What causes allergies in dogs?

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Dogs can suffer from allergies too
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Allergens that affect humans can also be what causes allergies in dogs

What causes allergies in dogs? The same things that cause allergies in humans cause them in canines. A dog may suffer from allergies when its immune system goes a bit haywire and starts identifying every day substances or allergens as dangerous. Even though these allergens are generally harmless, a dog that has allergies is going to react in an extreme way to them, just as some humans do.

Many pet owners are surprised that taking measures to minimize allergens in the home, like installing a whole home air purifier, improves not only the health of the humans living there, but the health of the animals in the home as well. The investment in healthy living at home can be quickly offset by savings in vet bills and trying to resolve a pets allergy symptoms.

Dogs don’t always have the same reaction to allergens that humans do. Grass pollen can make a dog’s feet itch whereas it makes a human sneeze and causes the eyes to water.  Dogs usually scratch when they are suffering from allergies, although their eyes may water.

When scratching is unremitting this can lead to open sores, infected welts and hair loss. When a dog suffers from an allergy, he sneezes, has runny itchy eyes and scratches so much that you may notice that his skin has become scabbed and it is red, moist and itchy. These are called "hot spots." Medication for hot spots can help relieve the symptoms of allergies.

When an allergy is caused by airborne particles this is called atophy. When a dog becomes symptomatic after it is bitten by a flea this is called flea allergy dermatitis. Food allergies are the result of something your dog has eaten that didn’t agree with him. Contact allergy is caused by something that has come into contact with the dog’s skin.

A dog can become symptomatic when he inhales the allergen, eats it or it comes in contact with the dog’s skin. The dog’s reaction to the allergen is to get rid of the substances and in the process he may experience respiratory, digestive and skin problems. Other allergy symptoms include diarrhea, snoring – which is the result of an inflamed throat — sneezing and vomiting, constant licking and chewing at his paws. The paws may become swollen.

Sometimes dogs experience bronchitis when they are exposed to cigarette smoke or other irritants. When a dog has bronchitis he coughs because the airway is inflamed and there is too much mucus produces. The dog can be given medicine that will open the airway and lessen the inflammation as well as antibiotics.

The dog may get an ear infection and start itching at his ears.

When a dog is allergic to something, he may develop a yeast skin infection or a secondary bacterial infection. This also causes hair loss and crust or scabs may develop on his skin.


Even if a dog doesn't "have fleas," they can get flea bites. Dogs may be allergic to the saliva from a flea bite. The base of the dog’s tail or the dog’s back may become itchy. This is generally due to a flea allergy.


Certain dogs --- retrievers, setters, flat faced breeds (bulldogs, Boston terrier, pugs)— and terriers in general are more likely to have allergy problems than other dogs.

There are many things that your dog can be allergic to including cigarette smoke, certain foods including pork, chicken, beef, soy, wheat and corn.


If your dog is allergic to certain foods he will experience breathing problems and diarrhea or vomiting. He may also have itchy skin.

The best way to determine a food allergy is to give your dog a prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet for three months and nothing else. He can’t have treats, medication or table food during this time. While your dog is eating this diet he should be allergy-free. After three months, start introducing food, one item at a time, and you will be able to determine which food is causing the allergy when or if he has a reaction to the food.


Dander, feathers, tree-, weed- and grass pollens are often offenders as is dust and house dust mites and prescription drugs.

Sometimes flea control products can prompt horrible itchiness that lasts up to three weeks. Fabrics, plastic and rubber materials, cleaning products, perfumes and insecticidal shampoo can also prompt allergic reactions in some dogs.


If you are unable to determine what is causing your dog’s allergy, your vet can perform an intradermal skin test, very much like the one that a dermatologist does on humans, to find out what is causing the dog’s symptoms.

Sometimes vets give an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, to a dog or allergy injections, particularly when a dog has an allergy to airborne allergens.

Sometimes a dog’s allergies are so severe that he must be given cortisone, which is a strong drug that must be used carefully and under the guidance of a vet. 

Giving your dog a weekly bath helps reduce itching. Use a good anti-itch shampoo so that you treat the problem but do not dry out the dog’s skin. When you bathe the dog, you are getting rid of pollens and allergens that are on his skin.

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