Canine Skin Allergies 101

Canine skin allergies make your pet itchy and miserable.

Strangely enough, whatever has caused the symptoms often didn't even have to have come in contact with Fido's skin.'

Itchy Cocker Spaniel

What causes canine skin allergy symptoms?

All sorts of things, including:

  • Seasonal allergies, dust or mold.
  • Dog food ingredients, or something in his favorite treats.  
  • Parasites such as fleas.
  • Chemicals in cleaning products or yard treatments.

... even the grass under his feet can all trigger allergies in dogs.

Although some allergies might cause your pup to sneeze or cough, by far the most common symptom of an allergic reaction to ANYTHING is skin irritation and inflammation.

Removing the allergen is the only way to 'cure' canine skin allergies, so it's really important to take the time to figure out what's causing the problem.

This can take some time (and a fair amount of 'detective work') meanwhile your poor pup is still itchy and uncomfortable - so finding ways to reduce his body's over-reaction and soothe his skin is also a priority.

About Allergies in Dogs

Although any dog breed can have experience an allergic reaction, there are certain dog breeds that seem to be predisposed to canine allergies, these include :

  • Beagles
  • Boxers
  • Bulldogs
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Collies
  • Dalmatians
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Irish Setters
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Poodles
  • Pugs
  • Rottweilers
  • Schnauzers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Terriers

Allergies are more likely to be seen in dogs who are over a year old, and the likelihood of them suffering from allergies tends to increase as they grow older.

The main exception to this is when the allergic reaction is in response to vaccination. Puppies need a lot of puppy shots in the early months and so they are more at risk of having an adverse reaction than older dogs are.

Research has shown that puppies tend to 'grow into' their allergies as they mature due to their increasing exposure to allergens in dog food ingredients, their environment, vaccinations etc.

They become sensitized to these substances as their exposure to them increases.

It makes sense to try to minimize your puppy's contact with allergens as much as possible, although of course you don't want him to live in a 'bubble'!

Symptoms Of Canine Skin Allergies

The most common signs of canine skin allergies include:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Licking/biting/chewing at legs, feet, tail, belly
  • Patches of red, irritated skin. May be swollen, scabbed or hot
  • A rash, often on belly and/or thighs
  • Repeated head shaking, or scratching/pawing at his ears
  • Patches of thickened, greasy skin 

Depending on exactly what it is that your pup is allergic to, he may have one, several, or even all (poor baby!) of the above symptoms.

Generally there is a subtle difference between symptoms depending on what is triggering them.

Inhalant Allergy Symptoms:

If your pup is allergic to dust, pollen, mold etc. then he's likely to be seriously itchy.

The itching may be concentrated in the groin, armpits and paws.

He may also have patches of thick, greasy-looking skin.

His ear flaps may look red and/or feel hot.. and will also be itchy.

He'll probably scratch himself a lot, and even bite at (or lick) the itchy areas excessively.

The constant biting and licking can cause hot spots, raw skin and even infection.

If allergy symptoms are seasonal, then pollen is a likely culprit.

Dust or mold is more likely to result in consistent, year round allergy symptoms.

Usually inhalant allergies appear in dogs over 2 years old.

Flea Allergy Symptoms

Many dogs are allergic to flea saliva, and react by developing Dermatitis.

This usually produces 'Hot Spots' which are areas of inflamed, raw, red skin which might be scabby or scaly.

Patchy hair loss is common too.

Because there is very intense itching with hot spots, sometimes secondary infections can start up because your pup scratches/bites at himself so intensely.

Symptoms of an infection that's related to canine skin allergies often include swelling of the area, sometimes it might feel hot to the touch, there can even be pus or clear/yellow fluid leaking from the sore areas.

The most common places for flea allergy dermatitis to show up is on your puppy or dog's back, especially around the lower back and tail area.

Dog Food Allergy Symptoms

Ingredients in dog food or treats can cause allergies in dogs, resulting in generalized itchy skin.

This won't be a seasonal problem, but will be present year round (unless of course it's related to a treat or food that your pup isn't eating regularly).

Skin problems and ear inflammation/itching are the main symptom of dog food allergies.

Dog food allergies can appear very suddenly, at any age, and are usually a reaction to a food that the pup/dog has been eating for some time.

Contact Allergy Symptoms

This type of canine skin allergy is the least common, but it can happen.

In a dog who is having an allergic reaction to something that has come in contact with his body, there's often swelling, redness, a rash or skin irritation at the site of the contact.

For example, if it's an allergic reaction to his new collar, then the irritation will be around his neck.

Sometimes dogs can be allergic to fertilizers, weedkillers or carpet shampoos which can all cause red, itchy possibly swollen paws.

If your female dog squats low to the ground to pee, this type of irritation can show up around the vulva.

These symptoms can come on very suddenly, and occur at any age.

Although canine skin allergies symptoms can include a rash, this is more often caused by other conditions including

  • Mange
  • Ringworm
  • Staph, yeast or fungal infection
  • Medication side effects 

Find more in-depth information here: Dog Allergy Symptoms

Treating Canine Skin Allergies

The good news is that there are lots of ways to treat canine skin allergies, and to reduce the itching, inflammation and general discomfort that your puppy or dog is feeling.

Veterinary Treatment of Canine Skin Allergies

Your veterinarian can prescribe antihistamines - either a shot or medicine to be given orally, or sometimes both.

If there's a lot of swelling or inflammation, he might also prescribe a course of corticosteroids (can also be given as a shot), and if there are signs of infection then an antibiotic as well.

Natural Products for Dog Skin Allergy Symptoms

For mild to moderate symptoms, there are many over-the-counter products and natural treatments that can help make your pet feel a whole lot more comfortable.

These include feeding only a high quality dog food, giving Omega-3 and Omega-6 supplements, using itch-soothing products (such as shampoos, conditioners, hydrocortisone sprays) and natural products (such as those which contain Aloe Vera, Witch Hazel, Calendula, Oatmeal etc.)

Here are some that you may want to try.

Itchy Skin Relief for Dogs

Shampoo for Dog Allergies

Supplements for Allergies in Dogs

Remove The Source of the Allergy

Although there are lots of products and treatments which can reduce your dog's allergy symptoms, there is no medicine that will CURE his allergies.

If you want to get rid of the allergy completely then you need to find out what's causing the problem and eliminate it.

Dog flea allergy relief - kill the fleas!

So if Fido's skin is red and itchy and you see signs of a flea problem , then make sure that you start using a safe and reliable flea medicine for dogs right away.

If you suspect a dog food allergy, change to a food that is specifically designed for dogs with sensitive tummies such as a hypoallergenic food.

Make sure it has totally different ingredients to the food that has triggered the allergy.

With a contact allergy it's often quite simple to find out what's causing your pup's reaction because symptoms usually appear soon after the contact and are localized.

Inhalant allergies in dogs can be more difficult as you can't exactly take all the pollen or dust out of the air for example!

So reducing his exposure to the trigger/s allergen and treating the symptoms is the best you can hope for.

Find more in-depth information here: Dog Allergy Treatment

› Canine Skin Allergies 101

› Canine Skin Allergies 101

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