Environmental Allergies In Dogs – How To Help Your Itchy Pet

By Michael Tarran

April 12, 2021

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You and your furry little friend might have something in common that you haven’t considered before - allergies caused by all kinds of environmental allergens. 

While to us, most environmental allergies are simply annoying, it’s a bit different for dogs. They don’t realize what’s wrong, so you need to make sure you catch any allergy signs and symptoms on time. 

If your dog won’t stop biting and clawing its body to the point of severe wounds and hair loss, you’re probably scratching your own head trying to figure out what’s wrong with your four-legged pal. 

The first thing that comes to mind to most dog owners is to check their beloved pets for fleas, ticks, and other parasite infections, as well as dog food allergies

But what to do when all the results come back negative, and there’s nothing (seemly) wrong with your canine?

It’s time to explore the possibility of environmental allergies.

Where to start? How to know if your doggo has an environmental allergy? If so, how to treat it?

Learn all about environmental allergies in dogs in this super helpful guide!

Dog Environmental Allergies Symptoms - Learn How To Recognize Them 

Dog Environmental Allergies Symptoms

Learning all about doggy allergy symptoms and how to recognize them on time is a crucial step in your dog’s recovery. 

Before I get chatty about all kinds of environmental allergies in dogs, I first need to tell you how to know if your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction. 

Realizing your dog has an allergic reaction is vital for one simple reason:

The more your dog is exposed to environmental allergens, the more severe allergic reaction is, so without diagnosis and proper treatment, things can easily take a turn for the worse.

These are the signs to look out for:

  • Itchy skin
  • Sore, runny eyes
  • Lesions on the underside
  • Licking (especially the paws)
  • Sneezing
  • Inflammation
  • Areas of hair loss
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Recurrent skin and/or ear infections

It goes without saying that your dog will probably experience a few of the listed symptoms, seldom all of them. 

Whatever the case, keep an eye on their behavior and anything that seems out of the ordinary - are they excessively licking their paws? Are they scratching like insane?

Paying close attention to the symptoms and tracking them meticulously will also help your vet when diagnosing and treating your pet, so you can never be too careful when it comes to your furry best friend.

Diagnosing And Treating Environmental Allergies In Dogs

The most common questions dog owners like to pose - “Can I test my dog for allergies?”

The answer is yes! 

Dog allergy testing is a highly efficient way to determine what’s causing troubles for your little friend. However, the type of test depends on the type of allergy. 

When it comes to food allergies, blood and skin testing is not an option. Namely, studies have shown that this type of testing is inaccurate with food allergies in dogs. 

On the other hand, they’re pretty successful at diagnosing environmental allergies (yay!).

Yes, you’ve read it right. 

There is a way to test your dog for environmental allergies!

These types of allergies can be diagnosed two ways: 

  • blood/skin testing at the vet office
  • hair/fur analysis with a home allergy kit

Taking your dog to the vet for allergy testing is always an option, albeit a pricey (and more invasive) one. 

You can opt for option no.2 and get a convenient, accurate, and affordable allergy test kit. 

Currently, the one to beat is the 5strands Pet Environmental Intolerance Test.

environmental allergy testing for dogs

Not only is it simple to use, but it’s also on the mark and entirely pain-free - rest assured your dog won’t feel a thing.

Truth be told, given that your doggo is already struggling with exasperating and painful allergy symptoms, a painless allergy test is a godsend.

And what about treatment?

Treatment for environmental allergies in dogs depends on whether you’ve performed a test or not. 

If you have tested your dog and found out the exact allergy cause, the best option is to keep them away from the allergen that causes it all. 

That being said, this is not the most convenient solution, especially since most dogs are allergic to a mix of environmental allergens that are extremely difficult to avoid at all costs. 

If, on the other hand, you still haven’t tested your dog, then the treatment is symptomatic, meaning it aims to reduce or, hopefully, eliminate the symptoms. 

This includes: 

  • Oral medication
  • Injectable medication
  • Fatty acids
  • Steroids
  • Frequent bathing with special shampoos
  • Ointments 

Other treatments for allergies in dogs can include an allergy vaccine, a.k.a. immunotherapy. 

The vaccine is given by injection under the skin (an allergy shot) or by mouth. The objective is to make the immune system less reactive to allergens. 

Of course, any of these will be prescribed by your vet - you should never try to treat allergies without consulting a professional. 

Most Frequent Environmental Allergens 

most common allergens for dogs

Now that I’ve covered the symptoms and the possible treatment options let’s discuss the most common causes of environmental allergies in dogs.

As you’ll see below, most dog allergies feature similar, if not identical, symptoms. 

This makes it difficult to differentiate between the types of allergies, so it may take time until you can pinpoint the exact cause of your dog’s allergies. 

Don’t forget there’s a chance your dog is allergic to a range of things, which makes it even more difficult to determine the cause.

However, with an accurate allergy test kit (like the one I mentioned before), it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. 

Dog pollen allergy

When the warmer weather comes and plans spring back to life, so does the allergen known as pollen. 

This nasty substance doesn’t cause problems for humans solely. Unfortunately, it attacks our dogs too. 

And they experience symptoms like: 

  • Chewing at the paws
  • Licking of their flank
  • Rubbing their face
  • Inflamed ears
  • Recurring ear infections (look for redness, odor, waxy discharge)
  • Hot spots

Although rarely, pollen allergy symptoms can include respiratory issues:

  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing

The thing about pollen allergies is that the allergen - pollen - is extremely hard to avoid. Yes, complete avoidance of pollen would rid your dog of the symptoms, but in reality, it’s highly impractical.

That’s why pollen allergy treatment always includes antihistamines, immunotherapy, other medications, or even medicated shampoos and ointments that relieve the symptoms. 

All these will be prescribed by your vet if and when necessary. 

They may even suggest some at-home treatments if they deem necessary. 

Dog mold allergy

Unlike pollen which is a seasonal allergen, mold is present all year round. 

Dogs who are allergic to mold may experience harsher symptoms in areas with high atmospheric humidity where mold reproduces at a faster rate.

Mold allergies typically develop in dogs between the ages of six months and three years. However, they can develop at any time during their lifetime.

Since this type of allergy usually manifests as a skin condition, the symptoms include: 

  • Persistent scratching
  • Inflamed and irritated skin
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Localized or generalized hair loss

Also possible, although less common symptoms are: 

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Labored breathing

Treatment for mold allergy generally involves prescribed meds. There’s also something called environmental therapy. 

It entails reducing the mold levels in your dog’s environment to help mitigate exposure and eliminate the symptoms. 

This is not the ideal solution as it’s almost impossible to remove all mold from your environment, but there are a few helpful things you can try: 

  • Keep your dog away from damp places such as garages and basements. 
  • Bathe your dog regularly with hypoallergenic shampoo.
  • Wipe them down with microfiber cloths to remove mold spores that fall on the skin and fur.
  • Check your home for mold occasionally, especially the places where your dog resides.

Dog dust allergy

A dust allergy is caused by tiny creatures called mites.

The symptoms of dust mites allergy include: 

  • Oozing skin
  • Rash
  • Excessive licking
  • Scratching
  • Redness
  • Watering of the eyes and nose
  • Moist or crusty skin

Dogs with a severe dust allergy may experience respiratory symptoms, such as: 

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing

In the most severe cases, this could lead to anaphylaxis.

Allergy to dust mites is often misdiagnosed and interpreted as other conditions due to the similarity of the symptoms. 

However, if you notice your dog has symptoms throughout the year and he seems to breathe and feel better outside, you should consider the possibility of a dust allergy. 

The treatment of this type of allergy involves corticosteroids, antihistamines, a topical ointment, and immunotherapy shots. Your vet may also recommend special shampoos.

Dog grass allergy

Some dogs are allergic to grass their entire lives, while some may develop the condition over the years. 

The tricky thing with a grass allergy is that dogs can go weeks with no symptoms and suddenly experience one or more symptoms.

Since this allergy is usually caused by pollen in the grass and other plants, the symptoms hugely resemble those of a typical pollen allergy: 

  • Bald spots from scratching
  • Excessive licking
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives
  • Moist or crusty skin
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Scratching of the paws, muzzle, underarms, ears, eyes, anus, groin
  • Respiratory symptoms (sneezing, etc.)

The treatment for grass allergy is identical to treatments of most allergies in dogs: 

  • Immunotherapy shots
  • Steroids
  • Ointments
  • Special shampoos, etc. 

Dog dander allergy

Just like people can be allergic to dogs, dogs can be allergic to us and other living creatures. 

It doesn’t mean a dog is allergic to you, per se; they’re allergic to dander, the same cause of dog allergies in people. 

Dander is the flakes of the skin that we shed constantly. It can cause an allergic reaction that people tend to dismiss as a skin condition. 

If your dog experiences some of the symptoms listed below, it’s time to consider dander allergy: 

  • Uncontrolled scratching of the nose, paws, muzzle, etc. 
  • Unrestricted licking
  • Hives
  • Bald spots due to the scratching
  • Diarrhea
  • Watery eyes
  • Respiratory distress (sneezing, snoring, etc.)

Treatment isn’t that much different from other allergy treatments as it includes the typical allergy medication: steroids, antihistamines, ointments, and similar. 

Dog cigarette smoke allergy

One thing many people don’t consider as a possible source of allergens is cigarette smoke. 

Second-hand smoke doesn’t just harm the people around you - it affects the animals as well. 

Your dog can have a reaction to cigarette smoke and experience symptoms like: 

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Respiratory symptoms (difficulty breathing, etc.)
  • Watery eyes

Cigarette smoke affects the dogs that already have respiratory issues from other conditions, not to mention those who suffer from allergies that cause breathing problems. 

In this case, exposure to cigarette smoke is just icing on top of the already messed-up cake.

Luckily, this type of allergy doesn’t require any particular medication or shots. 

If you’re a smoker and you notice the smoke bothers your dog, the ideal solution would be to quit, of course. 

The alternative would be to smoke outside of your home and to change your clothes when you’re near your dog, as the smell of the smoke can trigger reactions.

Environmental Allergies In Dogs - Conclusion

two cute puppies outside

All dog owners will agree with me - there’s nothing worse than watching your little friend struggle. 

Fortunately for all of us, environmental allergies in dogs can be diagnosed and treated without too much hassle, and they’re mostly a nuisance rather than a deadly threat.

The road to recovery doesn’t have to be painful and prolonged, not with a pain-free test and effective treatment. 

If your furry pal struggles with an environmental allergy, just remember - the struggle won’t last forever!

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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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