June 9, 2022

Does Your Dog Have Allergies? Symptoms, Tips, & Treatment

Did you know that your dog can have allergies too? That's right, while you’re suffering from seasonal allergies, your pup can be too! While the allergic reactions are familiar, sneezing, itchiness, and watery eyes, the treatment is completely different and can be extremely dangerous if you treat your dog's allergies as you treat yours. 

Types of allergies in dogs

Skin allergies are the most common type of allergic reaction in dogs. The top three skin allergies seen in dogs are:

1. Flea allergy dermatitis

  • Fleas make dogs extremely itchy and you may notice an increase in itching at the base of the tail as well. Their skin will turn red, inflamed, and scabbed. To know if it's a reaction from fleas, you may notice flea dirt, or fleas themselves.

2. Food allergies

  • Dogs can be allergic to certain foods' proteins. Dogs with food allergies develop itchy skin, especially around their ears and paws. You might notice a change in their digestion as well.

3. Environmental allergens

  • Dogs can be allergic to dust, pollen, and mold as well. These a similar to a human's seasonal allergies, flaring up only during certain times of the year. You might notice areas like paws, ears, wrists, ankles, muzzles, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and between their toes are inflamed.

It is important to catch any of these reactions early because if your dog continues to scratch, bite, or lick its skin, it risks breaking the skin causing yeast and bacterial infections that may require treatment. 

Dogs can also experience allergies to food. 

Food allergies in dogs can range in symptoms and reaction times. 

  • While the most common reaction is skin conditions (hives, facial swelling, itchiness) there can also be gastrointestinal signs (vomiting or diarrhea) and in rare cases, a dog can experience a severe allergic reaction of anaphylaxis. 
  • Food allergies are often diagnosed using an elimination diet, a food trial consists of feeding a dog one source of protein and carbohydrate for 12 weeks. 

If your dog is gradually reacting to a certain food, they might have a food sensitivity. With food sensitivity, you might notice a much more gradual reaction mainly beginning with vomiting and diarrhea. 

To diagnose and treat food allergies in dogs, we suggest working with your veterinarian to discover and manage dogs' symptoms and the ingredient that causes the reaction.

Symptoms of allergies in dogs

Symptoms can vary based on the cause of the allergic reaction. For example, if a dog is experiencing anaphylactic shock, it will experience a drop in blood pressure followed by shock. 

The most common symptoms are:

  • Itchiness 
  • Hives
  • Swelling in the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or ears
  • red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy Ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, water eyes
  • Constant licking in a particular area

Seasonal allergies in dogs

Dogs can develop outdoor seasonal allergies just as humans do. The symptoms include

  • Excessive licking (hotspots)
  • Scratching and itching (especially after coming from outdoors)
  • Hives
  • Puffy eyes 
  • Hair loss due to constant scratching and inflammation in the skin
  • Ear infections - noticeable by red and smelly. 
  • Head shaking
  • Because of the irritation in the ears, they may not want to be pet 
  • Sneezing or reverse sneezing 

Acute allergic reactions in dogs

Dogs can experience anaphylactic shock, just like humans. It can be fatal if not treated. 

  • Bee/Wasp stings and vaccine reactions are usually what warrant anaphylaxis. This is why it's extremely important to be mindful of the areas you are in contact with and watchful and any new vaccinations, drugs, or food items.

  • The common symptoms of anaphylactic reactions are hives and facial swelling (face, throat, lips, earflaps), hypersalivation, diarrhea, or vomiting. While it may be scary, but can usually be treated by your veterinarian with an antihistamine. 

Because these are common symptoms of other health conditions in dogs, it’s important to make an appointment with your vet to get an accurate diagnosis and properly treat your dog. If your dog is experiencing a severe allergic reaction, it is important to get them to an emergency veterinarian hospital as soon as possible 

Treating allergies in dogs:

The best treatment for allergies in dogs is to avoid the substance or cause of the allergen. Of course, it depends on the specific allergen. If it is a flea allergy, treat and kill the fleas. While the best way to treat a food allergy is to try a food elimination diet and then change their diet accordingly. Your vet might be able to prescribe allergy relief medication that can help your dog control the signs associated with the allergic reaction. 

What can I give my dogs for allergies? Is Benadryl safe?

Before treating your pet with anything you should always check with your vet about it. While Benadryl is deemed relatively safe for dogs, it can quickly result in an allergic reaction if not used accordingly. Observe your dog closely after administering any new medication. Beware that Benadryl can actually worsen your dog's condition if the reaction is not allergy-related.  Red, goopy eyes could be a symptom of allergies, but also a sign of glaucoma or dry eye, which Benadryl doesn't treat. 

Side effects of Benadryl usually occur within the first hour of exposure, so be sure to keep a close eye on your dog after dosing. 

If you suspect your dog isn’t reacting well to the antihistamine here are some things to look out for:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Urinary retention
  • Hypersalivation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing

Rare side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • increased/decreased appetite 

Benadryl overdose is possible, so be sure to watch for:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dilated pupils
  • Agitation
  • Constipation 
  • Seizures

If you notice these symptoms after giving your dog Benadryl, contact your vet immediately. Sometimes dogs can develop an allergic reaction to Benadryl resulting in anaphylactic shock. Seek care immediately. 

Other treatments for dogs’ allergies:

If you are worried about giving your dog Benadryl, there are other ways to treat their  allergic reactions:

  • Oatmeal - Great for dry, itchy skin in both dogs and humans. Grind plain oatmeal into a powder and add to your dog's bath or check out some oatmeal shampoo to soothe and fight irritation, inflammation, and itching. 
  • Epsom salt - Try a foot soak for your pup with cool water and Epsom salt to help relieve inflammation and itchiness. This is especially helpful if your pet is reacting to environmental allergies, like grass.

While this can seem scary, pet allergies are common and mostly easy to take control of. Sadly, we do not treat pet allergies here at Aspire Allergy & Sinus, but knowing the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of all allergies is our specialty. No one should have to see their pet suffer, make sure to visit a veterinarian if you suspect your dog is experiencing allergies. 

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