Dog Allergies - How to Diagnose and Treat Painful Dog Allergies


How common are dog allergies?

More common than a lot of people realize. At least 60% of the dogs that we see come through our practice have some sort of allergy. There's a whole slew of different things that they can be allergic to. But we see quite a few come through. Mooky here has allergies himself.


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

What are some common dog allergies?

One of the significant allergies is going to be food allergies. And most commonly, that's the protein source of the food, chicken, beef, or pork. The next is being allergic to ectoparasites or parasites that can live on the pet, so fleas or ticks, or even being allergic to mosquito bites and things like that. And then the last one falls under what we call atopy, or an environmental allergen. Maybe it's the grass outside or pollen from the tree or flowers in the yard, or perhaps it's even stuff like dust in the carpet, mold behind the walls, or other things that can trigger allergies in dogs.

How do allergies impact the health and wellbeing of my dog?

The biggest thing that owners notice is the itching, and they're up all night with their dog because they are just itchy, itchy, itchy. Some of the allergies present as ear infections, so they're shaking their head a bunch. You could even have allergies present in the form of hives, so they've got welts or red raised areas. Sometimes they're chewing their fur out, which causes a secondary skin infection, so they've got some hair loss. Maybe they've got some lesions that are oozing or red bumps. There's a ton of different ways that allergies present. And the most significant thing is trying to figure out what's causing them and then managing them to keep the pet comfortable because that keeps your sanity in check.

Could I diagnose my dog's allergies at home?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Let's say you gave your dog a new brand of treats, and they decided to have some vomiting or diarrhea, or they broke out with hives on their skin. Then that's probably a good indicator that something in that new bag of treats caused an allergic reaction in your pet. Of course, things like bee stings would fall under the allergic reaction category. But sometimes, there are some trickier things to diagnose, too, that are better diagnosed at your vet's office.

How will a vet diagnose allergies in my dog?

There's some testing out there that's available, but many times it's a diagnosis of exclusion. We're making sure that there's no evidence of fleas on your pet or looking for the cause of the ear infection. Or did we change food recently? Are we moving into a new season? Did we move from winter to spring? Because sometimes, that can trigger allergies in pets, too. It's kind of like being a big detective and trying to put together all of the puzzle pieces, and that's generally what we tend to do here. And then, if more diagnostics are needed, we can recommend those, and there are several different things that we can do on that front.

How are dog allergies treated using anti-inflammatory therapy?

My favorite anti-inflammatory therapy is going to be omega-3 fatty acids. And the nice thing about omega-3 fatty acids, they are over-the-counter, but they're my favorite general supplement because they're natural anti-inflammatories for the pet. These allergic responses cause some sort of inflammation, either in the skin or the ears. If it's a food allergy, sometimes it's in the gastrointestinal tract. And what we want to do is get that inflammation under control because, if you think about skin, it's kind of like bricks and mortar, and so it's a nice solid wall when it's intact. But what that inflammation does is it crumbles out the bricks and mortar, and that's what leads to secondary bacterial infections or secondary fungal infections. Some medications are anti-inflammatories that can help, too, but my favorite are these omega-3s because they're all-natural.

How is shampoo therapy used for dog allergies?

Yeah, so shampoo therapy is great because if the allergen that's tricking your dog is some grass, pollen, or dust getting on their coat, the shampoo therapy gets those allergens off of your pet to hopefully stop the triggering response. We have many all-purpose, hypoallergenic shampoos with ceramides in them that restore that mortar in the brick and mortar that makes up the skin. But then we also have shampoos that have specific medications in them, too, whether that's antimicrobials, antifungals, those ceramides, even some hydrocortisone—things like that that can help control a little bit of what's going on on your dog's skin. And I love topical therapies. We use bathing therapy all the time here because it's just wonderful.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Allergies - FAQs


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

What are some common treatments for dog allergies?

As you can see by what I've got here on my table, there's quite a bit that's out there. It's not uncommon that your veterinarian might recommend combining these to get your pet the most relief and try to get things managed the best we can.

And so, here I have a bunch of ear flushes that we use here. I also love to use bathing therapy. I think it's beneficial and sometimes prevents us from using oral antibiotics. I've also got things like Omega-3 Fatty Acids and some medicated sprays.

And then, a lot of times, we'll recommend either Cytopoint or Apoquel to help with your pet's itching because that tends to be one of the most common symptoms. Apoquel and Cytopoint are great tools that we have to help manage your pets itch.

Sometimes we'll recommend a hypoallergenic diet if we get to that point and feel like that will be beneficial to your pet. And then, any pet with allergies benefits from being on flea and tick prevention, but of course, I'm going to recommend full prevention, so heartworm, intestinal parasite, and flea and tick, which we have here. Simparica Trio does everything; BRAVECTO here does fleas and ticks. And we carry both of these in the clinic.

How are flea and insect bites on my dog treated?

The best way is to actually prevent them, and that's what I love about these preventions right here. These products have the most recent or newest drug class in them to manage fleas and ticks. It's the isoxazoline class, which is a mouthful. And when I say newest, the drug class has been on the market for at least the past five to eight years. They're not brand new. There's a lot of research to go with them, but they are effective. And they do an excellent job of killing fleas and ticks that might get on your pet.

Now, the thing is, is they do have to get on your pet and bite them to uptake the medication, but they are wicked fast at killing them. Usually, there's the death of the parasite within two to 12 hours, which is awesome. If we can prevent the bite from happening, that's the first place to start because all it takes is one bite to trigger a reaction in some pets. We generally call that flea allergy dermatitis, and what it is is they're allergic to the flea's saliva, so that's what we want to try to prevent.

What medicine is safe for dogs with allergies?

There's a lot out there. Many of the products that we have here on the table are safe for just about any pet. Of course, these topical products are all going to be safe, even if your pet maybe has a heart murmur, or you were monitoring their liver values, or dental disease, or things like that. These topical products are going to be safe for any pet and can be super effective.

My next favorite is going to be these Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and the reason why I like them for a pet who may have some other issues is they are all-natural. They just replace some of the natural anti-inflammatories in the body, but we use things like Apoquel and Cytopoint quite frequently in dogs of all shapes and sizes that have all kinds of conditions. And they do well.

Can I give my dog Benadryl for allergies?

It's something that you could try. I tend to tell most of my clients that I like Benadryl for those acute allergic reactions. You think about getting stung by a bee, or maybe you have a course of hives or something like that. I like Benadryl for those things, but we don't find that Benadryl tends to be as effective as some other things out there for long-term allergy management.

I do recommend Zyrtec to a lot of my patients, too. And that's something that owners can get inexpensively at the drug store or the pharmacy, which can help manage long-term allergies or maybe seasonal allergies. My dogs are on Zyrtec from March through October, but the best thing to do is get an appropriate dose for it from your veterinarian.

Are there any holistic options for dog allergies?

Besides things like bathing therapies, the Omega-3 Fatty Acids in my mind would run into the holistic end of things. We don't recommend applying essential oils or things like that directly to your pet because those can be pretty irritating to their skin. If you find a product that you may want to try, the best thing to do is call your veterinarian. Worst case scenario, they may find something in there that they say, "I'm not totally comfortable with this product, but maybe let's try this one."

Is there anything I need to do in my home environment for my dog's allergies?

Depending on what your dog is sensitive to, regularly laundering their bed is wonderful. Many owners forget to wash their pets' beds, and sometimes that can be the source of the allergens that cause the allergic reaction. They say that skin cell turnover in dogs is about every 21 days, so veterinarian dermatologists recommend bathing your dog at least once a month, if not every three weeks. That can help a lot, too.

Sometimes if you notice them licking their feet, it can be just as simple as wiping off their feet with a wet washcloth right after they come in from outside. But there's a whole slew of things. Keeping the house clean, vacuumed, all of that good stuff, and keeping them on prevention, too, would be helpful. Once fleas get in your home, they're tough to get rid of.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Allergies - FAQs 2


Dr. Sarah Crank
Advanced Animal Care - Waco

How can you tell if my dog has allergies?

The most common things that we will see are your dog scratching, losing hair, red skin, chewing at their feet, and scratching their ears. Those are generally the most common types of things that we'll see.

How common are allergies in dogs?

They are a lot more common than you would think. If your dog's scratching is occasional, that's pretty normal, but your dog should not be scratching nonstop. That is not a normal thing. We see at least a couple of patients a day that will have some type of allergy that we diagnose.

What are the symptoms of allergies in dogs?

Most of the time, it's going to be scratching, shaking their head, and discomfort as far as their skin or ears go, and those areas will also have redness to them.

What is a contact allergy in dogs?

A contact allergy is whenever your dog touches something that they have an allergic reaction to. That can be something on the floor like if you used a particular cleaner or even just like in people, they can be allergic to certain laundry detergents. It's something they have touched that causes them to break out.

How can you tell if my dog has a food allergy?

Food allergies are relatively common. We'll go over the detailed history and see if your dog has had skin and ear issues before. Then we will also go over what the diet is typically for your dog. Usually, it's going to be based upon the history and then also doing a food trial. Switching your food around will not cause an instant change. It takes a good eight to 12 weeks for your dog to have all those proteins taken out of their system. We see if your dog will respond by switching your dog's food up using over-the-counter dog foods. That's generally not going to cut it. It's usually prescription-type dog food, and they have to be on this food trial for eight to 12 weeks solely before we can say definitively that your dog has a food allergy.

Do dogs suffer from seasonal allergies?

They do. Most of the time, it will be spring and fall, but some animals also have problems all year long. They will have those allergies just like whenever we have sinus infections, our watery eyes, a snotty nose, and possibly an ear infection that comes up, or they will be scratching their belly or chewing their paws.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 369-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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