How To Identify and Treat Canine Allergies

Veterinarian taking care with beagle puppy

One of the leading reasons for veterinarian visits is canine allergies. Canine allergies are annoying, frustrating and even overwhelming for some pet owners. The search for the culprit can be exhausting and some people just don't know where to start. If these steps are followed, it should take some of the guessing work out of identifying and treating the allergy.

  1. List the symptoms. Symptoms of canine allergies are not always straightforward. Unlike human allergies, which often attack the respiratory tract, canine allergies show up in the skin. Allergic reaction signs and symptoms are as followed:
    • Scratching
    • Biting
    • Constant licking
    • Chewing at feet
    • Itching
    • Face rubbing
    • Greasy skin
    • Thickening of the skin
    • Sores from obsessive irritation
    • Anal itching
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting (rare symptom)
  2. Identify the form of allergy. Allergens can come in the form of inhalant, food, contact and flea. No particular form is any easier to decipher than the others. When dealing with allergies, trial and error is often the only way to isolate the cause. It is possible to decipher the cause by observing the symptoms. Many symptoms are very much the same no matter what the cause might be, but there are a few differences in each culprit.
    • Inhalant: Itching most severe in groin, arm folds, flank, feet and face.
    • Food: Anal itching, diarrhea and in rare cases vomiting.
    • Contact: Symptoms show up in areas that have made contact with the allergen (most commonly the trunk, leg folds, flank and belly).
    • Flea: Extra symptoms are skin swelling, redness and sores surrounding the bite site. One flea bite can cause symptoms for more than a week.
  3. Identify the culprit. There are common culprits of each form of allergy. In order to properly treat the allergy you must first identify the cause. For instance if a food allergy is suspected you may have to do a little trial and error to find out what the cause may be.
    • Inhalant. Common culprits include mold, pollen (from trees, flowers, grass), dust, smoke, chemicals (cleaners, air fresheners), mites.
    • Food. Common culprits include beef, pork, chicken, milk, whey, soy, eggs, fish, corn, wheat, preservatives.
    • Contact. Common culprits include bedding, grass, plastic bowls.
  4. Eliminate the cause. After finding out the allergen it should be eliminated from the dog's diet or environment if at all possible. If it is not possible it might be a good idea to look into allergy shots. For this, a trip to the vet is in order.
  5. Control and alleviate the symptoms. There are a several ways you can alleviate allergy symptoms. Some require a trip to the vet and others can be done at home. Options are as follow:
    • Cool baths with oatmeal shampoo. This is probably one of the best ways to alleviate many of the symptoms associated with canine allergies. Oatmeal soothes and cools irritated skin.
    • Homeopathic treatments such as Apis (made from bee wax). Head to your local homeopathic vet to find this wonderful allergy suppressant.
    • Omega 3&6 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory agent). Dogs given one pill a day often benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Antihistamines (Benedryl). This over-the-counter wonder drug can be a real life saver in case of an allergy crisis. Be sure to call your vet for correct dosage.
    • Find a hypo-allergenic food alternative. Popular healthy choice brands are "Nature's Recipe", Sensible Choice" or "Natural Life".
    • Remove allergen. Often the only alternative is taking the allergen out of the dog's environment.
    • Wash Bedding. In case of contact allergies, washing the bedding in scent-free soap can often make a difference.
    • Use topical spray to relieve itching. This is great for both allergies and hot spots.


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Thank You. Your right, I didn't cover the severe anaphalactic allergies. I most definetely should have done that.

By Crystal Foran

Dogs that suffer from a severe allergic reaction to medication or bee stings DO show similar symptoms as humans with regard to the respiratory tract. Swelling of the face, esophogus and neck often occur, as well as trouble breathing. Many cases require the administration of epinephrine to counter act the reaction. Not all allergies present themselves as a skin irritation. Great topic coverage otherwise though.

By Marie Bulfinch