Dog Allergies: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

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Does it seem like there’s an epidemic of dog allergies? So many dogs are itching and scratching, or licking their paws incessantly. It’s no fun for them … or you.

Dog allergies are one of the top reasons for vet visits. And they can be tough to get rid of. In some dogs, allergies worsen as they age (compared to children, who often outgrow their allergies). 

Let’s look at some common types of dog allergies. 

Common Dog Allergies

Dog allergies can cause skin symptoms … or your dog may have respiratory or digestive issues. Allergies have many causes. The main ones are environmental allergies and food allergies. 

Environmental Allergies

As the name suggests, environmental dog allergies stem from something in your dog’s environment. These could be airborne substances in your home, backyard, or wherever else your dog hangs out.

These allergies are often from inhaled allergens … things like dust, mold, pollen, or other plant or animal particles. Your dog can also react to these when his skin touches them … that’s called atopic dermatitis. 

Seasonal allergies are also common, and you may notice your dog is only itching at certain times of year.

Flea allergy dermatitis is a common cause of skin allergies. This is when your dog gets an allergic skin reaction to flea saliva. Dogs with flea allergy dermatitis get very itchy and can react to just a couple of flea bites. Affected areas are usually around the base of the tail, where you’ll see red or scabby skin. If you suspect flea dermatitis, it’s time to check for fleas and flea dirt on your dog. If fleas turn out to be the reason for your dog’s itchiness, you’ll need to work hard to get rid of the fleas. They’ll be on your dog, in your home and even in your backyard. 

RELATED: Read about natural flea treatments for dogs …

Food Allergies

Food allergies are also a frequent problem in dogs. Dogs can develop an allergy to a food, even if they’ve eaten it many times before. Food allergies are often a reaction to a certain protein … but dogs can also develop an allergy to any ingredient in their food. 

But there’s a difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. True dog allergies are an immune system reaction to a food the body thinks is harmful … again, often a protein. So the immune system creates antibodies that trigger allergic reactions. These could show up as wheezing, skin eruptions, itching or swelling. But true food allergies are rare, and experts estimate they affect less than 10% of dogs who experience food reactions. 

Food Sensitivity Or Intolerance 

The symptoms are similar to allergies. But a food sensitivity or intolerance is when a food ingredient or substance irritates your dog or his digestive system. It’s not a full immune reaction like an allergy.

Food intolerances can trigger reactions in the digestive system or on the skin … but they often don’t appear as fast as allergic reactions. This delayed response means they can be difficult to diagnose. The trigger could be natural component in the food, or could be an ingredient added to the food. 

Food sensitivities can also happen because of how the food was grown, raised or processed. Your dog could be reacting to the fact that the beef he eats was fed corn, or given antibiotics. Or that his food contains genetically modified (GMO) ingredients or crops grown with herbicides like glyphosate. High-starch foods like kibble can also be a factor in food intolerances. 

Another key difference is that food allergies can be triggered by a tiny amount of the food. But food intolerances may be dose-related, so you may not see a reaction unless your dog eats a good portion of the food. 

Dog Allergy Symptoms

There’s a wide range of possible reactions in dogs. If you see some of these symptoms in your dog, he might have allergies or food sensitivities. 

  • Itchiness
  • Hives or red inflamed skin
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears or chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking
  • Paw biting
  • Poor coat quality
  • Obsessive licking
  • Scooting
  • Hot spots

Dog Allergy Treatments

Allergies are difficult to treat and there are many approaches. 

The first step is to identify what’s triggering your dog’s allergies. Once you know that, you’ll need to avoid that trigger for your dog, whether it’s in his food or environment. 

Conventional allergy treatments include …

  • Oral or injectable allergy medicines that suppress your dog’s immune reaction. These can control the symptoms but don’t get to the root cause of your dog’s allergies.
  • Steroids – often given short term to control your dog’s itching and immune response. Steroids shouldn’t be given long term but may help make your dog more comfortable for a short period. 
  • Allergy shots – known as immunotherapy. These can achieve successful results but often take a long time to be effective. 
  • Hypoallergenic diets – prescription diets made with limited ingredients and containing hydrolyzed proteins to minimize allergic reactions. These diets offer poor quality nutrition and can affect your dog’s long-term health.
  • Frequent bathing – often with medicated shampoos that suppress your dog’s reaction. They may stop itching temporarily but aren’t a long term solution. 

Does Your Dog Have Leaky Gut Syndrome?

When a dog has a lot of different allergies or sensitivities, the cause may be leaky gut syndrome. Around 90% of the immune system starts in the gut … so your dog’s gut health is an essential part of his overall health. Your dog’s gut bacteria can get out of balance for many reasons. These include poor diet, over-vaccination, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications, and even stress. When that happens, your dog’s intestinal lining can get damaged. Then the gut lining allows substances like undigested food particles and pathogens like bacteria and fungus into the blood stream. These cause chronic inflammation and lead to many long term diseases … including allergies. 

If your dog has leaky gut, none of the conventional medications will help. So it’s important to rule it out as the cause of your dog’s allergies or sensitivities. You’ll likely need to get a holistic vet’s help in identifying and managing your dog’s leaky gut. 

RELATED: Read more about how leaky gut affects dog health and allergies … 

Treating Allergies In Dogs 

There are some different natural approaches to treating allergies in dog … especially if your dog has leaky gut. Holistic vets will focus on supporting your dog’s gut health and immune system to minimize allergic reactions and intolerances. 

Some things holistic vets may recommend include … 

  • Feed prebiotics and probiotics to support gut health and balance the good bacteria in your dog’s digestive tract.
  • Avoid processed foods and feed a fresh, whole food raw diet. Kibble and other highly processed foods contain many inflammatory ingredients. But when you feed a raw diet you can control exactly what your dog’s eating.
  • Avoid vaccinations, antibiotics and other drugs that damage your dog’s gut and immune system.
  • Give immune-supporting supplements like medicinal mushrooms and colostrum. Many medicinal mushrooms have immune-strengthening properties that can help your dog with allergies. Colostrum is a substance in mammalian mothers’ first milk that helps build the young animal’s immune strength. 
  • Manage your dog’s stress. Stress affects the immune system. If your dog spends a lot of time alone, or other things cause him anxiety, try to minimize these stressors. 

DNM RECOMMENDS: Four Leaf Rover offers Bovine Colostrum from grass-fed cows. It’s rich in immune-boosting antibodies and proteins, to help promote a healthy gut and immune system. Buy Bovine Colostrum now >> 

Dog allergies can be tremendously challenging, as well as uncomfortable for your dog. Managing his diet, gut and immune health and environment are the first steps to resolving your dog’s allergies. 


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