitive to environmental allergens like dust, pollen, and grasses. The typical age dogs start showing reactions to environmental allergens is six months to three years. Although any dog can be allergic, some breeds seem to be more susceptible to developing allergies to environmental triggers, according to Merck Vet Manual, including:
- Boston terriers
- Chinese shar-peis
- Golden retrievers
- Labrador retrievers
- Lhasa apsos
- Scottish terriers
- Shih tzus
- Wirehaired fox terriers
While some dogs suffer from allergies year-round, reactions to environmental triggers like grass, ragweed, and cedar pollen occur with the change of weather.
An allergy or hypersensitivity to foods can develop at any age. The most common culprits are dairy products, wheat gluten, lamb, beef, chicken, chicken eggs, and soy.
Insect bite allergies
Dogs can experience an inflammatory response to bites from spiders, ticks, fleas, bees, mosquitoes, wasps, hornets, ants, horseflies, deer flies, and black flies.
The least common of allergies in dogs, results from direct contact with an allergen such as pesticides, wool, synthetics used in bedding and carpet, and pyrethrins found in flea collars. This type of allergy can occur at any age.
The most common skin allergy in dogs is canine atopic dermatitis.
Does My Dog Have Allergies? How to Tell
Does your dog seem to be allergic to everything, or do they have some of the symptoms below? These are some of the signs of allergies in dogs:
- Red, inflamed skin
- Itchy ears
- Constant licking
- Chronic ear infections
- Swelling of the face, lips, ears, earflaps, and eyelids
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Difficulty breathing
Because other conditions can cause these symptoms, you should not attempt to diagnose your pet’s allergies. Instead, schedule an examination with your vet, who may recommend allergy (skin or blood) testing, similar to those that humans go through. Note that even with testing, it may not be possible to determine the cause of an allergy. Insect allergies tend to be the easiest to diagnose as your veterinarian can observe bites or live insects, as is often the case with ticks or fleas, on the skin. If you suspect a food allergy, your vet will most likely suggest an elimination diet which requires feeding your dog one type of protein and carbohydrate for a minimum of 8-12 weeks. This means nothing on the side, including table scraps, treats, or flavored vitamins, and possibly medications, during the testing period. While this may seem like a long time for a “test,” it takes at least eight weeks for the body to eliminate all other food products.
What Can I Give My Dog for Allergies?
To avoid harming your pet with home remedies or internet antidotes, we don’t recommend treating your pet’s allergies without consulting your veterinarian first. Your vet will explain how to treat dog allergies and prescribe the best medications, if any.
To address a flea allergy, for example, your vet might prescribe a monthly flea preventative antihistamines or corticosteroids to address the allergic reaction and offer immediate relief.
How long dog allergies last depends on the type of allergy your dog has. With environmental and seasonal allergies, for example, it depends on the climate.
These are examples of what your vet might give dogs with skin allergies and other types of allergies.
- Shampoo therapy calls for frequently bathing your pet with a hypoallergenic shampoo to soothe itchy, inflamed skin. Bathing can further help rinse allergens that may be on your dog’s coat and skin.
- Anti-inflammatory therapy includes drugs like antihistamines and steroids that can often stop an allergic reaction quickly. In some cases, a vet may prescribe a fatty acid supplementation to a dog’s diet to help improve the response to antihistamines and steroids. Newer drug alternatives, including oral medications and long-acting injections, can block chemical signals that cause itching in dogs. Your veterinarian can help determine which is best for your pet.
- Hyposensitization or desensitization therapy is a series of allergy shots or injection serum given to the dog when allergy tests identify the offending antigens. This treatment desensitizes or reprograms your pet’s immune system by injecting a small amount of the antigen weekly.
- Adding a supplement to your dog’s water can provide nutrients that your dog might miss if they suffer from allergies.
If your dog’s food allergy improves or goes away with the elimination diet test, your vet can advise you on the best steps to take next. Although not all dogs suffer from allergies, the proper treatment can bring much-needed relief if your pet does.