11th May 2018

Dog Allergies - The Signs, Symptoms & Solutions

May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month and with the arrival of some sunny weather, the common pickle of hay fever’s sneezes and tickles unwelcomingly comes along too. But as much as we humans suffer from allergies of all varieties, so do our dogs. And it can be a very frightening thing for pet parents not to know what to look out for, particularly when allergies can arise from regular, everyday things.

Common allergies to be aware of include pollen, mould spores, dust, dander, feathers, perfumes, cleaning products, cigarette smoke and fleas. Read on for advice on how to spot and treat your dog’s allergies. 

Food allergies in dogs

Food allergies in dogs are usually quite rare. However, there are some ingredients that are associated with dog allergies more than others. These include meats such as chicken or beef; grains like wheat, soy, corn and rice; or dairy and egg. However, the intolerance could also be down to food that is too fatty, too fibrous or lacking in fibre.

Food allergy symptoms may reveal themselves in the following ways:

  • Itchy, red or irritated skin
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting

If you think your dog may have an allergy, put your mind at rest by visiting your local vet. They will most likely conduct a full physical examination or may recommend skin and blood tests. If your dog’s skin condition is really bad or doesn’t clear up after some initial treatment, your vet may suggest an intradermal skin test conducted by a veterinary dermatologist.

However, if your dog has a food allergy it will likely take a while to sniff out the culprit. An elimination diet may be the only way to work out the root of the problem. For humans, this is simply a short-term eating plan that removes certain foods that may be causing allergies, then reintroducing them one at a time to find out which foods aren’t being well-tolerated. However, dogs will require a strict prescription or hydrolysed protein diet for 12 weeks. 

That means feeding your dog nothing but the diet, including no treats, table food or flavoured medication either. Your dog will only be introduced to old foods once the symptoms go away and they will be reintroduced one at a time to see which might be the causing the allergic reaction.

The great news is, once you’ve discovered the pest that’s been causing your pet’s discomfort, removing that food from your dog’s diet should be the only action you need to take and no further treatment should be needed.

To avoid any serious food reactions in dogs altogether, there are certain foods which you should never feed your dog. These include:

  • Avocado
  • Onions & garlic
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Milk-based products
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Fat trimmings
  • Fruit seeds/pits
  • Raw eggs, raw meat, or raw fish
  • Salt
  • Sugary foods
  • Nutmeg & other spices

Take a look at our 10 healthy human foods for dogs for some safe alternatives.

Is my dog likely to suffer from allergies?

Of course, it is possible that any dog can develop allergies at any time. However, there has been some research suggesting that allergic reactions seem to be especially common in Terriers, Setters, Retrievers, and flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston terriers.

But as long as you are aware of the following symptoms to look out for, then you’ll know when to seek advice from your vet: 

  • Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin
  • Increased scratching
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Itchy back or base of the tail
  • Itchy ears and ear infections
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Snoring
  • Swollen paws
  • Constant licking

Treatment for dog allergies

For allergies caused by fleas, trusted dog flea treatment can be purchased in the form of drops, pills, flea collars and home sprays. If itching is being caused by dust, pet owners should aim to hoover and clean your dog’s bed at least once a week. Try natural sprays containing oatmeal and aloe or chat to your vet about prescription shampoos that may also help to alleviate irritable skin and bath your pooch on a weekly basis.

Airborne allergens may require allergy injections or oral drops. The drops tend to “kick in” a bit quicker than the injections, but the effect may still take up to 3 months. However, your dog will then be able to develop a long-term resistance to the allergen, rather than just having their itch temporarily scratched, so to speak. 

Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can also help to target dry, flaky skin or a dull coat. Naturally, these can be found in most fats and oils, including chicken fat, salmon oil, canola oil and flaxseed. Getting the balance right is tricky, so finding a high-quality pet food rich in essential fatty acids will be the safest solution.

Each ingredient in our Duck & Parsley Biscuit Bites has been carefully selected by a natural nutritionist to make your dogs coat extra shiny. The Beta-carotene in the carrot and its anti-oxidant benefits improve not only the look but the colour and pigmentation of your dog's coat. 

Hay fever in dogs

It is a very sad thing for any pup to suffer from the sunny weather. When all they want to do is enjoy long woodland walks or rolling about in the grass, hay fever can make your dog’s summer months extremely miserable. Sneezy, sniffly symptoms that you’d usually associate with hay fever in humans should be looked out for. Red, runny and itchy eyes, as well as any excessive scratching, sneezing or rashes on the face and paws, could be a sign that your dog is suffering from hay fever.  

Research shows that as many as 10% of dogs in the UK are hay fever victims, however, some breeds seem to be particularly prone. These include the following:

  • Terriers
  • Irish setters
  • Dalmatians
  • Poodles 
  • Schnauzers 

If you think that your poor pooch may be battling with pollen allergies, there are a few things you can do to help:

  • Speak to your vet, who may prescribe an antihistamine
  • Give your dog’s coat a good wipe with a damp towel after their walk
  • Keep their coat clipped if their fur is getting too thick or long
  • Avoid plants, freshly cut and longer grass as much as possible
  • Pollen count is highest between 5-10am and again at dusk, so plan your walks for other times of the day when the levels are lower
  • Bathe your dog’s skin regularly with water or shampoo to help remove pollen (colloidal oatmeal can help soothe hot, itchy skin)
  • Wash your dog’s bedding and any cuddly toys or blankets weekly
  • Avoid walks on dry, warm, windy days, which bring the highest pollen levels
  • Give your dog a really good daily brushing
  • Reduce pollen and dust in your home with dehumidifiers or air purifiers

To help you to potentially identify what your dog may be allergic to, the pollen season separates into three: 

  • Tree pollen – late March to mid-May
  • Grass pollen – mid-May to July
  • Weed pollen – end of June to September

If you are struggling to work out why your pooch is under the weather, always consult your vet as soon as possible to nip the problem – and the pollen – in the bud!

Find out more about dog allergies.