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Dogs and Allergies

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A Beagle lies on a couch licking their paw

As anyone with allergies knows, they can be a pesky thing to have. From symptoms of runny noses and watery eyes to taking medications every day, no one likes having them, yet so many people can relate, but are dogs and allergies just as common?

Can Dogs Have Allergies?

Man’s best friend can also have allergies, like their human companions. Whether seasonal, environmental, topical, or food-related, your best pup can be allergic to many of the same things you are.

Allergy symptoms in dogs most commonly present themselves through skin irritation. You may notice that your dog’s skin is redder than usual, inflamed, or appears to have an infection. Your dog will most likely be biting or scratching themselves much more frequently—a sign that their skin is bothering them. Excessively licking the paws can also indicate that an allergen is irritating them. In some cases, a dog may also experience increased shedding.

While allergy symptoms often present themselves through skin irritation, whether localized or over the entire body, other signs of allergies can include issues with your dog’s digestive system. Diarrhea or vomiting are two common results of an allergic reaction.

Dogs and Grass Allergies

Grass allergies are relatively common in canines. Your dog can react by physically stepping in the grass or coming into contact with grass pollen, which can be airborne. Often, grass-related allergies will worsen in spring and autumn, when more pollen is present due to the seasonal change of plants. That said, it is still possible for dogs to experience grass allergies all year long.

Symptoms of a grass allergy are similar to other allergies, including frequent scratching, chewing, or licking of the skin and red or inflamed skin. However, depending on your dog’s coat, spotting a rash may not be easy unless you purposefully try looking for it.

If you notice your dog experiencing these symptoms, it is best to take them to their veterinarian for a check-up as soon as possible—you don’t want your pup to be uncomfortable and itchy. Once there, your veterinarian will want to discuss the symptoms your dog has been showing, including their duration and frequency. They will also thoroughly examine your dog’s coat and skin.

Based on this information, your veterinarian should be able to prescribe a form of oral or topical treatment to help. However, if your pup is still having reactions, you may need to return to your veterinary office for further testing.

Treatments for allergies may vary based on how severely your dog reacts. For instance:

With minor symptoms,

  • Antihistamines can help with sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.

  • Pet-safe wipes can be used to wipe off your pup’s feet, face, and body when they come back inside.

  • Frequent bathing with hypoallergenic, hydrocortisone, or oatmeal-based dog shampoo can help keep allergens out of your pet’s coat and away from their skin.

With severe symptoms,

  • Prescribed corticosteroids in short doses can help relieve more serious itching.

  • Immunotherapy or hyposensitization can be used as treatment via weekly injections or oral liquid medications. The formulas for these treatments are explicitly based on your dog’s allergy test results.

Severe allergic reactions are also known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms will begin within a 5–30-minute window after your dog is exposed to the allergen. Common signs to look for include hives, facial swelling, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea, which may contain blood. Thankfully though, such severe reactions to a grass allergy are fairly rare.

Dogs and Seasonal Allergies

Dogs can also be prone to developing seasonal allergies. These are separated from year-round allergies since your dog will only show symptoms during a particular season, often spring and fall. With various plants, grasses, and flowers blooming throughout the year, there are distinct pollens present during different months, though the same ones will be around every year at the same time.

Seasonal allergies can be caused by many allergens, such as grass, weed, and tree pollen, molds, yeasts, fleas (can cause flea bite dermatitis), and dust mites. Dogs with seasonal allergies may experience more frequent skin and ear infections.

Like other types of allergies, seasonal ones share many of the same symptoms, including,

  • Excessive licking, chewing, gnawing, or scratching of the skin

  • Hair loss

  • Reddened skin

  • Darkened skin

  • Pawing at the face or ears

  • Watery eyes

  • Scooting on butt

  • Reverse sneezing

Seasonal allergies are triggered when there’s an influx of the allergen that overwhelms your dog’s immune system. When the specific allergen levels in the environment become too high, an allergic response can occur, leading to consequential symptoms.

A close-up of a brown dog’s wet nose

Dogs and Food Allergies

Although not nearly as common as environmental allergies, food allergies can also affect dogs. Everyday allergy items include chicken, beef, wheat, soy, eggs, and dairy, though a specific protein is often the cause of the reactions.

When the protein is consumed, the dog’s immune system becomes overreactive, mistaking the protein for a foreign substance. This causes the body to work to rid the substance, leading to inflammation and various reactions.

Typically, when a food allergy is suspected, it will be recommended to try a food trial, also known as an elimination diet. Lasting anywhere from 8-12 weeks, your veterinarian will recommend one specific food, which will then be the only item you feed your dog until otherwise directed. No exceptions should be made, even for a single treat, as this could affect the trial results. The goal is to eliminate all foods that could be causing the allergic reaction and reintroduce them one at a time. In theory, whenever the item your pup is allergic to is reintroduced into their diet, it should be much easier to pinpoint the food that’s causing the reactions.

One of the primary forms of treatment for a food allergy is a change to your dog’s diet. Depending on their allergy, sometimes it may be as simple as eliminating the item from their diet. In other cases, finding a new and better-formulated food that can still provide your dog with a balanced diet may be better. Your veterinarian may also recommend adding some supplements to your dog’s diet.

Treatments for allergies in dogs will vary based on your dog’s specific allergen, their reactions, where the reactions occur, and how severe they are. Even if you have multiple dogs with seasonal allergies, your veterinarian may create a tailored treatment plan for each.

How To Tell if You’re Allergic to Dogs

Though it may come as unwanted news, people can be allergic to dogs. Allergens from dogs can come from their dander, saliva, urine, and fur. These items can remain in furniture, carpet, clothes, blankets or the air.

Common symptoms of a dog allergy include,

  1. Runny nose
  2. Watery eyes
  3. Sneezing
  4. Itchy or red eyes
  5. Facial pressure
  6. Itchy nose
  7. Itchy roof of mouth or throat
  8. Hives

An allergy to a dog could also contribute to asthma (dogs can have asthma too), leading to difficulty breathing, wheezing, and chest tightness or pain. Although some of these symptoms may overlap with those of a common cold, it’s usually a rule of thumb that if your symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it’s most likely an allergy.

Depending on the severity of your reactions, you may be OK with over-the-counter allergy medication, but, unfortunately, in some instances, the best solution would be to limit your interactions with dogs—even hypoallergenic dogs could still cause a reaction.

That said, don’t ward off pets entirely. It may be worth testing if you have a cat allergy, and if you don’t, maybe welcoming a feline friend into your home will be the perfect solution.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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