Allergies can be a rather annoying condition that humans may have to endure, but did you know that it is also quite common for our canine companions to develop them? In this post, our Monroe vets discuss allergies in dogs, including the causes, signs, and how they can be managed and treated.

Canine Allergies

An allergy is an overreaction or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance (also called an allergen). Most allergens that can affect a dog are proteins derived from plants, foods, animals, or insects.

All types of allergies create challenges for dogs and their owners, and just to make things more confusing, the signs and symptoms of these different types of allergies can overlap.

Common Dog Allergies

Unfortunately, allergies in dogs are a common occurrence seen by our Monroe veterinary team. While there are a wide variety of allergens that a dog can be allergic to, there are some common ones that frequently occur, regardless of your dog's age or breed. Some common allergies we see include allergies to:

  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Lamb
  • Prescription drugs
  • Airborne allergens
  • Fleas
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Dog shampoos

Allergic Reactions in Dogs

Allergic Dermatitis

Allergic dermatitis (or skin allergies) is the most commonly seen type of allergic reaction in dogs. When it comes to dogs, these allergies are mainly caused by one of three things:  fleas, food allergies, and environmental allergies.

Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to fleabites. Some dogs are just simply allergic to flea saliva, leaving their skin to become red, inflamed, or scabbed due to a dog scratching their very itchy skin. However, this is the easiest type of allergic dermatitis to remedy, as flea medication is easily available to help heal a dog's skin.

Canine Hives

Also referred to as urticaria, hives on dogs can be extremely itchy, but are not a life-threatening or altering condition. Hives typically appear as a reaction anywhere from 6 to 24 hours following exposure to the allergen.

This presents as itchy, swelled skin, that appears as a red rash. Spotting hives on a dog is a lot easier on those that are hairless or have shorter fur. Dogs with longer hair can still experience hives, but you are more likely to feel them on their skin as opposed to seeing them.

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock is probably the scariest allergic reaction a dog can experience. Just like people, our canine companions can go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen.

This occurs when antibodies produced by the dog react negatively to the allergen, dropping your dog’s blood pressure rapidly and sending them into shock. This can be fatal if not treated, but luckily, anaphylactic reactions are not typically common in dogs.

This can be a response to any allergen, but most commonly occurs following a bee or wasp stings, or vaccination. This is why our vets recommend keeping a close eye on your dog after they’ve been given any new vaccine, drug, or food, as they may have an unknown allergy.

Does my dog have allergies?

Dogs often show similar allergy symptoms as humans, but the most obvious signs are typically seen through their skin. Excessive scratching likely means itchy, irritated skin, which may be due to an allergy. Here are a few signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for: 

  • Sneezing
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Compulsive licking of the paw(s)
  • Scratching and biting their coat or skin
  • Excessive shedding
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Chronic ear infections or red, waxy ears
  • Coughing, or wheezing, or difficulty breathing

Treating Dog Allergies at Monroe Veterinary Clinic

The best treatment for dog allergies is to avoid the cause and allergens, although this is not always possible. The type of treatment depends on the type of allergy your dog has developed. For instance, the most effective way to treat a flea allergy is to get rid of and prevent the fleas, whereas the best way to treat a food allergy or intolerance, is to change your dog's diet.

Depending on the cause and severity of your dog’s allergic reaction, your veterinarian will have a different approach to treatment. For hives, they might suggest antihistamines, cortisones, and/or medicated shampoos. With food allergies, they might suggest fish oil or other Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. For a skin allergy, your pup may be prescribed dog-safe, anti-inflammatory wipes or shampoo to apply on the skin to offer irritation relief.

In addition to making any necessary lifestyle changes, your vet may also prescribe an allergy relief medication for your dog. This will help control the signs associated with the allergic reaction, such as itching and any secondary skin infections that might have developed.

If your dog seems to be experiencing an allergic reaction, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek emergency veterinary care as soon as possible. This will allow your pup to get the care they need until the cause of their reaction can be determined, and a plan can be made to prevent or manage their allergy for the future.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing signs of an allergy? Contact our Monroe vets to have your pup tested for a variety of allergens. If their reaction is concerning, visit your nearest emergency vet clinic right away.