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Published: Mar 04, 2024 5 min read

Allergies are a dog’s negative reactions to certain substances found in their environments, skin or diets. These substances, called allergens, can cause reactions as mild as itching and as severe as anaphylaxis. That is why owners should be aware of which symptoms to look for and what to do once they identify them. Read on to learn more about dog allergies, their symptoms and how to treat them.

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How to tell if your dog has allergies

If your dog is having an allergic reaction to something, there will be signs. Much like humans, an allergic reaction can look different in every dog and symptoms go beyond itchy skin, a runny nose and watery eyes. Other common symptoms of dog allergies include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Hair loss
  • Shortness of breath and other respiratory symptoms
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the affected area
  • Skin infections
  • Hives
  • Ear infections

If you want to rule out that your dog has allergies, the best thing to do is to take them to experts like licensed veterinarians and allergy specialists. They will ascertain whether or not your dog has an allergy and what may be causing it.

Most common types of dog allergies

Dogs typically suffer from three main types of allergies, which can be caused by their diets, their environment, parasites like fleas and even genetic factors.

Skin allergy

Experts believe certain dog breeds are genetically predisposed to have atopic dermatitis (atopy). Allergens like dust mites, mold, pollen and pet dander will make a dog’s skin flare up if they struggle with this type of allergy.

Another common type of skin allergy is flea allergy dermatitis. Flare ups can be caused by flea bites and droppings as well as flea saliva.

Food allergy

Food allergies are caused by allergens found in different foods. The most common allergens can be found in certain proteins, nuts and grains as well as in milk.

This is not to be confused with an intolerance to histamines. Although histamine intolerance causes reactions similar to certain allergy symptoms, it indicates an inability to metabolize foods that are high in histamines.

Seasonal allergy

Seasonal or environmental allergies are triggered by allergens that are more present in certain seasons than others. Just like skin allergies, these can be caused by allergens such as pollen, dust, mold spores and more.

How to treat allergies in dogs

The type of allergy a dog is suffering from —and to which degree— will determine if owners will be able to treat them on their own or need the help of an allergist, dermatologist or other experts.

We recommend always consulting with a vet or allergist before administering any sort of treatment at home. They will be able to narrow down the cause of the allergy and how to best treat it. Additionally, they may administer treatments like allergy shots (immunotherapy), which are meant to reduce how reactive a dog's immune system is to certain allergens.

Managing dog allergies at home

Although treatments should primarily be administered or overseen by experts, there are certain things dog owners can do to help alleviate the symptoms of an allergic reaction and reduce the amount of times they have them.

For example, an expert may recommend changing a dog’s diet to include hypoallergenic foods, which could help reduce food allergy-related flare ups. There are also sprays and other products that aim to soothe any immediate itchiness or irritation on the skin caused by allergens.

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Dog Allergies FAQs

How do you know if your dog has allergies?

If your dog has started displaying clinical symptoms of allergies, a licensed veterinarian or an allergy expert will be the best resource to consult. These experts may use skin testing, flea combing and other diagnostics to determine if your dog has allergies and which type. Blood tests have not been proven to accurately diagnose allergies in dogs.

Does pet insurance cover allergy testing?

In short, yes. Many pet insurance providers will cover allergy testing and treatments as long as the symptoms first manifest after the waiting period for illnesses has passed.

Can you give antihistamine to dogs?

At-home treatments for allergies should be first consulted with an allergist or a veterinarian as the type of allergy and severity of symptoms will determine the best way to alleviate them. Your vet may recommend over-the-counter antihistamines to help with mild allergy symptoms.

Summary of Money’s Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatments

  • Dog allergies are the way dogs’ bodies react to a substance they’re highly sensitive to.
  • Dog allergy symptoms vary according to the type of allergy affecting them and can range from itchy eyes to more serious reactions like anaphylaxis and difficulty breathing.
  • Successfully treating a dog for allergies will first require diagnosing them, which can only be done by an expert.
  • Allergy symptoms can be treated at home with guidance from veterinarians and allergy experts.
  • Pet owners whose dogs are enrolled in pet insurance policies can be reimbursed for allergy testing and related treatments.

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