Dogs suffer from allergies just like we humans do, but often dog allergy symptoms can be confusing. Is my dog coughing because he’s sick, or is he allergic to something in his food? Is my dog sneezing because she has a cold, or is she allergic to something in the environment?
While your dog might experience a range of allergy symptoms, some are far more common than others. Let’s break down the different types of dog allergies, their symptoms, and what to do if you suspect your dog has an allergy.
Types of Dog Allergies
Dogs can experience several types of allergies. Some are manageable; often a change in diet or an allergy medication clears it up. Others require immediate veterinary intervention. Different types of allergies that dogs can experience range from seasonal allergies to more severe allergic reactions. Interestingly, fleas are the most common allergen for dogs, so keeping your pup flea-free is one of the best ways to stave off allergies. Other types include:
Seasonal allergies usually happen in the spring and fall. A dog’s immune system overreacts to an environmental allergen, like tree pollen, grass, ragweed, and even mold spores in the air. Seasonal allergies can range from mild to severe, though they are usually predictable. If your dog is allergic to ragweed, for instance, you’ll know to expect a flare-up in late summer or early fall because that’s ragweed’s pollen season.
Food allergies are incredibly rare among dogs–less than one percent of dogs have food allergies, according to a 2018 study. Oftentimes, dog parents mix up an allergy with a sensitivity. An allergy is an immune response. Your dog’s immune system overreacts to a food and causes his or her body to go haywire. With a sensitivity, the reaction comes from the digestive system. An allergy requires intervention–we’ll get to that in a later section–whereas a sensitivity usually just requires eliminating that food.
Acute allergic reactions happen with exposure to something your dog is allergic to, like a bee sting, and can be life-threatening. If you suspect your dog is suffering from an acute allergic reaction, seek intervention immediately. Anaphylaxis can cause difficulty breathing and even death. Treat it as fast as possible.
7 Dog Allergy Symptoms
If you’re keeping up with your Pet Health 5 checks every month, you’ll be on top of possible symptoms. When dogs experience seasonal allergies or a more severe allergic reaction, you may note only one or even several of the following dog allergy symptoms:
The single most common cause for coughing in dogs is kennel cough, not allergies. However, coughing can be a side effect of an allergy, but it’s best to schedule a trip to your vet if your dog begins to cough.
Seasonal allergies cause sneezing in dogs. If your dog sneezes after being outdoors, or if your dog sneezes a lot when you have your windows open, seasonal allergies are likely to blame.
An itchy dog indicates an allergic dog. In fact, itchiness isn’t just a sign of seasonal allergies–it indicates food allergies, too. Itchiness can manifest with scratching and licking behavior, dry and peely skin, red bumps, and more.
Dogs with allergies tend to be prone to ear infections. The ear infections are a symptom of the allergy and are most common in dogs who are allergic to mold spores, dust mites, and certain proteins in their food.
Runny nose or eyes
Just like in humans experiencing allergies, dogs can get runny noses and eyes. If your dog starts to have goopy eyes or a dripping nose, an allergy is likely to blame, but head to the vet anyway to rule out other more serious underlying causes.
Since the skin is so commonly affected by allergies, oftentimes a bald patch can be a sign something’s going on. Take heart: Once the allergy is treated, though, the hair will grow back.
Diarrhea and vomiting are common dog allergy symptoms. Especially when paired with any of the above symptoms, GI problems tell you that your dog’s body is experiencing a strong reaction, and you probably need to seek medical attention.
Treatment for Dog Allergies
If you stay on top of your dog’s health and wellness with your Pet Health 5 and a regular body scan, you’ll catch any of these seven symptoms and can take swift action. There are a few ways to treat allergies in dogs, and it all depends on the underlying cause and the symptoms.
First, never give your dog any medication unless you speak with your vet. In some cases, your vet might recommend OTC Benadryl, Claritin, or Zyrtec to treat your dog’s allergies. Other times, an allergy prescription or a steroid might be necessary. For many dogs, these medications might only need to be administered during the height of allergy season. For others, allergy meds might become a part of their daily routine. Work with your vet to find the right therapy for your dog and his or her specific allergies.
You might have to do a food elimination diet to figure out exactly which ingredient your dog is allergic to–or if it’s an intolerance instead of an allergy. This involves feeding your dog only a few known ingredients that are uncommon allergens, then slowly adding in possible allergens one at a time over long periods to watch for any reactions. Ultimately, once you pinpoint your dog’s allergy, you’ll be able to change your dog’s diet to accommodate his immune system.
Beyond medication and food, simple lifestyle changes can help your dog. First, make sure your pup stays flea-free. Since fleas cause many problems for dogs, this is a key first step in his overall health. For other simple lifestyle tweaks, consider what will best help your dog. If your dog is particularly sensitive to pollen, consider wiping down her paws each time you come in from a walk during pollen season.
Allergies can be irritating and painful for both you and your dog. Finding the underlying cause is the first step. As soon as you notice one of the possible dog allergy symptoms noted above, head to your vet to work out a plan. Allergies are far more manageable once the root cause is established.
Have you ever cared for a dog with allergies? If so, what steps did you take to help manage their symptoms?
We encourage you to monitor your dog’s health with a monthly body scan. Join us in our Pet Health 5 movement and together we can start tracking our pet’s health. It’s super easy! We’ll send you a reminder on the fifth of each month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. All you need to do is take the time to check your dog’s health stats and log them.
Pet health and dog health is an important aspect of helping our dogs live long and happy lives. You can start today by signing up for Pet Health 5.
About the Author: Maggie Marton writes about dogs, cats, and kids–and often the intersection of all three–for print and web publications and on her award-winning blog, OhMyDogBlog.com. Maggie co-authored Pet Blogging for Love and Money, a guide to launching and running a profitable pet blog. She lives in the Indianapolis area with a dog, two cats, a tank of fish, two preschoolers, and a patient husband.