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Allergies in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

sick dog

For most people, part of every year involves lots of extra tissues as the nose starts to alternate between running and stuffing up, and sneezes become a regular occurrence. This is allergy season, but allergies affect more than just humans. In fact, some of the same things that cause allergies in people can cause allergies in our dogs as well. So, if you notice your dog sneezing a lot, it’s probably suffering from allergies just like you.

Of course, you don’t want your dog to needlessly suffer, and you want to make sure that it’s really suffering from allergies and not some other undiagnosed underlying disease. To do that, you’ll need to understand what allergies look like in dogs, what causes them, and how to treat them. In this article, we’ll cover all of these important topics so you’re more prepared to deal with your dog’s allergies when they start to become a nuisance.

divider-dog pawWhat Are Allergies in Dogs?

Allergies are reactions caused by certain substances known as allergens. Allergens come in many forms, most often produced by plants, animals, insects, or foods. Continued exposure to the allergen causes a sensitivity to it in the immune system, resulting in an over-reaction when the same allergen is introduced again in the future.

sick dog
Image Credit: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

Three Types of Allergies in Dogs

Dogs have allergies in three main varieties, depending on what caused the allergic reaction. Unfortunately, sometimes the symptoms that these types of allergies present can overlap, making it more difficult to pinpoint a specific cause for the allergies.

Food Allergies

Food allergies aren’t actually as common as many dog owners believe. You’ll often hear of people talking about their dog’s food allergies, but generally, these are just sensitivities and not actually allergies. Food sensitivities are really just intolerance, and there’s no immune response to a food intolerance like there is with a true food allergy. Instead, a food tolerance creates a gradual reaction. Real food allergies can result in vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, and infections of the ear or foot.

Dog Not Eating
Image Credit: Pixabay

Skin Allergies

Skin allergies are also known as allergic dermatitis, and in dogs, this is the most common allergic reaction. Ironically, skin allergies can be caused by food allergies and environmental allergens, which makes it difficult to know when you’re dealing with a true skin allergy or just skin rash symptoms from another type of allergy.

Skin allergies can also be caused by flea allergy dermatitis, which is just an allergic reaction caused by flea saliva. The bites from fleas will make these dogs itchy with signs of skin rash. Environmental allergens can result in atopic dermatitis, though these allergies are generally seasonal.

Environmental Allergies

Usually, environmental allergies are seasonal. This category includes things like dust and pollen, which cause allergic reactions in many humans and dogs.

Austrian black and tan hound-dog-eating-the-grass_Shutterstock_Wirestock Images
Image Credit: Wirestock Images, Shutterstock

What Is an Acute Allergic Reaction?

These are often the most worrisome types of allergic reactions. These are severe and immediate reactions that can become fatal if treatment is administered quickly. Similar to humans, dogs can even go into anaphylactic shock in such situations, though this is rather rare with dogs. Sometimes, these reactions are caused by routine vaccinations or insect stings like bees. When this happens, you’ll probably notice swelling of the face, eyes, and lips, just like you might see in people. A vet can treat this with antihistamines, and it’s rarely fatal.

Common Allergy Symptoms in Dogs

Many of the common allergy symptoms that dogs present can be caused by any of the three types of allergies that dogs routinely suffer. This makes it harder to diagnose a particular cause of the allergies, though it’s relatively easy to pick out the symptoms of allergies in general. That said, some of these symptoms can also present from other conditions that aren’t related to allergies at all, so you’ll want to get a vet’s opinion for a proper diagnosis.

Some of the most common symptoms of allergies your dog is likely to show include:

Most Common Symptoms
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive licking
  • Red skin
  • Swelling around the face
  • Hives
  • Diarrhea

How to Diagnose Allergies in Dogs

Because many allergy symptoms in dogs are pretty similar to the symptoms they might present for other conditions, you’ll want to get a professional prognosis if you think your dog has allergies. A veterinarian can test for allergies, rather than simply guessing. Granted, these tests aren’t always accurate and it could be difficult to pinpoint a cause. However, some allergies are easier to identify than others, such as flea allergy dermatitis, which is considered the easiest to diagnose.

sick dog_Christin Lola_Shuuterstock
Image Credit: Christin Lola, Shuuterstock

Treatments for Allergies in Dogs

There are several treatments available for dogs with allergies, and which one your dog needs depends on what is causing its allergies. For example, a flea shampoo might solve allergic reactions to flea allergy dermatitis by killing off the fleas, though this wouldn’t do anything for a food allergy. Once your veterinarian diagnosis your dog’s allergies, they can suggest a method of treatment that will be effective for the specific allergies your dog is experiencing. For instance, food allergies might require a change in diet. Other allergies might simply require you to administer allergy relief medication to your dog regularly.

divider-dog pawConclusion

Allergies are incredibly common and there’s no reason to worry if your dog is experiencing allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny eyes, itchiness, and rashes. Usually, these conditions aren’t serious, and they can be cured quite easily. You’ll want to get your vet’s opinion first to make sure that it’s really allergies your dog is suffering from and not some underlying condition that’s as of yet undiagnosed. Once allergies are determined to be the problem, your vet can suggest a treatment path to help alleviate the symptoms and get your dog back to full health.

Featured Image Credit: MeHe, Pixabay

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