Allergy Symptoms In Dogs – What Do You Need To Know About Dog Allergies?

By Michael Tarran

October 25, 2021

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Dog allergies are very common, unfortunately - and they can happen to any dog at any given time. From food allergies to seasonal allergies, your dog could be allergic to anything out there. However, everyone knows that dog allergy symptoms are not the same as they are for humans.

So, how do the allergy symptoms in dogs appear? How can you be sure that your dog's symptoms are, in fact, allergy symptoms?

Continue reading this article to find out everything about allergy symptoms in dogs!

What Is An Allergy?

Immune System

Allergy is a reaction in the immune system to a particular thing from nature - and that thing is called an allergen. Allergens can be proteins from anything and everything - from plants and insects to certain foods or animals.

When the dog's body is exposed to the allergen, the immune system attacks itself, leading to an allergic reaction. Allergies are, in essence, an unnecessary immune response to an otherwise benign substance from nature.

The allergic reaction happens when the protein in the allergen combines itself with the antibodies found in the blood. When the antibody and antigen meet, they react and release a potent chemical called histamine.

When this chemical is released, it causes inflammation in the body, and redness, swelling, itching, as well as other symptoms, appear. Allergies can start at a very early age for dogs, or they can occur when your pet is already well into adulthood - there are no rules.

That being said, allergies are relatively common in dogs, and some dog breeds are predisposed to having allergies. Luckily, allergic reactions in dogs are manageable once you get the hang of it.

Allergy Symptoms In Dogs

Runny Nose

For dogs, the allergy symptoms can vary greatly. Some are seen very often, while some pet allergies come with unusual symptoms.

If your dog has allergic reactions often, you should talk to your vet about the symptoms. In reality, you could be missing out on certain symptoms that indicate your dog is not feeling too well.

First up, it's principal to make a point that allergic reactions in dogs aren't the same as allergic reactions in humans. 

For dogs, the first and the most important way the allergic reaction presents itself is the itchy skin. Skin changes are the most common symptom, and they come first for most dogs - if the allergy in question is a food allergy or flea allergy dermatitis. 

If you notice itchinesshives, or that the dog's skin is red, inflamed, and bumpy - it could be a sign of an allergic reaction.

Itchiness is usually related to the skin on the dog's body, but your dog's ears and eyes could be itchy, as well. It's common for dogs with allergic dermatitis to have runny, watery eyes with clear discharge. That itchiness could cause your dog to be constantly licking at its paws or body, so be on the lookout for these symptoms. Paw problems are common, too.

Sneezing is another symptom of an allergic reaction, and it's a symptom humans share with dogs. Dogs with environmental or seasonal allergies can experience chronic ear infectionsdiarrhea, and vomiting, too.

Swelling is a symptom present in the more serious allergic reactions - and it could be a sign of an anaphylactic shock.

Bear in mind that anaphylactic shock is the most severe allergic reaction of all. If not tended to as soon as possible, it could be lethal to your dog.

The facial swelling includes puffy ears, eyelids, and ear flaps - but swelling in the neck area can be a part of the immune response, too. If the swelling is present in the neck area, it could cause your dog to have breathing issues. If you see that, take your dog to emergency veterinary medicine as soon as you notice this.

Do note that all - or some of these symptoms - can be clinical signs of another medical condition. As pet owners, it's our duty to take our pups to the vet and get a proper diagnosis.

Learn More: Dog Reverse Cough – How To Recognize The Symptoms On Time

Are Certain Breeds At Risk For Developing Allergies?

The truth is, yes, some dog breeds can develop allergies more often than others. Allergies in dogs usually appear between 6 months and three years of age, but they can occur earlier or later on in life, too.

Chinese Shar-Pei, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Boxer, Scottish, West Highland White, and Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, and Lhasa Apsos are more at risk of developing food allergies among other types of allergies.

That doesn't mean your Shih Tzu will develop allergies; it just means that he's more at risk than other breeds.

Common Types Of Allergies

Environmental Allergens

As mentioned earlier, our dogs can be allergic to plenty of foreign substances out there. Each type of allergy consists of different symptoms, with skin conditions being present in most allergies.

Insect Bite Allergy

The insect bite allergy happens when the immune system protects the body from a bite or sting from a bug. Commonly, dogs are allergic to the bite of fleas, spiders, ticks, bees, dust mites, hornets, wasps, but also flies, ants - and even mosquitoes.

Among all of these, flea saliva is the most common allergen, and it causes a condition called flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD. Usually, the immune system responds to the FAD with skin irritation - but your dog's allergies could be more serious. Meaning, your poor pooch could be very itchy because of FAD, losing plenty of hair around the tail and the rear area from the scratching.

Besides losing hair, the broken skin could leave room for a bacterial infection, making the whole deal even worse. Pet owners need to have strict flea control to protect their pets from discomfort and bacterial infections.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, or inhalant allergy, is caused by inhalant and environmental allergens like pollen, mold spores, and even dust mites. Atopic dermatitis is sometimes seasonal - but it could happen at any given time during the year.

The gradual reaction starts with upper respiratory infections - runny nose and runny eyes, sneezing, and hay fever. Atopic dermatitis could also present itself as allergic rhinitis and itchy skin.

Atopic dermatitis can be managed, but the vet will likely do a skin test to identify the underlying cause of runny eyes correctly.

Avoiding environmental allergens is not always possible, but skin allergies can be managed to lessen the effects of an acute allergic reaction.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are common in dogs, and your puppy could be sensitive to any protein or carb in its diet. The skin cells will react more often to dairy products, beef, chicken, soy, and even lamb - but allergy testing will show exactly what your dog is allergic to.

The veterinary advice will likely be to conduct an elimination diet or a food trial to find the exact allergen.

Allergy testing will rule out seasonal allergies and skin allergies. However, to find the exact food your pup is sensitive to, your pooch will have to undergo a special diet.

Contact Allergy

Contact allergies in dogs are very rare, but they can still happen. Contact allergies occur when the dog is in direct contact with a particular allergen.

Those allergens are usually found in flea collars (used to protect the dog from flea saliva allergy), pesticides, and certain chemicals.

Again, contact allergies are rare - but the affected dogs can develop these allergies at any point in their lives, even when they have already aged.

Treatment Of An Allergic Reaction In Dogs

Acute Allergic Reaction

The treatment of allergies depends on what the irritant or allergen is and what type of allergy your pup has. Skin allergies and seasonal allergies in dogs are treated differently than food allergies.

That being said, for seasonal allergies, prevention is critical - and that includes avoiding parks and woods during the pollen season. Frequent bathing can help get rid of the pollen and allergens from your dog's fur, making it a bit more comfortable.

Avoiding environmental and seasonal allergens is not always possible, so your vet may prescribe allergy shots, oral antihistamines, or some other course of action. To treat an allergic reaction, your pet's doctor might also prescribe a cream or ointment to apply on the most commonly affected areas to deal with itching.

Flea allergy dermatitis is better avoided than treated, but if your dog does get fleas, you should bathe it and use a special shampoo to eradicate fleas. Cleaning the beds and places your dog frequents can also be a great way to deal with fleas. And while we're at it, using a flea collar can do wonders for preventing FAD - and so can avoiding contact with strange dogs.

Without some skin testing or other type of allergy testing, it would be impossible for your vet to diagnose the dog properly, even with all the clinical signs of a food allergy, for example.

Treating food allergies is perhaps the easiest for the affected dogs.

Your vet will advise a hypoallergenic diet for your pet. If acute allergic reactions still happen, your pup will be prescribed oral medications to soothe the dog itching and, in the worst-case scenario, facial swelling.

However, a food allergy cannot be treated with corticosteroids or allergy shots. The pet owner will have to eliminate the allergen from the dog's diet and avoid that allergen at all times.

Allergy Symptoms In Dogs - Bottom Line

To conclude, allergy symptoms in dogs can vary greatly from dog to dog. Also, each type of allergy comes with its own set of symptoms, so there is no way to know for sure what your pup is sensitive to without a visit to the vet.

Luckily, allergies in dogs are manageable and treatable - meaning your pooch can live a comfortable life without allergic reactions. The vet will prescribe the best course of action to allow your pup to live life to its full potential!

Just follow the rules set by the vet, keep some Benadryl nearby, and you - and your pup - will be good!

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Michael Tarran

About Me

I'm a devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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