Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.

Can dogs have allergies? Yes, they absolutely can. However, dog allergy symptoms vary from the typical allergic reactions in people. While people will get runny noses, coughing, sneezing or red watery eyes, pets develop skin ailment, ear infections and itchiness.

As a small animal veterinarian, I want to address the most typical condition I treat inside my animal hospital: pet allergies. Pet parents dealing with pet allergies commonly ask, “What are dogs allergic to? Exactly why is my pet so itchy? What signs will i look for to know this is an allergy? And, are you able to please do something to relieve his or her discomfort, so we can all could possibly get some sleep?”

The Most Common Pet Allergies

Food Allergies

There are two different types of reactions to foods in dogs: hypersensitivity and an intolerance.

A hypersensitivity reaction involves the body's immune system, which creates a reaction when subjected to an allergen with time.

A food intolerance isn't technically an allergic reaction and can occur using the first exposure to a food, particularly in young animals.

It's important to note that both kinds of reactions, hypersensitivity or intolerance, can present in the same manner and are hard to tell apart. Both reactions will cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain. Other symptoms can include respiratory issues, such as difficulty breathing and chest pain, itchiness, rashes and hives. Seek veterinary guidance to find out which reaction your dog has.

Pets with food allergies are generally allergic towards the protein from animal or plant-based ingredients in their diet. The proteins are divided into molecules that the defense mechanisms misidentifies as foreign along with a threat to the body. Chicken, beef and eggs are just some of the most common types of food allergies.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergies are caused by flea bites and therefore are a very common cause of allergies in pets. The saliva in the flea bite causes a severe itchy response and many times a secondary skin infection.

Common dog allergy symptoms of the flea bite include:

  • hair loss
  • scratching
  • chewing
  • biting intensely at the tail, hind end, and legs
  • open and oozing sores
  • skin damage due to scratching/licking


A pet might have allergies to environmental allergens, for example pollens, grasses or soils.

The most common clinical signs you might see are:

  • licking at the paws (often after arriving externally)
  • generalized hair loss
  • scratching, chewing, or biting intensely
  • skin damage because of scratching/licking
  • ear infections

What Would be the Treatments for Pet Allergies?

The first step would be to use your veterinarian to find out in case your pet is suffering from allergies, therefore, the cause of the allergic reaction.

A food hypersensitivity requires placing your pet on a prescription hypoallergenic dog food diet.

If your pet is allergic to fleas, veterinarians can prescribe flea preventatives that are extremely effective and, most importantly, safe for your pets.

Environmental allergies to things such as pollen, grasses or soils are more difficult to treat, but there are treatments available.

The next step is to have the vet determine the kind of infection your pet has in order to get the proper treatment. Many times, the vet will recommend skin scrapes, skin cytology, cultures or bloodwork to evaluate the kind of infection and treat accordingly.

What Are you able to Do in order to Relieve the Itchiness?

There are lots of treatments available, and every pet is exclusive. Treatment regimens need to be prescribed from your veterinarian. Here's my top list to treat allergies and associated skin infections:

  • Hypoallergenic pet food diet if your pet continues to be diagnosed with food allergies (I like American Journey Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Lamb & Sweet Potato Pet food)
  • Weekly medicated shampoos prescribed by your veterinarian for active skin infection
  • Omega-3 fatty acids supplements (I likeZesty Paws Allergy Immune Bites Digestive Health Dog Supplement, 90 count Zesty Paws Allergy Immune Bites Digestive Health Dog Supplement)
  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungals
  • Antihistamines
  • Proper and efficient dog flea and tick prevention treatments
  • Immuno-suppressants
  • Hypoallergenic vaccinations
  • Steroids
  • Immunotherapy
  • If severe, referral to veterinarian dermatologist

Unfortunately, allergies are a common problem for the furry friends, but there are many things we are able to do in order to help. I try and stress to my clients that allergies in dogs aren't treatable, but dog allergy symptoms are manageable. My goal is relieving your dog as much as possible to provide her or him with less breakouts, less itching and more comfort. Speak with the vet to go over a suitable treatment plan for your pet's allergies.