Dog Allergies: How To Tell & What To Do | Honest Paws

Dog Allergies: How To Tell & What To Do

July 31, 2018

Dog Allergies: How To Tell & What To Do

Just like their owners, dogs can suffer from allergies. If you are one of the over 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies each year, you know just how awful it can be. The constant sneezing, the itchy, watery eyes, tissue boxes in every room of your home. Allergies are no fun, for anyone.

Therefore, when Fido begins showing symptoms of allergies, as a pet owner, what can you do? How can you ensure that your dog isn't suffering from something more serious like canine influenza or a bacterial infection? Is Zyrtec for dogs safe? When is it time to call your veterinarian?

In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover all of these questions and more in order to help relieve your pup of dog allergies.

Dog Allergies

Symptoms of Allergies

It is important for pet owners to be able to recognize the symptoms of dog allergies as well as identify the differences between an allergic reaction and other conditions. The major way to differentiate allergies and dog influenza or a cold is the itch factor.

Dog owners should look for signs of itching and irritation, typically in the form of redness, sensitivity, and inflammation. Monitor your dog's behavior for more itching than normal. If your pup is solely itching at their ears, be sure to check for an ear infection as well.

Dogs will typically attempt to relieve the itch by scratching, licking, or chewing the irritated area. The most common areas affected by allergies are the face, ears, feet, belly and armpit area.

The particular area that the dog is itching is often a clue as to where the specific allergen is coming from. For example, a dog itching their back near the base of the tail is oftentimes a sign of a flea allergy.

Dogs that continue to itch and itch without relief will likely have atopic dermatitis develop as a result. Atopic dermatitis is a condition that involves severe irritation of the skin due to allergens. If atopic dermatitis is left untreated, it can then lead to secondary infections due to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria. A slew of other conditions can often develop including a hair loss, scabbing of the skin, and overall discomfort and associated irritation.

While the primary symptom of allergies is itching, dog owners should also be on the lookout for:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Poor coat condition

In terms of food allergies, vomiting and diarrhea are two additional symptoms that dog owners should be aware of.

Less common but other possible symptoms include coughing and snoring, but can occur especially when the throat is inflamed.

Other Possibilities to Consider

Additionally, it is important to recognize certain details surrounding the itching as it can be a sign of a different condition. For example, if there is intense itching accompanied by hair loss, your pup may be suffering from sarcoptic mange.

Sarcoptic mange is a condition caused by mites. However, there is a prominent difference between an allergic reaction due to mites and a reaction from different allergens such as food allergies. Sarcoptic mange is incredibly contagious. The mites can quickly travel from dog to dog and burrow deep into the skin causing a great deal of pain and discomfort.

Due to the fact that a reaction may appear to be merely allergies but also could be a sign of something else, if the cause isn't implicitly clear, it's important to get an accurate diagnosis from your veterinarian.

Causes of Dog Allergic Reactions

The cause of dog allergies is the same as the cause of human allergies: an overreaction of the immune system. When the dog's body senses that it has come in contact with a source of danger (a substance, food, etc.), it flags it as a threat, even if it's not. Then, the body releases antibodies in order to attempt to relieve itself of the threat. This is shown in ways that we identify of symptoms: sneezing, congestion, irritation, itching, etc. The body is attempting to expel whatever danger it feels it is in. Therefore, it is not just the sinuses that are affected, but also the respiratory system, the digestive system, as well as the skin.

Types of Dog Allergies

A dog, comparable to humans, can have a reaction to allergens by ingesting them, having skin exposure to them (contact), or after breathing them in (inhalant). A dog can also have an allergic reaction due to a flea bite. There are four main types of dog allergies, all varying in degrees of severity.

The four main types of dog allergies are:

  1. Environmental (Also called atopy)
  2. Food
  3. Flea
  4. Contact

It's likely that you've witnessed your pup having an allergic reaction to at least one of these, even if you didn't realize at the time that it was a reaction to allergens. Allergies don't have to suffer as a full-blown allergic reaction to be considered allergies.

Environmental Dog Allergies

Consider the number of different environmental smells that you experience every day. Now think about your dog on a walk. Fido tends to love getting up close and personal with just about everything. This is why environmental allergies affect so many of our furry friends.

Common environmental allergens include:

  • Pollen (grass, weed, tree or flower pollen)
  • Dust
  • Mold

However, these aren't the only allergens that can greatly affect your pup. Again, consider how someone wearing too much perfume in line at a grocery store can cause you to go into a sneezing frenzy. There are a number of manufactured allergens that can also affect your dog including:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes
  • Plastic and rubber materials
  • Cleaning products
  • Insecticidal shampoo
  • Fabrics

Perfume Causes Dog Allergies

Dog owners should always take into consideration that if they are being affected by allergens, it's likely their pup is, too.

Seasonal Allergies Symptoms

The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies are:

  • Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin.
  • Increased scratching and irritation
  • Itchy, runny eyes

However, seasonal allergy symptoms can also appear as any of the aforementioned general symptoms of allergens.

Food Allergies

Comparable to humans, dogs can also be allergic to their food. In fact, food allergies and allergies to food additives are relatively common in dogs. If your dog has ever had an upset stomach from new food, it's possible they were having an allergy intolerance to a new ingredient.

The list of possible allergens is extensive, but common culprits are:

  • Grains: corn, wheat, rice
  • Proteins: chicken, beef, eggs, pork, rabbit, fish, lamb
  • Root vegetables: potatoes, carrot, sweet potatoes, yams
  • Legumes: peanuts, lentils, peas, beans, soy
  • Dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese

Dairy Causes Dog Allergies

Food Allergy Symptoms

Differing food allergy symptoms from environmental allergy symptoms is the system that they generally appear in. Food allergies typically affect the digestive system. Therefore, symptoms will commonly appear as either diarrhea or vomiting.

Hypoallergic Dog Food

Here's where things can get tricky with food allergies. The main way to determine exactly what is causing the allergic reaction is by process of elimination. This can be quite time-consuming (let alone expensive), but trust us when we say that it's worth it. Food allergies are nothing to shrug off. In fact, a mild upset stomach the first time ingesting a food allergen can quickly turn serious and have life-threatening consequences if the dog is continuously exposed.

Luckily, there is hypoallergenic dog food available. You may want to consider grain-free food substitutes as many dogs seem to have sensitivities to grains. Talk with your veterinarian about the best food for your dog's individual needs.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergies are ones which most dogs will face at some point in their life. Even a few bites can leave Fido itching for weeks. If your pup is currently suffering from irritation due to flea bites, look into natural ways to ease the itch, such as coconut oil for dogs. There are also a number of non-toxic, all-natural ways to prevent flea bites in the first place such as diatomaceous earth for dogs.

Fleas Cause Dog Allergies

Skin Allergies | Contact Allergies

It may surprise pet owners to hear that dogs may also have allergies towards certain fabrics, i.e. that gorgeous feather comforter that you sleep under. Additionally, dogs can also be allergic to other animal and human dander. You read that correctly, but don't worry! There are ways to treat these allergies.

Diagnosing Dog Allergies

The first step in treating dog allergies is diagnosing them. Again, pet owners must ensure that their dog is suffering from allergies and not a different condition. Depending on the dog's specific symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend blood tests, skin tests, saliva testing, as well as a food elimination diet.

Skin Test

If you have allergies you're likely familiar with skin allergy testing, also known as an intradermal skin test. The same test is used when diagnosing allergies in dogs. While many small injections may be necessary, the test won't be traumatic for your dog.

The skin test works by inserting different allergens into the dog's system to determine if there is a reaction. Typically, within 15 minutes of the allergen being injected, a veterinary dermatologist will be able to recognize which substances are most problematic for your pup.

Blood Test

There are two different types of blood testing that your veterinarian may use:

  1. RAST test (radioallergosorbent)
  2. ELISA test (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay)

The blood tests check for antibodies in the dog’s blood triggered by allergens.

Once the vet draws the blood, it can be sent off to a lab and checked for allergens such as dust, pollen, and molds. Other allergens such as fabrics and food can also be tested in a blood test but are less accurate.

Saliva Test

A saliva test may be something you want to talk to your vet about. Saliva testing can be used to determine food sensitivities and intolerances rather than allergies. However, be sure to consult with your veterinarian regarding the accuracy of the at-home testing kits.

Saliva Test for Dog Allergies

Food Elimination Diet

We previously discussed the main way to diagnose food allergies: the food elimination diet. A food elimination diet involves stripping down the dog's diet to the bare essentials and then slowly reintroducing ingredients until you see a reaction. The process can be long (lasting up to 6 months) and tedious for a pet owner. However, once the food allergy is determined, dog owners will be able to ensure that they are keeping their dog healthy and allergy-free from that point forward.

Breeds At Higher Risk For Dog Allergies

It is estimated that up to 10% of all dogs suffer from allergies. Interestingly enough, there are certain breeds at a higher risk of developing allergies. You'll find that several on the list are brachycephalic breeds (dogs characterized by their pushed in, flat noses). However, all dogs have the potential to develop allergies at some point in their life.

The following breeds are at a higher risk of developing allergies:

  • Terriers
  • Golden retrievers
  • Pugs
  • Bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • Dalmatians
  • Beagles
  • Boston terriers
  • Irish setters
  • German shepherds

Dalmations Oftentime Have Dog Allergies

Dogs may also be at a higher risk of developing allergies due to their geographic location as well as the time of year.

Allergy Relief = Allergy Prevention

Obviously, the best way to provide allergy relief is to prevent allergens whenever possible. Of course, not all allergies, particularly seasonal environmental allergies, are able to be prevented. However, there are a few things that pet owners can do in order to keep their pup as itch-free as possible on a daily basis.

Pet owners should consider adding an omega 3 fatty acid supplement to their dog's diet. Fatty acid supplements help to keep the skin moisturized and soothe irritation and inflammation. Speaking of inflammation, if you see that your dog's skin looks irritated and red, aloe can do wonders as far as immediate relief is concerned. Additionally, oatmeal can also be a great, all-natural source of relief.

Relief for Fleas

Even a few flea bites can cause your dog to itch and itch for weeks. Luckily, there are a number of ways to ease your dog's irritation such as coconut oil. That being said, prevention is the best medicine. Talk to your veterinarian about the best flea preventative for your individual dog. Dogs that are primarily kept outside will typically need a different amount of flea preventative than those kept inside. Additionally, there are all-natural ways to prevent fleas and other critters from making their way into your home such as diatomaceous earth.

Finding Relief for Environmental Allergies

There are also several ways to find relief from environmental allergies.

Dust Relief

If you determine that Fido (and likely yourself) is suffering from an environmental allergy caused by dust, be sure to wash the bedding regularly. Washing the bedding once a week can drastically improve the amount of dust and significantly reduce the allergic response.

Regular bathing can also reduce allergic responses to dust. With that said, be sure to use a soothing shampoo that won't irritate your dog's skin. The last thing you want to do is resolve one allergy and create another.

Pollen & Dander Relief

If your dog is suffering from allergies due to pollen or dander, you'll likely see them in a sneezing or itching fit after getting back inside from a walk. By wiping your dog down with a damp towel or wipes after walks you can greatly reduce the allergens from pollen and dander on their skin.

Still Unsure?

If you are still unsure as to where the allergic reaction is coming from, consider your dog's shampoo, specifically shampoo residue.

This is honestly best case scenario when it comes to allergies because it is an easy fix. Simply give your pup an extra rinse or two after shampooing to make sure that all of the shampoo has been washed away. You may also want to consider switching to a gentler formula if possible.

Allergy Medicine for Dogs

So, you've determined that your dog is suffering from environmental allergies, but even with eliminating all you can, Fido still isn't finding relief. What can you do?

Many veterinarians may recommend allergy medicine that you are likely familiar with, two of the most popular being:

Zyrtec for Dogs

Benadryl for Dogs

While many vets deem Zyrtec and Benadryl say for dogs when administered in appropriate dosages, we want to warn our readers to give these medications with caution (if at all). Conventional allergy medications act as a band-aid. They don't resolve the underlying issue, they simply temporarily relieve the symptoms. When given consistently, the allergy medications can not only stop working, but have the potential to do quite a bit of harm.

Allergy shots

Allergy shots (also known as immunotherapy) is another option for both humans and dogs in terms of allergy relief. The shots work by injecting limited amounts of the allergens. Over time, the body builds up a tolerance for the allergen that once caused them to have a reaction. Ultimately, the shots make the immune system less sensitive.

While this process does take time, it is highly beneficial in the sense that it retrains the body's reaction process rather than simply masking symptoms.

Dog Allergy Shots for Dogs

Apoquel for Dogs

While on the topic, we want to warn our readers about Apoquel for dogs, a medication that is often prescribed to treat allergies. While Apoquel can be effective, it can also have horrific side effects, some of which irreversible.

Natural Allergy Relief

Luckily, there are a number of ways that pet owners can provide natural allergy relief to their beloved furry companions.

Coconut oil and oatmeal baths are among the most popular ways to ease irritation, but did you know that there is a way to treat Fido from the inside out with one all-natural supplement?

CBD for Dog Allergies

If you're one to stay up to date on the latest and greatest advancements in holistic medicine, you've likely heard of CBD for dogs. CBD has been making mind-blowing advancements in terms of the plethora of ways that it can ease and cure a slew of ailments. From anxiety to cancer, CBD is truly an incredible herb. But the benefits don't stop there.

CBD is also especially effective at easing dog allergies. That's right, pet parents now have the choice of treating their dog's allergies by administering CBD dog treats or CBD oil.

CBD Dog Treats

In terms of easing Fido's allergies, we highly recommend the Restore CBD dog treats. The creamy coconut treats are perfect for your dog's dry, irritated, itchy skin. The treats are not only great at treating allergies, but also effective at preventing allergies. The Restore CBD dog treats can also heal cracked paws as well as reduce shedding and dandruff.

CBD Oil for Dog Allergies

Pet parents can also use CBD oil as a way to reap all of the benefits of the herb. The oil comes in tincture form with an easy-to-use dropper. The dropper allows pet parents to have total control over exactly how much of the product their dog is receiving. Dog owners can mix the CBD oil into their dog's food or place it on top of their favorite treat.

The ability to treat our fur babies in an all-natural, non-toxic way is something that we can all agree on. Give CBD a try. We are confident that Fido will thank you for it.

Dog Allergies: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, allergies are no fun, for anyone. The constant irritation can be especially awful for your pup when they aren't able to understand what it's coming from. Again, we want to stress the importance of making sure that your dog is, in fact, suffering from allergies and not a different ailment. However, once allergies are confirmed, pet parents are able to treat their beloved companions in a variety of safe, natural ways.


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