Can Dogs Have Allergies?


They’re one of the most frustrating things about being human. Sometimes it feels like just one tiny fleck of pollen can ruin a day. But we’re not the only ones who suffer! Our dogs can have allergies too!

Take Luna and her sister Stella, for example. Dogs can have allergies

Every spring and summer, Luna’s allergies flare up. She’ll go from loving life at the dog park to furiously licking her pads until they are red and raw. Sometimes it will escalate to an infection, requiring veterinary care.

Stella’s allergy symptoms are a bit different. If Stella encounters pollen, it’s immediately apparent as her whole body shakes when she sneezes. While she gives all who see her a chuckle because she looks pretty funny when it happens, it’s definitely not fun for her.

Do Dogs Really Have Allergies?

Yes! Dogs do really have allergies. In fact, allergies are common in dogs, and, just like us, there are a wide variety of ways dogs may be affected by allergies. For example, your dog might sneeze, cough or itch. In addition, symptoms may stand alone or appear in conjunction with others. 

Red, itchy skin and/or ears is the most common symptom of allergy in dogs. This condition, called allergic dermatitis, is frequently caused by environmental factors such as pollens, dust mites, danders and mold spores. It can also be caused by insect bites, and sometimes by proteins in food.

The Most Common Allergies in Dogs

Dogs can experience allergy symptoms in response to a variety of factors. These are, in order of likelihood:

  • Environmental Allergies 
  • Insect Bite Allergies
  • Food Allergies 

Environmental Allergies

Much like humans, dust, pollen, danders and mold are some of the most common allergens for dogs. Unfortunately, such allergies are extremely common where we live in central North Carolina. Environmental allergies can cause your pup issues in several ways, such as skin reactions (like Luna) or severe sneezing (like Stella). Keeping your home well-dusted, vacuuming regularly, and frequent cleaning of your pets’ bedding can make a difference in environmental allergy symptoms for both you and your dog.

Environmental allergies can be seasonal, depending on what allergens affect your pet. As seasons change, you may notice your dog experiencing allergy symptoms. For example, as the world turns yellow from the pollen in the spring, you dog may get itchy skin, ears or feet like Luna. You may also observe your dog sneeze or cough as the allergen is inhaled, much like Stella. Something is always pollinating around here, however, so some pets and people do not get a seasonal break from their symptoms.

Insect Bite Allergies

Biting insects such as fleas, mosquitoes and ticks can be a real hazard to your pet. Not only can these insects transmit serious disease such as Heartworm disease and Lyme disease, they can also trigger allergy symptoms. Flea bites in particular can sometimes cause severe reactions. This makes it all the more vital that you consistently give your dog the vet-recommended heartworm, flea and tick prevention as prescribed.

And giving these preventions “as prescribed” means giving them year-round. Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes might slow down over the winter, but they are always present. Ask Dr. Charles how many ticks he pulled from a dog one February!

Food Allergies

Food allergies can sometimes manifest as skin allergies. Dogs experiencing food allergies may have itchy ears or paws. Additionally, food allergies may also create gastrointestinal distress.

One way to try to alleviate these allergies is through a strict hypoallergenic diet trial. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as simply switching from one commercially available food to another. A hypoallergenic diet trial involves using a food with certain unique proteins that are not cross contaminated with other food sources and must also account for every single treat your dog might receive. Be sure to speak with your vet about a hypoallergenic diet trial before switching foods in an attempt to help your dog’s allergy symptoms.

Seasonal allergies in dogs

How Can I Help My Dog with Their Allergies?

There are many things you can do to help alleviate your dog’s allergies. If the pollen count is high and you know your dog is prone to allergies, try taking shorter walks and spending more time on indoor play. Be sure that your pet stays on heartworm, flea and tick prevention throughout the year. Your veterinarian can also discuss with you a regular bathing regimen with a hypoallergenic dog shampoo as well as antihistamines and fish oil supplementation.

If these at-home options are not bringing your dog the relief they need, it may be time to reach out for additional medical advice. The veterinarians at Harmony Animal Hospital can discuss and help formulate a hypoallergenic diet trial if food allergies are suspected. They can also discuss allergy treatment options such as Apoquel, a daily medication, and Cytopoint, an injection given by the vet that can last 4-8 weeks.

The best way to ensure that your dog gets the allergy care they need is to schedule a consultation with Harmony Animal Hospital. I couldn’t ask for better vets to look after my pups. The website has a contact form, making it easy for me to explain what was happening with my dogs and why I wanted to bring them in. I also love that they can even enjoy doggy daycare at Harmony! Visit their website or call (919) 303-3456 to schedule an appointment with your dog’s new favorite veterinarians!