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Allergies in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Remedies

Itchy dog DF dog

Allergies in dogs is a big subject, and what’s more, the list of dog allergy symptoms can make you dizzy. Unfortunately, this can make the whole matter very confusing…in someone else’s hands! We at Dogs First are the dog allergy specialists, and below, in the most popular and most visited article on the site, we break down the whole shibang. Grab a cuppa and get stuck in, folks.

An allergy is a genetic mishap in an individual that causes the immune system to react, often quite violently, to an everyday challenge such as a bee sting, pollen or food item. Once it kicks in (not necessarily straight away after birth…), that’s pretty much you for life (there is stuff like immunotherapy etc, but its effects are hit and miss).

What is an allergy?

The classic food allergy response is a person on their hands and knees, gasping for breath, coughing and wheezing after eating a peanut to which they have an allergy. Allowed to persist, this can turn into anaphylactic shock, a dangerous state than can be fatal. Thankfully, sudden and dangerous allergic reactions are rare in the general population – around 1 in 200 adults – although this is growing. 

However, food intolerance is a different animal. Another type of sensitivity, intolerance, is not a genetic mishap. It is something that pops up in the body for a reason (often a mechanical issue in the gut such as a lack of enzymes to break down a protein, as seen with lactose intolerance, affecting 70% of the planet, but also arising from a degraded gut lining, a gut infection or chemical insult).

Food intolerance is not as severe. It’s slower to act, more chronic, building over time, and they are prevalent in both the human and dog world. An intolerance, not an allergy, is very likely why you are on this page. The good news is that while they pop up for a reason, we can work to put them back in the box for the most part.

How common are allergies in dogs?

Vast amounts of dogs are displaying allergies and food sensitivities today, but as it is a relatively new science, knowledge of its true reach and implications are in the dark ages. Common allergies in dogs can cause skin issues and digestive and respiratory problems.

Causes of allergies in dogs.

The leading cause of allergies in dogs is the food they are eating. If your dog is eating wheat-based dry food, this may likely be the culprit. If your pup shows any of these signs, to mention just a few:

  • IBS type gut issues
  • Diarrhoea
  • Anal gland probelms and scooting
  • Ear infections
  • Itching
  • Nibbles his toes
  • Weepy eyes
  • Arthritis 
  • Skin rash and hot spots
  • Sneezing
  • Poor coat quality
  • Red inflamed skin 

You may have been mentally ticking off many of the above and nodding in agreement. Whatever your exact situation, I can say three things with total and utter confidence that should your dog be suffering from an illness resulting from inflammation, we can help here. 

  1. Your dog’s symptoms began whilst on dry food which was likely to be wheat based and you have tried every food imaginable, possibly even some of the “hypoallergenic” types but to no avail.
  2. Your dog is very likely (more than 90%) to be displaying symptoms of a “food sensitivity”.
  3. We can help your pup and do read on.

Types of Allergies in Dogs

There are many different types of allergies in dogs. Food allergies are the main problem and dogs can develop an allergy to foods they have eaten often. Food allergies can be a reaction to a specific protein but often the problem is with food sensitivities from eating the wrong foods, commonly seen with wheat, chicken and beef.

1. Skin allergies

Skin allergies in dogs are common and can be seen as an itchy, recurring skin condition, sometimes accompanied by zit-like pustules that can burst and scar, sometimes turning black and possibly some hot spots.

2. Food allergies

Food allergies in dogs can often be confused with food sensitivities and there is a difference here folks. True dog allergies are an immune system reaction to a food the body thinks is harmful, again often a protein. The immune system creates antibodies that trigger allergic reactions. These symptoms can show up as wheezing, skin eruptions, itching or swelling, but these true food allergies are rare and experts estimate they affect less than 10% of dogs who experience food reactions.

3. Grass allergies

Grass allergies in dogs are usually seasonal and your pup may get itchy in the spring when the pollen in grasses, trees and flowers start to disperse. There are normally less symptoms in the winter. Wiping your pup down after a walk with a damp cloth can help and don’t forget his paws. 

4. Acute allergic reactions 

Acute allergic reactions in dogs can be frightening and include anaphylaxis that needs to be treated by a vet immediately. The most common signs include itching, swelling of the face or muzzle, excessive salivation and drooling, plus vomiting and diarrhoea. In extreme cases, dogs may have difficulty in breathing and have a blue tongue and gums.

5. Flea allergies

Flea allergies in dogs is a skin allergy to a pesky flea bite, horrid little things that can be really hard to get rid of. Your pup is not necessarily allergic to the flea, but the saliva from when they bite and feed from your dog. There are certain proteins in flea saliva that can cause irritation and severe discomfort for your pup and this can be from a single bite from a flea.

6. Seasonal/environmental allergies

Seasonal/environmental allergies in dogs means that your pup has an abnormal response to his immune system and his body may be reacting to a substance in the environment called an “allergen”. 

These allergens when ingested or inhaled can be a problem as your pup attempts to rid his body and are often seen in a variety of issues such as itching, chewing of feet, ear infections and weepy eyes. 

Histamine is one of the main causes here and the more your pup is exposed to it the worse it may become as he is being exposed to the same allergen on a regular basis. 

7. Airborne allergies (Atopic Dermatitis)

Airborne allergies in dogs can be painful and stressful for your pup. Also known as atopic dermatitis that is a skin disease resulting from chronic inflammation and is usually linked to allergies. Airborne allergies can also come from harsh household detergents, certain food and seasonal changes.

8. Respiratory allergies

Respiratory allergies in dogs can come from seasonal allergies amongst many things as there is such a huge range of possibilities. Respiratory allergies normally trigger sneezing, weepy eyes and lots of itching in your pup.

9. Dust mite allergies

Dust mite allergies in dogs are caused by these minute creatures related to spiders that live in our homes, eating skin and hair. Not visible to the naked eye and incredibly hard to get rid of. Dust mite allergies can trigger excessive licking, itching, weepy eyes and a runny nose. Often confused with fleas but symptoms in your pup will include coughing and sneezing unlike seen with fleas.

Most common dog allergies

The most common dog allergies come from grasses and environmental issues but we see a great deal from feeding the wrong diet. Dry food being the worst culprit. Changing your pup to a “species appropriate” raw, fresh diet can have a huge effect on how he reacts to the most common dog allergies.

Signs of Allergies in Dogs

The general signs or symptoms of Dog’s allergies are:

  • IBS type gut issues
  • Diarrhoea
  • Anal gland probelms and scooting
  • Ear infections
  • Itching
  • Nibbles his toes
  • Weepy eyes
  • Arthritis 
  • Skin rash and hot spots
  • Sneezing
  • Poor coat quality
  • Red inflamed skin 

Symptoms of Skin Allergies in Dogs

  • Gnawing between his toes
  • Recurring gut conditions, soft stinky poos bordering diarrhoea
  • Possible anal gland issues as a result of soft poos
  • Unable to put on weight
  • Recurring ear infections with mucky brown smelly wax
  • Weepy eyes
  • Poor coat, hair loss and dry flaky skin
  • He may be agitated and restless

Symptoms of Food Allergies in Dogs

  • Itchy red skin
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Vomiting 
  •  Anal gland problems
  • Itchy ears and yeast build up
  • Weepy eyes
  • Runny nose

Symptoms of Grass Allergies in Dogs

  • Itchy paws
  • Sneezing 
  • Coughing
  • Weepy eyes
  • Runny nose

Symptoms of Dust Mite Allergies in Dogs

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Licking paws excessively
  • Scratching
  • Weepy eyes
  • Runny nose

Diagnosing Allergies in Dogs

Diagnosing/testing allergies in dogs is a complicated subject as you will have now learnt and establishing whether your pup has an allergy or food intolerance is where you need to get to. When your pup’s immune system is damaged, it becomes inflamed and this is often from eating the wrong foods.

When to see a vet

You will need to see a vet if any of the above symptoms are severe, a holistic vet is always best or you can book a consult with me

Treating allergies in dogs

  1. Keep your home well vacuumed
  2. Give your pup a weekly bath using gentle organic shampoo
  3. Nutrition is important here of course and feed plenty of the right “species appropriate” food
  4. Certain essential oils can be helpful
  5. Apple cider vinegar may be a beneficial addition

Treatment for flea allergies

  1. Bath your pup with an gentle organic shampoo
  2. Use a flea comb through his coat
  3. Make sure all bedding is washed in non-bio laundry liquid 
  4. Rinse your pup with a little apple cider vinegar 
  5. Consider offering a small amount of garlic as fleas hate it
  6. Use DeNeem

Treatment for food allergies 

  1. Feed raw food to your pup
  2. Start with a simple protein like turkey
  3. Add some BioFunction 8 which will aid in helping his gut
  4. Avoid dry food at all times

Treatment for grass allergies

  1. Wipe your pup down with a damp cloth after walks
  2. Bathe his paws in some water to get rid of all pollens 
  3. Adding nettle to his diet is often helpful and free

Treatment for dust mite allergies

  1. Vacuum your home regularly
  2. Keep bedding clean
  3. Shampoo your pup with a gentle organic shampoo
  4. Offer a small amount of garlic as parasite hate it
  5. Use DeNeem
  6. Avoid dry food at all times as some have grain mites that are similar

Natural remedies to try at home for dog allergies

The best natural remedies to try for dog allergies are:

  • Nettle seeds and nettle tea – local to your area
  • Honey and bee pollen – local to your area
  • Omega 3 oil – not salmon
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Filtered water
  • Bovine colostrum

Relief for allergies in dogs

Relief for allergies in dogs can be found in:

  • Apple cider vinegar as a body rinse, spray and paw bathing – always organic and with “The Mother”
  • Nettles as seeds, a tincture or tea
  • Quercetin – found in broccoli, apples, parsley and garlic or as a supplement
  • A raw food diet


We believe that feeding your pup a “species appropriate” diet is the best way to avoid allergies in dogs and with a strong immune system your pup is less likely to suffer any of the allergies listed above.

Frequently asked questions

1. Can all dogs have allergies?

All dogs can be susceptible to allergies but this normally occurs when their immune system is weak and they are unable to fight the inflammatory problems related to allergies. Some dogs are more susceptible having had a bad start to life through puppy farms etc and their inability to have built a strong immune system.

2. Are allergies inherited?

A healthy parent is less likely to pass on allergies to their young. Stress and environmental issues can play a big part in allergies in dogs and certain breeds such as French Bulldogs, boxers, spaniel mixes like cavapoos are breeds we see a great deal.

3. How can I treat my dog’s allergies at home?

Once you have identified what the allergy or food sensitivity is, your dog can be treated at home with natural remedies, starting with the correct diet which is the main culprit for allergies in dogs. Using natural remedies instead of chemicals will give your pup every chance of recovery and good health.

4. What is contact allergy?

Just as with humans, when certain substances come into contact with your pup’s skin, they can cause allergic reactions. Usually, this comes through certain grasses and pollen from flowers and trees, and an allergic reaction occurs when your dog is exposed to these substances. 

5. Is there an allergy test for dogs?

There are several allergy tests available for dogs. Still, most are inconclusive because the foods tested can come from different sources, i.e. grass-fed animals against barn-reared animals that eat a diverse diet, plus grasses and pollens from entirely different areas to the dog may be exposed to.

If your dog has an allergy it shows in many different ways, from itching, weepy eyes, sneezing, coughing, inflamed red skin, constant scratching, licking their paws obsessively, diarrhoea, vomiting, ear infections, coat loss, dry flaky skin and anal gland problems.

6. How can you tell if a dog has an allergy?

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