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How to Tell if Your Dog has Allergies and What to Do About Them

dog with allergies itching

If you think your dog has allergies, here’s how to tell for sure and what to do about it

If you suffer from allergies, whether on a daily basis or seasonally, or perhaps, only when you come in contact with certain substances, you know that having an allergic reaction is no walk in the park. If your dog has allergies, it can be a pretty serious issue for him too, so it’s important to stay on top of things if you suspect your pooch might be allergic.  

Your dog could be allergic to environmental elements like pollen or ragweed, flea bites, or he can also have reactions to certain ingredients in his dog food. Your first step to fixing the problem is to learn how to tell if your pup might have allergies, and then it’s time to play detective and narrow down what might be the cause of your dog’s symptoms.  


Signs and Symptoms of Dog Allergies

There are a few red flags to keep an eye out for when it comes to dog allergies; severe itching, bald patches, biting at certain areas, and in some cases, vomiting or diarrhea can all signal a potential allergic reaction. You should also pay attention to your dog’s skin, as certain allergic reactions can show themselves through a variety of skin disorders. If your pup is suffering from certain environmental allergies, he might even present with symptoms on his paws. These include red spots between his toes or discolored fur on his paws from frequent licking at sensitive spots that flare up when his paws come in contact with the grass or other substances.

Is It Really Allergies?

If your pup is vomiting or having frequent diarrhea every time he eats, but not showing other symptoms of allergies, it could be that your pooch is eating too fast, and trying a slow feed bowl or elevated feeder can offer an easy solution. On the other hand, the real culprit could be a food intolerance. Food allergies and food intolerances are two different situations; allergies stem from an immune response, while intolerance is due to a digestive issue. The only way you can know for absolute certainty if your dog has allergies is to consult with your vet so she can do the necessary examinations and testing.

golden retriever puppies eating with food allergies 

What To Do If Your Dog Has a Food Allergy

If your vet determines that your pup does indeed have a food allergy, she will likely want you to keep a log of what your pup is eating, including any medications that your pup is taking. Putting your pup on a feeding schedule can help you keep track of exactly what and when your dog eats so that you can give your veterinarian the full picture. Through testing and a process of eliminating and isolating certain foods,  you and your vet can work together to narrow down what exactly your pup might be having an allergic reaction to in his food. 

There are so many different ingredients in both wet and dry dog foods (plus, so many different varieties of foods) that it can take some time to zero in on the offending substances. Your pup could be allergic to chicken or other proteins, corn, soy, wheat, or some of the additives and preservatives that are found in a lot of foods on the market. 

Your vet will recommend a new diet for your pup to follow, and you should also eliminate all table scraps, and carefully consider any treats and chew bones that your pup gets. It will take some time for your dog’s allergies to improve once he shifts to his new diet, but you should see a gradual decrease in his symptoms. If your pup’s reactions do not get better, then it is time to revisit the situation with your vet and consider if your pooch could actually be battling seasonal allergies.

How Should You Switch To a New Dog Food?

When switching your dog to a new food, make sure to do it gradually. Incorporate some of the new food into your dog’s dish with his old food. For example, if your pup eats a half a cup of food, serve him his old food minus a tablespoon, and replace that tablespoon with some of his new food. Over the next few days, increase the amount of new food and decrease the serving of the old food, until you have completely replaced your pal’s food with his new diet. 

white dog itching

What To Do If Your Dog Has Seasonal Allergies

If seasonal allergies are to blame for your pooch’s symptoms, then the treatment will depend on the allergen. Your vet will most likely identify the allergen through an intradermal skin test, which is when small amounts of test allergens are injected beneath your pup’s skin to see which, if any, cause a reaction. Types of reactions your vet will look for include redness and swelling at the injection sites, and she will also be able to tell the severity of your dog’s allergies based on these reactions.  

Once your vet has identified what it is your dog is allergic to, she can put together a specialized plan to help treat your pup’s allergies. This plan can include a number of different treatments, including:

  • Allergy shots

Immunotherapy has shown to have a positive effect on 60-80% of dogs with allergies. It is a special serum that your vet creates based on your pup’s skin test results in order to help reduce your dog’s reactions to particular allergens.

Fish oil and other fatty acid supplements can be an asset when it comes to fighting allergic reactions because they can help strengthen your pup’s skin barrier and decrease inflammation. Plus, Omega-3s have the added bonus of helping improve other issues like joint and heart problems.

  • Antihistamines

If you have allergies, you might take Benadryl or another over-the-counter-medication to help find some relief from your symptoms. Well, dogs can also be given these antihistamines as well, but it is imperative to first consult with your vet for the right dosage. Also, you might have to try several different medications before you find the one that works the best for your pooch. 

  • Steroids

If your dog has a severe reaction to an allergen and is very uncomfortable, then your vet might prescribe a steroid medication or shot. However, if your pup ends up on steroids long-term, have your vet do regular blood and urine tests as frequent steroid use can increase the risk of certain conditions like kidney disease and high blood pressure. 

  • Environmental Changes

Obviously you don’t want your dog to miss out on fun activities during certain seasons, or when you’re spending time outside. However, sometimes, making a lifestyle change is the best way to give your pup relief from his allergies. This doesn’t mean your pup can’t go outside, it just means you have to make some changes.

For example, if your pup is irritated by grass, you could get him some doggy shoes or boots, or make sure to give your pal a wipe down and wash his feet after spending time outside. If your dog has a significant reaction to environmental factors, then it is also helpful to ensure you have a regular bathing routine in place.

  • Antibiotics

Antibiotics won’t necessarily help with the actual allergies, but if your dog’s response to his symptoms, such as frequent licking and biting, has caused a skin infection, then antibiotics might be prescribed for this secondary issue. If you notice overly red or inflamed areas on your dog’s skin, or crusty, bald patches, then have your vet take a look in case an infection is present. 

  • Flea Prevention
Many dogs can have an allergic reaction to flea bites, more precisely to the flea saliva. The easiest way to help protect your pup from fleas is to put him on regular flea-prevention medication. Your vet can recommend what is best for your pup.


Can Seasonal Allergies Last All Year?

The word seasonal might trick you into thinking your pup will only have these allergic reactions during certain times of the year. However, depending on the allergens that cause your dog’s allergies, and other factors like your dog’s age, how long he is exposed to the allergens, or other possible underlying health issues, your pooch could suffer from allergies year-round. Always be vigilant when watching your pup for signs of allergic reactions, and consult regularly with your vet, especially if you notice any changes. 

There’s no need to fret if you suspect your dog has allergies; it’s actually pretty common. Simply keep your eyes open for potential signs. If you think allergies could be at fault for your pup’s symptoms, set up an appointment with your vet. For more great tips on how to keep a happy, healthy dog, check out the rest of our blogs! We’re here for you all the time, so you can always do what’s best for your pets.

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