guide on treating your dogs allergies correctly

Treating Your Dogs Allergies Correctly

Sara Redding Ochoa DVM

This article has been fact checked and verified by our veterinary advisor Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM

It is very common for dogs to suffer from a variety of allergies, much like humans do. They might suffer from various skin allergies that are irritated by the things around them or they can suffer from common food allergies and even allergy symptoms caused from pests.

If you notice that your dog is experiencing discomfort, it could certainly be related to allergies in some way. It can sometimes be challenging to determine just what is the source of your dog’s allergies but there are plenty of resources for identifying allergies and treating them appropriately.

We’ve put together a simple guide to help you understand the various types of allergies and the treatments for said allergies.

We’ve got tips, tricks, and information designed to help you fully understand your dog’s allergies and be able to hopefully soothe their torment as well.

Types of Dog Allergies

1. Skin Allergies

Humans suffer from skin allergies all of the time. Our skin can be irritated by the use of bath soaps and laundry detergents and sometimes even just the fabric of our clothes. Other times, there are skin allergies that might be related to a common skin issue like dermatitis.

It is much the same with dogs. Skin irritations can be caused by more than just dermatitis, although this is a common cause. On the same note, some dogs are more prone to skin allergies than others as well. This is something to be familiar with regarding your dog and their breed.

The most common reasons that a dog might experience skin allergies include the following:

  • Allergens related to the environment
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Allergies related to food
  • Dermatitis and sensitive skin
  • Flea and pest allergies

Each of these can lead to skin allergies for your pup. We will talk more about each of these in turn throughout this guide and even discuss some treatment options later on as well.

Signs of Skin Allergies

Skin allergies is a fairly broad category. It encompasses everything that might cause skin irritation. We’re going to dig deeper into those various skin irritants but for this segment, we are just looking at and identifying skin allergies in general.

Skin allergies can be found sporadically over your dog’s body causing inflammation and itching or they might be generalized to just one or two spots instead. It’s impossible to predict how your dog might flare up when a skin allergy incident occurs.

Were you aware that skin allergies can be more than skin deep?

Skin allergies may be a sign of a deeper issue. Your dog could experience other symptoms that are related to whatever is causing the skin allergy as well.

Here are some things that you might want to watch for to determine whether there may be a deeper issue.

  • Respiratory irritation
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

All of these symptoms can be signs of skin allergies. Or they may be signs of other ailments that are presenting through skin allergies and more.

Dog allergies are far more common than one might think. Most of the time, a dog will not show signs of allergies until they are 6 months or older and maybe even 1-2 years old.

On the same note, some dogs don’t develop allergies until they are much older and it’s an unfortunate side effect of aging or the breed.

Now, how can you identify if your dog is experiencing skin allergies that may need to be treated?

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of skin allergies to watch for.

  • Itchy skin
  • Constant or excessive scratching
  • Excessive licking
  • Rubbing face as if itching it
  • Red splotches on skin or red skin tones
  • Fur loss
  • Skin infections
  • Ear infections
  • Gastrointestinal distress

These allergy signs could be present from any type of allergy but if you notice them, it’s a good indication that something is causing irritation for your dog and you might need to consider taking action or work to figure out just what might be causing the skin allergy.

2. Food Allergies

Dog Food for Skin Allergies

Food allergies are not as common as allergies that are specifically related to inhalants or the environment or possibly even fleas but they are existent. In fact, food allergies for dogs are far more common than some might think. They make up about 10% of the common allergy causes.

While 10% is a small portion, it can affect a large number of dogs. It seems like some dog breeds are far more sensitive than others but there really is no way to predict or determine whether your dog might be prone to food allergies until it happens.

Some allergies can be inherited but again, there is no guarantee either way.

Be aware that if a dog shows signs of food intolerance, that can be quite different from a food allergy.

Here are signs of food allergies that you can watch for.

  • Gastrointestinal distress Ear inflammation
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Chronic gas
  • Constant paw licking
  • Hot spots
  • Itching and irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Eye discharge
  • Leathery skin texture
  • Hair loss
  • Yeast or bacterial infections
  • Scaly or oily skin
  • Skin rashes
  • Sneezing

Most of the time, a food allergy is simply a reaction to a specific ingredient in your dog’s food. There aren’t always indicators and a dog can develop a food allergy at any time.

It’s possible that you have been feeding your dog a chicken and rice formula for years and then one day, they suddenly have a reaction.

Never think that just because your dog has been eating the same food for a lot of years that there is no way they are having a food allergic reaction. They can still be susceptible to this issue.

Common Food Allergies

The thing with food allergies for dogs is there is no consistent answer. One dog might be allergic to chicken while another dog might be allergic to gluten. There are some foods that are common enemies for some dogs and then some dogs might develop allergies that are to foods that don’t commonly cause allergies.

If you feel as though your dog might be experiencing allergies specifically related to their food, you need to change foods. There are dog foods out there that are designed to be best for dogs with allergies.

However, it is best if you can determine what ingredient might be causing the allergies.

Here are some of the most common food allergies for dogs.

  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Soy

You would think that a traditional protein like beef or chicken wouldn’t be a problem but these are actually some of the leading dog food allergens out there.

In dog foods, protein commonly causes food allergies.

If you can find a couple foods and flavors that your dog likes, this is best because you can rotate foods and decrease the likelihood of developing a food allergy over time. If the dog eats the same food over and over, they are more likely to develop an intolerance or an allergy to an ingredient or a food.

This is why beef, chicken, and even lamb can be common food allergens.

When it comes to dairy, the problem is the lactose in dairy. Not all dog foods have dairy and there are many that don’t.

However, in many cases, the issue with dairy is actually an intolerance rather than an allergy. If they are experiencing things like gas, vomiting, or diarrhea rather than various skin irritation, then most likely it is an intolerance.

Wheat tends to be an ingredient that leads to a lot of arguments and criticism within dog foods. Here is the thing – there are wheat products that are used as fillers and hold little to no nutritional values. These are the wheat products that are most likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Then, there are wheat products that are actually nutritious and wholesome grains. Dogs can have allergic reactions to even wholesome grains but they are more likely to have a reaction to gluten and starchy wheat additives than something like a wholesome grain.

Eggs are another protein and it’s a high protein ingredient. The high protein that comes from egg yolks can cause dog allergies. There are a lot of dog foods out there that don’t use eggs in any way so just be mindful of the ingredient list.

Finally, soy is another ingredient that can lead to further allergy food issues. Soy is used in a lot of bulk and more affordable dog foods primarily as a filler.

There are plenty of other health ailments that can also be attached to soy so just be mindful of how much soy and whether you really want to take the risk. Most experienced vets recommend avoiding soy because of the potential health risks.

You don’t necessarily have to purchase the most expensive dog food or an allergy-friendly dog food but it might surely be worth a try if your dog is experiencing symptoms that appear to be food related.

Hypoallergenic Foods

Dog food on a aluminum plate

We’ve talked about foods that are more likely to cause allergies so what are some foods you might want to look for that are hypoallergenic and less likely to cause a problem?

While we aren’t here to list specific brands or make product recommendations, we do want to point your attention to some foods that are considered to be hypoallergenic.

If you notice what appears to be a food allergy, you can always look for foods that contain these ingredients as they are typically friendlier on your dog.

Be aware that there might be a transition period if you switch foods and it may take time for your dog and their system to adjust. While they are transitioning, they might still experience some reactions as their bodies adjust. However, if those reactions continue for an extended period, you should consider other food options.

Look for simple and limited ingredients and a lot of times, you can also look for natural ingredients. Here are some hypoallergenic food ingredient recommendations for you.

  • Limited ingredient dog foods
  • Hypoallergenic blend dog foods
  • Grain-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Hydrolyzed protein
  • Homemade dog foods
  • Salmon
  • Chickpeas
  • Novel protein diets

Notice that these are not necessarily specific ingredients for the most part but rather give you blends or dog food compilations that you can look for. You can certainly look for a specific flavor but it would be better to look for a specific type of food in order to provide your dog with a hypoallergenic solution.

3. Pest Allergies & Seasonal Allergies

Pest allergies and seasonal or environmental allergies are the most common skin allergies for dogs. A lot of dogs are allergic to fleas, specifically bites from fleas and this can lead to various skin irritations and skin disease as well.

In the case of allergies related to fleas or other pests, it only takes one or two fleas to cause a significant problem.

We’re not really sure exactly what it is about fleas that sometimes causes an allergic reaction but a lot of scientists believe it is the flea saliva. This is thought to be the cause because the reaction most commonly comes from the bites rather than the pest being present alone.

While fleas can certainly be a major allergy phenomenon for dogs, so can seasonal and environmental allergies. The downside to this particular allergy problem is the allergens can literally be coming from anywhere.

It might be the soap that you use when you bathe your dog, something in the backyard, fabrics in your home, laundry detergent on your clothes, or something else entirely. These types of allergies are much more challenging to pinpoint and narrow down exactly what the cause may be.

Unfortunately, these allergies are all quite common and yet challenging to identify. Many people will notice pest and seasonal allergies and turn to food as the cause of the allergy. Pinpointing just what might be causing an allergic reaction is incredibly challenging.

Signs of Pest or Seasonal Allergies

While you may not know right away whether the allergic reaction your dog is experiencing is related to something specific, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the signs of allergic reactions. If you notice these things, you can start testing different things in and around your home to try to determine the cause.

Here are some signs and symptoms that you can watch for.

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Hives
  • Itchiness and excessive scratching
  • Excessive licking
  • Paw licking
  • Red skin or inflamed skin
  • Facial swelling around the lips, eyes, or ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Runny eyes and eye discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

You will notice that a lot of these symptoms are quite similar to symptoms of other types of allergies as well.

The key is these symptoms indicate that something is not right, no matter what the cause may be. There are things you can do and steps you can take to help your dog when they face such a reaction.

Determining and Diagnosing Dog Allergies

Scratching Dog
Photo by Lee Haywood from Flickr

You can easily determine whether your dog might be experiencing allergies. Any of the signs that you see from the various lists we’ve shared can be a common indicator that something just isn’t right.

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, then you can pretty much assume that they are allergic to something or might just have sensitive skin. Determining just what it is that your dog might be allergic to is a whole other story.

We recommend that you work with your veterinarian to try to determine if there are underlying issues that could be causing these reactions. Your vet can work through process of elimination and rule out any potential bigger issues that could be the root cause.

If they determine that there doesn’t appear to be any other indicators or health concerns, you can go through allergy testing processes for your dog. This is much like human allergy testing and works through a series of tests as well as process of elimination.

It might be necessary to slowly eliminate and test different things from food to other common scenarios to determine what might be causing the issue. With a food allergy test, you might work through a series of diet eliminations in 12 week cycles. For the most part, allergy testing is specific to seasonal and environmental allergies.

The easiest allergy to diagnose is a flea or pest allergy because there are typically clear indicators present, such as fleas, that identify the issue. Apply regular flea treatments to protect your dog and try to keep these nasty buggers at bay.

Best Treatments for Dog Allergies

1. DIY Allergy Treatments

There are things you can do at home to soothe treat your dog’s allergies. If you know what causes the allergic reaction, you can avoid that allergen for the comfort of your dog. There are times that an allergen might simply be unavoidable but there are things you can do to avoid certain allergen issues.

The very best way to treat your dog’s allergies is to avoid common or known allergens.

When it comes to treating allergies on your own, you will want to be mindful of what the allergy might be from before you treat it as there are different ways to treat different allergies. You might need to consider lifestyle changes to support a known allergy with your dog as well.

If your dog happens to have a breakout that isn’t severe and they need some itch relief, there are some over the counter solutions that you can try to combat the allergic reaction.

2. Antihistamines

You can use human Benadryl or allergy medicine to treat your dog’s allergic reaction and help to soothe their symptoms. There are also antihistamines that are made specifically for dogs that you can use as well.

Use an antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine. The most common solution used is Benadryl. Never use the medicine that has a “D” after the title. For example, do not give your dog Zyrtec-D, as this could harm your dog rather than help them.

Before you give your dog a dose of this antihistamine, be sure you understand the proper dosing. The recommendation is that you use 1mg of antihistamine for every pound of body weight of your dog. For example, if your dog weighs 10 pounds, you would give them 10mg of antihistamine.

Benadryl is the most common antihistamine used but you can use other options like Claritin or Zyrtec as well. If you feel like diphenhydramine is not sufficient, try a medicine with loratadine or chlorpheniramine and cetirizine, which are Claritin and Zyrtec, respectively.

3. Wipes or Shampoos

Cute dog ready for bath. Selective focus.

You can also use various wipes and shampoos to try to help treat or soothe your dogs after an allergic reaction. If you decide to use one of these, look for options that are designed for sensitive skin or labeled as hypo-allergenic as you don’t want to irritate the area further.

Wipes and shampoos can be soothing but can also help to remove whatever it is that is causing the allergic reaction as well. Look for items that are soothing and sensitive but also moisturizing so they don’t dry out the skin excessively and cause itching from a whole different problem.

4. Supplements

Dog Supplements Dog Nerdz

There are some additional supplements that you can give your dog as well. Or you can try to make sure that their diet consists of high amounts of these supplements to provide their bodies with much-needed minerals for their health.

Fish oils and Omega-3s are the most common supplements and have been shown to be beneficial to seasonal allergies in particular. These supplements can also help to reduce inflammation, which could be beneficial for something like arthritis.

4. Prescription Treatments

In addition to these DIY treatments, you can obtain prescription treatments from your veterinarian. These treatments might include either topical or oral treatments. These are best for treating hot spots or heavy allergic reactions that are not improving with other treatment care.

In addition, dogs can be given allergy shots as well. A shot might be helpful if your dog doesn’t react well to oral medications or if you simply can’t get them to take it. Allergy shots are typically reserved as a last resort option


Hopefully you are now armed to diagnose and treat your pet’s allergies. It’s always a good idea to talk to your vet and get their opinion on your dog’s allergies. Alternatively, follow our steps and you should be heading in the right direction – good luck!

Similar Posts