The Most Common Dog Allergies | Symptoms and Treatments

Article at a Glance

  • Dogs may suffer from food or skin allergies as well as acute allergic reactions

  • Knowing the symptoms of allergies in dogs can make allergic reactions easier to treat

Table of Contents 

  • Introduction
  • Food allergies
    • Beef
    • Wheat 
    • Dairy
    • Other animal proteins
    • Eggs 
    • Soy
  • Dog breeds prone to food allergies
  • Skin allergies
    • Food allergies
    • Flea allergy dermatitis
    • Environmental allergens
  • Acute allergic reactions 
  • Diagnosing allergies in dogs
  • Treatment for dog allergies
  • Most common dog allergies: Conclusion

Like humans, dogs are also susceptible to allergies. However, dogs are much less likely to suffer from allergies than humans. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, only about 0.2 percent of dogs suffer from food allergies. Still, it’s very important to be aware of the symptoms and treatment options of allergies in dogs. 

Read this guide to learn all about the most common dog allergies and what you can do about them. 

Food Allergies

In dogs, food allergies occur when their immune systems mistakenly identify a food ingredient as harmful. Your dog’s body will then create defensive antibodies to fight the ingredient that the body sees as the invading enemy. Dogs inherit food allergies from their parents, and when they’re exposed to that food, they’ll suffer from an allergic reaction as well. However, when most pet owners say that their dog has a food allergy, what they’re actually referring to is a food sensitivity, otherwise known as food intolerance. 

Unlike true food allergies, food sensitivities don’t involve an immune response. Instead, your pet has a gradual reaction to an ingredient in their food. Dogs with food sensitivities often present with the same symptoms as dogs with food allergies. 

Here are some of the most common symptoms of food allergies in dogs:

  • Sneezing 
  • Itchy paws
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin rashes
  • Hot spots as a result of excessive scratching 
  • Scaly or oily skin
  • Eye discharge 
  • Leathery skin texture
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Red eyes
  • Ear infections 
  • Hair loss
  • Secondary bacterial infections

Here are some of the most common food allergies in dogs:

Beef 

Beef is one of the most common ingredients in pet foods, which is likely also the reason why it’s one of the most common allergens. If your dog is allergic to beef, there’s a good chance they may also be allergic to other kinds of animal proteins. However, if they’re not allergic to other animal proteins, then you can serve them dog food made with chicken, turkey, or lamb. 

Wheat 

Wheat is another common food allergy in dogs. Additionally, many dogs experience sensitivities to wheat, as they find it hard to digest. 

Dairy

While dogs can be allergic to dairy, it’s rare. Dogs are much more likely to suffer from lactose intolerance than they are to suffer from a dairy allergy. If your dog is lactose intolerant, then it’ll likely experience gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. If your dog is truly allergic to dairy, then they’re likely to suffer from skin itchiness or other related symptoms that come with allergies. 

Other Animal Proteins 

In addition to beef, dogs can also be allergic to chicken, fish, turkey, or lamb. Often, lamb is used dog foods in place of chicken or beef when pet food companies are trying to make their foods “allergy-friendly.” If your dog has an allergy to lamb, try searching for dog foods made with venison. 

Eggs 

While eggs aren’t a common main ingredient in dog foods, some dog foods do contain trace amounts of eggs. If your dog suffers from an egg allergy, be sure to check the food label to ensure the product wasn’t made in a factory with eggs. 

Soy 

Beyond allergies, some studies show that consuming too much soy can cause other health issues in dogs. For example, too much soy could potentially lead to reproductive problems, thyroid issues, or liver disease. 

Dog Breeds Prone to Food Allergies 

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing food allergies than others. Some dog breeds that are more susceptible to food allergies include:

  • Golden retrievers
  • Daschunds
  • German shepherds
  • Pugs
  • Bulldogs
  • Pitbulls
  • Shih Tzus
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Yorkshire and West Highland Terriers 

Skin Allergies

Also known as allergic dermatitis, skin allergies are the most common type of allergies in dogs. There are three primary causes of skin allergies in dogs:

  1. Food allergies
  2. Environmental allergens
  3. Flea Allergy dermatitis

Food Allergies

That’s right- if your dog suffers from a food allergy, it can lead to even more allergic reactions in their skin. Food allergies and sensitivities often cause a dog’s skin to itch, with the most common areas of itchiness being behind the ears and on the paws. Sometimes, skin allergies that derive from food allergies are accompanied by gastrointestinal problems. 

Flea Allergy Dermatitis 

Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction caused by flea bites. Most dogs aren’t allergic to the fleas themselves, but rather, the saliva that the fleas produce. If a dog is exposed to a flea’s saliva, they’ll often experience itchiness, especially at the base of their tail. If your dog has a flea allergy, their skin will also likely become red, scabbed, and inflamed. 

Environmental Allergens 

Environmental allergens, such as pollen, dust, or mold, can cause an atopic allergic reaction in your dog, such as atopic dermatitis. Usually, this type of allergy is seasonal, so you may only notice your dog suffering during certain times of the year. As is the case with food allergies, most environmental allergens result in itchiness in the paws or behind the ears. However, dogs that suffer from environmental allergens may also experience itchiness in their ankles, wrists, and groin area. 

No matter the cause of the skin allergy in your dog, all skin allergies are at risk of secondary infection. As your dog scratches, licks, and bites its skin, it risks creating a wound that can lead to a yeast or bacterial infection. 

Acute Allergic Reactions 

While acute allergic reactions in dogs aren’t very common, they’re perhaps the scariest form of allergies in dogs. When your dog suffers from an acute allergic reaction, it can cause them to go into anaphylactic shock. If not treated quickly, the reaction can be fatal. Bee stings and vaccine reactions are some of the most common causes of anaphylactic shock in dogs. However, new medications or food products can sometimes cause a dog to go into anaphylactic shock. 

In some cases, dogs develop facial swelling or hives in response to allergens. They may also experience swelling of the ears, throat, eyelids, lips, or ear flaps. If your dog goes into anaphylactic shock, then you need to seek emergency veterinary assistance immediately. A vet can administer intravenous injections into your dog to counter the reaction. 

Diagnosing Allergies in Dogs 

Like all issues related to dogs, things would be so much easier if your dogs could just tell us what they want. However, this is not the case. In the case of food allergies, often the best way to diagnose is through an elimination diet. A food elimination diet often involves feeding your dog one source of protein and carbs for 12 weeks.  Your veterinarian may also order skin or blood allergy tests for your dog. 

Skin allergies are much easier to diagnose than food allergies, especially if the allergy is the result of a flea. As we mentioned, if your dog has fleas, they’ll likely be itching more than usual. You can inspect your dog’s skin to see if it’s red and bumpy, and you may even notice tiny adult fleas scurrying around on their fur.


Treatment for Dog Allergies 

The best way to treat a dog allergy is to avoid the irritant that causes the allergy in the first place. For example, if your dog suffers from a food allergy, make sure to always read the nutrition label and the manufacturer’s label before purchasing. 

To avoid skin allergies from fleas, you can:

  • Limit the amount of time your dog spends outdoors
  • Limit your dog’s contact with wild or stray animals
  • Check for fleas regularly
  • Brush and bathe your dog regularly

And, as we mentioned before, if your dog suffers from a severe allergic reaction, the best course of action is to take them to the vet. 

Most Common Dog Allergies: Conclusion

As you can see, there are many types of allergies your dog may suffer from. While it may not be possible to prevent allergies in your dog, the best thing you can do is be aware of their well-being and look out for any changes in their health. If you’re looking for more ways to take care of your dog, check out this guide on how to get your puppy to sleep through the night. 

Written by Mead Johnston

Mead is an experienced dog trainer, writer, and lover of animals. She has always been surrounded by animals and had a passion for learning more about them every day. This passion grew tremendously when Mead brought home a Great Pyrenees x Golden Retriever named Mac in 2018. Mead has continued to learn more about dogs whenever possible and wherever possible, while also helping so many wonderful clients. Her goal is help her clients and their dogs become confident in their daily lives. As a dog trainer, she often helps clients who are starting off with a puppy or they might have an older dog that is presenting challenging behaviours. Mead believes in the all-natural uses of Pet CBD to help our furry loved ones live longer, happier and healthier lives.

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