Itchy noses, irritated skin, and red watery eyes; ahhh allergies. Whether environmental, diet-based, or seasonal we all know one thing: allergies suck. We know it. You know it. Your dog knows it. Wait, do dogs get allergies?
Yes, that’s right; your dog can have allergies too. Unfortunately, allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age, with the majority of affected dogs one or older.
Dogs can be allergic to a lot of different things. In fact, there are several ways of classifying allergies, such as if the allergen is digested or comes into contact with their skin, how long it takes for a reaction to appear, and the symptoms of it.
Types of Allergies in Dogs
As we just mentioned, there are quite a few different types of allergies in dogs. Skin allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergens are all obstacles dog owners have to face with their pup. To make things more complicated, it’s not as easy as narrowing down the symptoms to find the cause. So many allergies cause similar reactions. Let’s break it down further.
Common Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs
The symptoms of allergies in dogs may vary depending on the cause, but there are a few common ones, such as:
- Swelling anywhere on their face and ears
- Red or inflamed skin
- Chronic ear infections
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Constant licking
Skin allergies, also called allergic dermatitis, are the most common type of allergic reactions in dogs. There are three main causes of skin allergies in dogs:
- Flea allergy dermatitis
- Food allergies
- Environmental allergens
Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to fleabites. We’re not talking about an infection either — some dogs are allergic to flea saliva. It tends to make their skin really itchy, especially at the base of their tail. You may also notice redness and inflammation, as well as scabbing. These are usual signs of fleas and of allergies, so it’s hard to tell if your dog is just irritated by the bites, or if they’re actually having a reaction to them.
Food allergies and sensitivities can cause itchy skin, as well. Paws and ears are a big “itchy” zone when they digest something that doesn’t agree with them. It can also be accompanied by stomach distress too, but not always.
Third, dogs can be allergic to dust, pollen, and mold. Many times, this is a seasonal allergy so you may notice your dog scratching more when the pollen count is high. Hairless and hypoallergenic dogs are more prone to these skin irritants, as they have very little fur to protect their skin!
You have to be careful with skin allergies and provide relief fast. As your dog scratches, bites, and licks at their skin, they risk opening up their skin to yeast and bacterial infections that may require treatment.
Your dog might have a sensitive tummy, but that doesn’t always mean they’re allergic to food. In fact, true food allergies may not be as common as people think, according to AKC Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein. We won’t dive fully into the science behind it, but true food allergies trigger an immune system response. These responses can be things like hives, vomiting, or more severe reactions. This is very rare with dogs.
Instead, they probably have a food sensitivity or food intolerance. Think of it like lactose intolerance: drinking milk won’t cause any damage, but you’ll definitely be a little uncomfortable for awhile.
Food sensitivities are a gradual reaction to an offending ingredient in your dog’s food. The best way to diagnose and treat a food allergy is to work with your veterinarian to manage your dog’s symptoms and discover the ingredient causing the reaction.
Acute Allergic Reactions
Sudden, or acute allergic reactions are scary. They can cause severe reactions that may be fatal if left untreated.
These are normally easy to spot: a bee sting or a reaction to a vaccine. So if your pup ever gets stung by a bee, take them to the vet immediately! Or if it’s time for your dog’s annual shots, be patient with the vet. They’re taking some time to monitor your dog for their safety!
Your dog may also develop hives or facial swelling in response to an allergen. Swelling of the face, throat, lips, eyelids, or ear flaps may look serious, but is rarely fatal, and your veterinarian can treat it with an antihistamine.
Treating Your Dog’s Allergies
Sadly, there isn’t really an over-the-counter option that will fix your dog’s symptoms. So the best way to treat an allergy is to avoid it as much as possible. That means protecting them from fleas, limiting their time outside when there is a lot of pollen, and keeping them far, far away from bees.
In addition to any lifestyle changes that might be necessary, your vet may also prescribe medication to help relieve your pup’s symptoms.