Dog allergies are very real, and just like in humans, sometimes difficult to treat. Your dog may be showing signs of an allergic reaction and you may not even realize it. Some dog allergy symptoms can be similar to those humans, but others are quite different. Here are the four common reasons for dog allergies, how to recognize them and what to do to treat them.

Severe Allergic Reaction aka Anaphylaxis

A severe allergic reaction usually has a sudden onset and can be caused by a number of things including: insect stings, snakebites, drugs, and foods. Common signs are:

  • Severe swelling of the face in the muzzle and/or eyes
  • Trouble breathing
  • Gastro intestinal upset
  • Vomiting

It is very important to get your dog to a vet immediately if he is experiencing these symptoms.If left untreated, your dog may be faced with life threatening consequences including suffocation due to inflamed airways or anaphylactic shock. Ask your vet if it is ok to give him oral Benadryl, a safe rule of thumb is 1 mg per pound of body weight (one 25 mg pill for a 25lb dog). You should keep Benadryl in your dog’s emergency kit.

Food Allergies

Like humans, dogs can be allergic to certain foods. The most common ingredients are corn, wheat, soy and animal proteins (poultry, beef, fish). Some signs to look for:

  • Excessive paw licking or biting
  • Red paw pads
  • Scratching
  • Ear shaking
  • Swelling around the muzzle or eyes
  • Butt scooting
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Hair loss
  • Gastro intestinal upset
  • Vomiting

Identifying a food allergy can be a bit tricky. The best way to start is to narrow down your dog’s food options (no treats or table scraps) and feed a food with one protein source. If you have fed him different proteins in the past, you need to find a food with a meat source he has not been exposed to. Many foods include multiple protein sources, making it difficult to identify the culprit. Try a canned or dry food like Walk About Pet Food that offers a single-source of protein as well as unique meat options that your dog has likely not been exposed to like: Kangaroo, Wild Boar and Goat.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea allergies are the most common type of dog allergies. It is the saliva of the flea, not the bit itself, which causes the allergic reaction and following signs of irritation:

  • Licking
  • Chewing
  • Rubbing
  • Rolling
  • Hair Loss
  • Bumps

You can use a flea comb to inspect for fleas and flea dirt on your dog’s skin. The easiest and most cost effective way to treat fleas is an at-home flea treatment. Give your pup a bath using special flea shampoo for immediate relief. A monthly topical or oral flea preventative will help keep fleas away long term. Next, treat your dog’s environment with flea foggers or bombs, washing his bedding and vacuum his area. If these methods don’t work, he may need to see his veterinarian for skin scraping to test for other skin irritations, such as a bacterial infection.

Environmental Allergens

Environmental allergies are the most difficult types of dog allergies to identify because like humans, your dog can have an allergic reaction to almost anything in his environment including but not limited to: trees, grass, weeds, mold spores, dust and dust mites, dander, prescription drugs, cigarette smoke, chemicals like perfumes, cleaning agents, shampoo and plastics.

Environmental allergens can be diverse and so can be the reactions. Any of the symptoms associated with anaphylaxis, food or dermatitis can also be associated with environmental allergens. If you have treated for and/or ruled out any of the other three types of allergies, your vet may refer your dog to a veterinary dermatologist for an intra-dermal (skin) allergy test or blood testing. Drugs like Benadryl and Apoquel may be use to manage both short-term and long-term symptoms in your dog once you identify the cause.

If you are in doubt about why your dog may be scratching, shaking, licking or biting, always consult your veterinarian. While medical treatment may not be a “cure” for dog allergies, your vet may have the right solution to manage his symptoms, allowing him to live out a long and healthy life.