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What Are Allergies?

Dogs can show allergic symptoms when their immune systems begin to recognize certain everyday substances as dangerous. Even though these allergens are common in most environments and harmless to most animals, a dog with allergies will have an extreme reaction to them.

What Are the General Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs?

Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin
Increased scratching
Itchy eyes, back or base of tail, ears
Ear infections
Vomiting and/or diarrhea
Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
Paw chewing/swollen paws
Constant licking
Allergic dogs may also suffer from secondary bacterial or yeast skin infections, which may cause hair loss, scabs or crusts on the skin.

Which Dogs Are At Risk for Getting Allergies?

Any dog can develop allergies at any time during his life, but allergic reactions seem to be especially common in Terriers, Setters, Retrievers, and flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers.

What Substances Can Dogs Be Allergic To?

A few common allergens include:

  • Pollens
  • Mold
  • Dust and house dust mites
  • Dander
  • Feathers
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Food ingredients
  • Prescription drugs
  • Fleas and flea-control products
  • Perfumes
  • Cleaning products

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Food?

Yes, but it often takes some detective work to find out what substance is causing the allergic reaction; your veterinarian will be able to help you figure this out.  Please note that food allergies may show up in dogs at any age.

What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Allergies?

Visit your veterinarian. After taking a complete history and conducting a physical examination, he or she may be able to determine the source of your dog’s allergic reaction. If not, your vet will most probably recommend skin or blood tests, or a special elimination diet, to find out what's causing the allergic reaction.

How Can Dog Allergies Be Treated?

The best way to treat allergies is to remove the offending allergens from the environment.


  1. Prevention is the best treatment for allergies caused by fleas.
  2. Start a flea control program for all of your pets before the season starts.
  3. Outdoor pets can carry fleas inside to indoor pets.
  4. See your veterinarian for advice about the best flea control products for your dog and the environment.


  1. Clean your pet's bedding once a week
  2. Vacuum at least twice weekly—this includes rugs, curtains and any other materials that gather dust.
  3. Weekly bathing may help relieve itching and remove environmental allergens and pollens from your dog’s skin. Discuss with your vet what prescription shampoos are best, as frequent bathing with the wrong product can dry out skin.
  4. If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, she’ll need to be put on an exclusive prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet.
  5. Once the allergy is determined, your vet will recommend specific foods or a home-cooked diet.