Allergies in Dogs: Overcoming the Obstacles

When we are a paw parent for our dogs and cats, we will always prioritise their health and
wellbeing. We also need to be aware of the conditions that they are facing, like the sort of
allergies that might irritate them.

What are Allergies, and How Common Do Dogs Get Them?

Both people and pets can suffer from allergies. To further understand what is an allergy,
allergy is a reaction or hypersensitivity to foreign substances called an allergen by the
body’s immune system.

Unfortunately, just like humans, allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and
backgrounds. Many experts believe 20% of all dogs will develop allergies over their lifetime
with most allergies appearing after the pet is six months of age, and with the majority of
affected dogs over age one or two.

What are Some of the Common Allergens?

Most substances can act as allergens and a lot of them are proteins from plants, insects,
animals, or foods.

Examples of common allergens are:
● dust mites
● pollens
● mould spores
● shed skin cells
● insect proteins such as flea saliva
● certain medication
● other environmental allergens

Types of Allergies in Dogs

There are many types of allergies that can occur in dogs and in some cases and for certain
dog breeds, the allergies can be inherited – mainly for skin conditions and diseases.

Here are some common types of allergies:

1) Skin Allergies:
Also known as Canine atopic dermatitis (allergic dermatitis, canine atopy). For a dog
to develop atopy, it would have had constant/ repeated exposure to the causal
allergen(s) over a period of time and for the allergy to develop. The disease
develops due to a combination of both a genetic predisposition and environmental
factors that the dog is exposed to.

2) Flea allergy dermatitis:
An allergic reaction to flea bites/ flea saliva. They make the skin extremely itchy,
especially at the base of the tail. The dog’s skin may become red, inflamed, and

3) Food allergies:
A dog’s diet might be the cause of some allergies as well, like certain ingredients in
the food given. This will cause an itch on their ears and their paws, and this may be
accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms. Other parts that might be affected
include wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and in between
the toes.

4) Environmental allergens:
The environment that your dog is exposed to can include allergens like dust, pollen
and mould that can cause an atopic allergic reaction.
In most cases, these allergies are seasonal, so you may only notice your dog itching
during certain times of the year.

5) Contact allergy:
Contact allergies can develop to practically anything and at any age. It is often
caused by direct contact to allergens, such as pyrethrins found in flea collars,
pesticides used on the lawn, grasses, materials such as wool or synthetics used in
carpets or bedding, etc.

Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

The symptoms of allergies in dogs may vary depending on the cause. Some of these
symptoms of all the different types of allergies can overlap.

In the dog, the most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin, either
localised (in one area) or generalised (all over the body). Common reactions of dogs to
allergies include itching, scratching, licking, biting, rubbing, chewing, gnawing which will
then lead to infections if not taken care off.

For serious cases, an allergic reaction can cause your dog to go into anaphylactic shock
and it will have a drop in blood pressure followed by shock. This is very different from a skin

In other cases, the symptoms involve the respiratory system, with coughing, sneezing, and/
or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from the eyes or nose.
For food allergies, the allergic symptoms will affect the digestive system resulting in
vomiting and diarrhoea.

In general, there are some common symptoms that could trigger the signs of an allergic
● Constant licking
● Chronic ear infections
● Diarrhoea
● Hives
● Itchiness
● Red, inflamed skin/ ears
● Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
● Sneezing
● Vomiting
● Watery eyes

Treatment & Prevention
If you noticed some of the odd behaviours and symptoms of your canine friend, it is time to
consult a veterinarian!

The best way to treat an allergy is avoidance of the cause and allergen, and this includes
some lifestyle changes for you and your dog. Your vet may advise to rule out any other
condition that could be causing your dog’s symptoms.

Allergy testing is one of the trying ways in order to determine the cause of the allergen that
is causing the reaction. However, this testing may not always be possible or accurately
determine the cause of an allergy.

Depending on the symptoms and type of allergy, here are some of the possible ways of

a) Flea allergy dermatitis: Identifying fleas on your dog’s body and applying an
animal-friendly skin product to kill the fleas before they start to bite.

b) Food allergies: Diagnose using an elimination diet trial or applying a change in
certain food for the diet using a hypoallergenic diet. A food trial consists of feeding a
dog one source of protein and carbohydrate for 12 weeks. Why specifically 12
weeks? This is because it takes at least eight weeks for all other food products to be
eliminated from the body,

Besides the necessary lifestyle changes, your vet might also prescribe some medication to
help with the allergy relief and soothe the itching and skin infections that could have
developed due to the irritation.

Other available therapies are advised based on necessity and the condition that your dog
might be in like anti-inflammatory therapy (with antihistamines and other related medication
suitable and appropriate for your dog), shampoo therapy (bathing in hypoallergenic
shampoo to soothe the skin irritation), or even Hyposensitization or desensitisation therapy
(allergy serum injections).

Should the allergy testing show positive responses and improvement of your dog’s allergy
condition, your veterinarian will advise you on how to proceed.

NEVER Self-Diagnose Your Dog!

Do keep in mind though symptoms might look mild, if not provided with the necessary
attention, the conditions might become worse.

Always keep in mind that the allergy symptoms can sometimes be confused or overlap with
other disorders, or occur concurrently with them. Therefore, do not attempt to self-diagnose
your dog without veterinary professional assistance.

If needed, prepare yourself for a full diagnostic report by your veterinarian in order to fully
understand the condition your dog is in, and to slowly rule out other causes of itching and
skin problems. Where full treatment is concerned, always follow your veterinarian’s advice
closely in order to successfully relieve your pet’s discomfort.

If your dog has a severe allergic reaction, your best course of action is to get him to an
emergency veterinary hospital as quickly as possible.
Consult a certified veterinarian in the comforts of your own home with WhatsDoc!