allergy-general-in-dogs | VCA Animal Hospital (2023)

What is an allergy?

An allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Most allergens are proteins from plants, insects, animals, or foods.

"With allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body."

Exposure to the allergen, usually on multiple occasions spanning months to years, sensitizes the immune system, and a subsequent exposure to the same or related allergen causes an over-reaction. Normally the immune system protects the dog against infection and disease, but with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body. Allergies may be thought of as an unnecessary normal immune response to a benign foreign substance.

The immune reactions involved in allergies are quite complex. Most reactions involve allergen protein molecules combining with antibodies in the blood, then attaching to a type of cell called a mast cell. Mast cells are found in many tissues throughout the body. When the antigen and antibody react with mast cells, the mast cells release potent chemicals, such as histamines, that cause local inflammation such as redness, swelling, and itching. This inflammation causes the various signs associated with an allergic reaction.

What are the symptoms of allergies in dogs?allergy-general-in-dogs | VCA Animal Hospital (1)

In the dog, the most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin, either localized (in one area) or generalized (all over the body). In some cases, the symptoms involve the respiratory system, with coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from the eyes or nose. In other cases, the allergic symptoms affect the digestive system resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.

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How common are allergies in dogs?

Unfortunately, allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age, with the majority of affected dogs over age one or two.

Are allergies inherited?

Some allergies are thought to be inherited. An inherited allergy is atopy or allergies to pollens and plants (see "What is inhalant allergy (atopy) and how is it treated?" below).

What are the common allergy-causing substances (allergens)?

A very large number of substances can act as allergens. Most are proteins of insect, plant, or animal origin, but small chemical molecules can also cause allergy. Examples of common allergens are pollens, mold spores, dust mites, shed skin cells (similar to pet allergies in humans), insect proteins such as flea saliva, and some medications.

What are the different types of allergy?

There are several ways of classifying allergies. Some examples of classifications include:

  • Allergen - flea allergy, food allergy
  • Route the allergen takes into the body - inhalant allergy, skin contact allergy, or food allergy
  • Time it takes for the immune reaction - immediate-type hypersensitivity, also called anaphylaxis or shock, and delayed-type hypersensitivity
  • Clinical signs - allergic dermatitis or allergic bronchitis
  • Inherited forms - atopy or seasonal allergies

What is flea or insect bite allergy and how is it treated?

Insect bite allergy is the exaggerated inflammatory response to the bite or sting of an insect. Arachnids such as spiders and ticks, and insects including fleas, blackflies, deerflies, horseflies, mosquitoes, ants, bees, hornets and wasps, can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive dogs.

Flea saliva is by far the most common insect allergen in dogs, causing flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Most dogs experience minor local irritation from flea bites. The FAD dog will react to a single bite with severe local itching. A dog with FAD will bite and scratch itself and may remove large amounts of hair, especially in the tail-base region. A secondary bacterial infection may develop in the areas of broken skin.

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"Because one flea can be a problem for a dog with FAD, strict flea control is essential."

Because one flea can be a problem for a dog with FAD, strict flea control is essential. This is difficult considering the life cycle of fleas, but modern monthly flea preventives and home treatment options allow you to provide a flea-free environment for your dog (see handout "Flea Control in Dogs” for additional information). Your veterinarian can give you tips on protecting your dog and other pets from fleas. When strict flea control is not possible, or in cases of severe itching, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids (steroids) to block the acute allergic reaction and give immediate relief. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, an appropriate antibiotic will be prescribed. See handout on “Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs” for more information about this type of allergy.

What is inhalant allergy (atopy) and how is it treated?

The term inhalant allergy in the dog is often used as a synonym for atopy. The main inhalant allergens are tree pollens (cedar, ash, oak, etc.), grass pollens, weed pollens (ragweed), molds, mildew, and house dust mites. Many of these allergies occur seasonally, such as ragweed, cedar, and grass pollens. However, others such as molds, mildew, and house dust mites occur year-round. When humans inhale these allergens, the resulting allergy primarily manifests with upper respiratory signs: runny eyes, runny nose, and sneezing (hay fever). Although sometimes the symptoms of allergies include allergic rhinitis or bronchitis, in most dogs, inhalant allergy manifests with itchy skin (pruritus). Due to these clinical signs, the condition is also called inhalant allergic dermatitis. The dog may rub its face, lick its feet and scratch the axillae (underarms).

"Symptoms of atopy can be controlled but a permanent cure is not usually possible."

Most dogs that have inhalant allergy start showing signs between one and three years of age. Affected dogs will often react to several allergens and often experience concurrent flea or food allergies. If the offending allergens can be identified by intradermal skin tests (skin testing) or blood tests, the dog should be protected from exposure to them as much as possible. Because most of these allergens are environmental, this is difficult and recurrent bouts are likely. Symptoms of atopy can be controlled but a permanent cure is not usually possible.

Treatment depends largely on the length of the specific allergy season. It may involve one or more of the following three therapies:

Anti-inflammatory therapy.Treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids, or with antihistamines, will quickly block the allergic reaction in most cases. Fatty acid supplementation of the diet can improve the response to steroids and antihistamines in some cases. Newer alternatives exist to block specific chemical signals associated with itch in dogs. These drugs include daily oral medications, such as oclacitinib (brand name: Apoquel®), and long-acting injections, such as Cytopoint®. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether these medications may be appropriate for your dog.

Shampoo therapy. Frequent bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo can be soothing to itchy, inflamed skin. Bathing also rinses out allergens in and on the coat that can be absorbed through the skin. Some therapeutic shampoos also contain anti-inflammatory ingredients that may further benefit your pet.

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Hyposensitization or desensitization therapy. If the specific offending antigens are identified by allergy testing, an allergy injection serum or allergy shots can be given to the patient. With this treatment, very small amounts of the antigen are injected weekly. This repeated dosing has the objective of reprogramming or desensitizing the immune system. Success rates vary with this treatment. Approximately 50% of treated dogs will see significant improvement in their clinical signs, while approximately 25% more will see a decrease in the amount or frequency or corticosteroid usage.

What is food allergy and how is it treated?allergy-general-in-dogs | VCA Animal Hospital (2)

Food allergy or food hypersensitivity can develop to almost any protein or carbohydrate component of food. It most commonly develops in response to protein of the food; dairy products, beef, wheat gluten, chicken, chicken eggs, lamb, and soy are commonly associated with food allergies in dogs. Food allergy can develop at almost any age. Food allergy may produce any of the clinical signs previously discussed including itching, digestive disorders, and respiratory distress. A dog may have multiple types of allergy, such as both food allergy and atopy making the exact diagnosis of a dog’s itching quite challenging.

"Food allergy typically does not respond well to corticosteroids or other medical treatments."

Food allergy typically does not respond well to corticosteroids or other medical treatments. Treatment requires identifying the offending component(s) of the diet and eliminating them. The most accurate way of testing for food allergies is with an elimination diet trial using a hypoallergenic diet. Because it takes at least eight weeks for all other food products to be eliminated from the body, the dog must eat the special diet exclusively for eight to twelve weeks. If a positive response and improvement of your pet's clinical signs occurs, your veterinarian will advise you on how to proceed.

"If the diet is not fed exclusively, it will not be a valid test."

It must be emphasized that if the diet is not fed exclusively, a food trial will not be a valid test. All table food, treats, and flavored vitamins must be discontinued during the testing period. There may be problems with certain types of chewable tablets or medications such as heartworm preventive. Your veterinarian will discuss the specific diet and restrictions recommended for your dog. See handout on “Food Allergy in Dogs” for more information.

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What is contact allergy?allergy-general-in-dogs | VCA Animal Hospital (3)

Contact allergy is the least common type of allergy in dogs. It results from direct contact to allergens, such as pyrethrins found in flea collars, pesticides used on the lawn, grasses, materials such as wool or synthetics used in carpets or bedding, etc. Contact allergies can develop to practically anything and at any age.

"...there will be skin irritation and itching at the points of contact..."

If the dog is allergic to any of these substances, there will be skin irritation and itching at the points of contact, usually the feet and stomach. Removal of the allergen (once it can be identified) often solves the problem.

Caution: The symptoms of allergies can be confused with other disorders, or occur concurrently with them. Therefore, do not attempt to diagnose your dog without veterinary professional assistance. Be prepared for your pet to receive a full diagnostic evaluation to rule out other causes of itching and skin problems. If an allergy is diagnosed, your whole family must follow your veterinarian's advice very closely in order to successfully relieve your pet's discomfort.

Contributors: Catherine Barnette, DVM; Ernest Ward, DVM

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What will vet do for dog allergies? ›

When strict flea control is not possible, or in cases of severe itching, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids (steroids) to block the acute allergic reaction and give immediate relief. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, an appropriate antibiotic will be prescribed.

What does the vet give for allergies? ›

Steroids help control allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation. But because they have significant negative side effects, they're best for short-term treatment. The most common oral steroids prescribed for dog allergies are prednisone and Temaril-P (trimeprazine with prednisolone).

Can the vet tell if my dog has allergies? ›

Seasonal/environmental allergy testing can be performed in dogs by either skin testing or blood testing. Skin testing is the most accurate type of allergy test, and it's generally performed by board-certified veterinary dermatologists.

What do vets give dogs for seasonal allergies? ›

Veterinarians use diphenhydramine, commonly known by the brand name Benadryl, for dogs on a regular basis to treat allergies, travel anxiety, and motion sickness.

How much does it cost to take a dog to the vet for allergies? ›

Cost of Allergy Treatment in Dogs

Veterinary consultations range from $50 to $150 per session. Medications can range in price from $20 to $100 or more, and may be required on an ongoing basis.

How much does it cost to treat allergies in dogs? ›

How much do dog allergy shots cost? The cost of immunotherapy injections will vary based on your individual dog. On average, be prepared to pay approximately $150 for about 4 months worth of medication. The cost can vary based on the dosage of each shot.

How does a vet check for allergies? ›

The gold standard of environmental allergy testing is intradermal skin testing. For this test, your dog would need to see a veterinary dermatologist and be sedated to have a large area of her coat shaved. She will then receive small injections of a number of different allergens and be monitored for reactions.

What is the best allergy medicine for dog allergies? ›

OTC corticosteroid nasal sprays include budesonide (Rhinocort), fluticasone (Flonase), and triamcinolone (Nasacort). These medications are considered first-choice medications for pet allergies.

Is allergy testing worth it for dogs? ›

Allergy testing can be very effective in identifying the underlying cause of atopic dermatitis, a condition that is typically caused by the inhalation of pollen, mold spores, dust, and other allergens. Allergy testing is not, however, recommended for the diagnosis of food allergies.

What is the most common allergy in dogs? ›

Skin allergies, called allergic dermatitis, are the most common type of allergic reactions in dogs.

Should I take my dog to the vet for allergies? ›

Constant scratching can indicate an allergic skin reaction or a flea allergy. Consult your veterinarian if your pet is constantly licking, chewing, or scratching her feet, face, ears, legs, or belly, because it is important to determine the cause.

What foods are dogs most allergic to? ›

The most common food allergens in dogs are proteins, especially those from dairy, beef, chicken, chicken eggs, soy, or wheat gluten. Each time a pet eats food containing these substances, the antibodies react with the antigens, and symptoms occur.

What helps dog allergies fast? ›

Apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, or aloe vera can be put on the skin to calm any itching. A relaxing oatmeal bath can relieve itching, burning, and dry skin.

What can I give my dog for allergies daily? ›

Antihistamines for Skin Allergies in Dogs
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): 1mg per pound (one 25mg tablet for a 25lb dog) twice. ...
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec): ¼ – ½ mg per pound (one 10mg tab per 30-40 lbs) twice daily.
  • Loratadine (Claritin): ¼ mg per pound (half of a 10mg tablet per 20 lbs) once daily.

How much is a vet visit for allergic reaction? ›

Allergy testing

Most vets agree that skin tests give the most accurate results. This test can range from $195 to $250. If you prefer a blood test, the price can vary from $200 to $300.

Can getting a dog fixed help with allergies? ›

New research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that another benefit of neutering is to reduce human allergic reactions to a specific protein found in intact male dogs. Dog and cat allergies are common, and can be caused by allergens in your pet's urine, saliva, and dander.

What is the most accurate allergy test for dogs? ›

  1. Overall Best: 5Strands Pet Food and Environmental Intolerance Test. ...
  2. Best Saliva Test: Test My Pet Canine Allergy Test Allergy. ...
  3. Best Value: UCARI Pet Sensitivity and Intolerance Test Kit. ...
  4. Best Food-Only Test: 5Strands Pet Food Intolerance Test. ...
  5. Best Environmental-Only Test: 5Strands Pet Environmental Intolerance Test.
15 May 2022

Will my dog allergy ever go away? ›

Outgrowing allergies to animals is possible but not probable. Also, even those allergies can go away; they can come back again later in life. Keeping pets will not help to acclimate to allergies either. For some people, allergy symptoms can be worse in some seasons, especially in the heat when animals shed more.

How long do dog allergy tests take? ›

What is an intradermal skin test? Our intradermal allergy test involves giving 72 small individual injections into a small shaved patch of skin on the side of the chest about 5 inches wide by 7 inches long. This is done while your pet is lightly sedated and usually while you wait (usually takes about 40 to 60 minutes).

How do you diagnose a dog allergy? ›

Your doctor can do either a skin test or a blood test that will detect allergen-specific IgE (Immunoglobulin E) to find out if you have dog allergies. Even if you're pretty certain that you're allergic, testing is always a good idea. Some people who assume that they have dog allergies turn out not to have them.

How can I test my dog for allergies at home? ›

Most at-home dog allergy tests use a small saliva or hair sample. When you order a kit, you'll receive everything you need to take the sample. After getting your dog's hair or saliva sample, place it into the tube provided before mailing it back to the test company.

Can a vet do a food allergy test? ›

Allergy tests that are performed by veterinarians or veterinary dermatologists can be highly effective in diagnosing environmental allergies, but are typically less appropriate for food allergies. There are two types of veterinary allergy tests: intradermal skin testing and blood allergy tests.

Can vets do a blood test for allergies? ›

for dogs and cats. This is an easy and simple blood test that identifies which allergens your dog or cat are allergic to. Your vet will take a small blood sample from your pet and send it to our laboratory for analysis. We will look for antibodies against different allergens.

How can I tell if my dog is allergic to his food? ›

Signs and symptoms of food allergies in dogs might include:
  • Itchy skin. Itching is a common symptom of an underlying food allergy. ...
  • Skin and ear infections. Skin lesions as a result of itching are a common symptom, manifesting in up to 80% of canine food allergy cases. ...
  • Hives. ...
  • Gastrointestinal issues. ...
  • Lethargy.
21 Oct 2021

What triggers dog allergies? ›

Most often, pet allergy is triggered by exposure to the dead flakes of skin (dander) a pet sheds. Any animal with fur can be a source of pet allergy, but pet allergies are most commonly associated with cats and dogs.

What happens if dog allergies go untreated? ›

If your pet's food allergy goes untreated, they may develop a secondary skin infection, more allergies, exaggerated symptoms, and behavioral changes. Sometimes, there's something in your home that may be causing your pet to react negatively.

What foods help dogs stop itching? ›

Fish-based diets are often the first recommendation for itchy dogs, as they are at the same time a novel protein diet and contain high levels of natural fish oil, making them similar to a 'skin care diet'. This means they are likely to help with any type of skin allergy.

What food is best for itchy dogs? ›

  1. Pupper Chicken Topper.
  2. ZIGNATURE Kangaroo Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food. ...
  3. CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe. ...
  4. Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care Grain-Free Formula Turkey & Potato Recipe. ...
  5. Hill's Science Diet Dog Food for Sensitive Skin.
19 Oct 2022

Are bananas good for dogs with allergies? ›

Only your vet can determine how much banana your dog can safely eat. It's also important to keep an eye out for dog food allergy symptoms if you're feeding your dog bananas for the first time. While bananas are safe for most dogs, your dog could have an allergy that you don't know about.

How can I treat my dogs allergies naturally? ›

Chamomile, calendula, and green tea have properties that soothe and cool irritated skin and reduce inflammation, making them great additions in a dog bath for itchy skin. These soaks are best for dogs who have hot, itchy patches of skin that are at risk of getting rubbed raw.

Can a vet check for allergies? ›

Blood Testing

For a slightly more reliable allergy test, you can have your vet run a blood test. Blood tests typically cost $200–$300. To perform this test, your vet will take a blood sample.

How do you get rid of dog allergies permanently? ›

These techniques include:
  1. Cut down on pet dander. Consider a hypoallergenic dog, or give your dog or cat weekly baths to reduce dander accumulation. ...
  2. Eradicate dust mites. ...
  3. Vacuum. ...
  4. Dehumidify. ...
  5. Get rid of houseplants. ...
  6. Control cockroaches.

How can I help my dog with dog allergies? ›

7 Tips to Combat Pet Allergies
  1. Wash up. Ideally, you'd wash your pets once or twice a week. ...
  2. Declare the bedroom a pet-free zone. ...
  3. Brush or comb regularly. ...
  4. Clean and pick up. ...
  5. Use an allergen-capturing air filter. ...
  6. Consider the whole environment. ...
  7. Get medical help. ...
  8. Sources:

Is it expensive to test a dog for allergies? ›

How Much Is A Dog Allergy Test At A Vet's Office? Pricing varies by your vet and location, but in general, you can expect to pay an average of $200 for a skin test and $200-$300 for a blood test.

What happens if you don't treat dogs allergies? ›

Dogs, like people, can go into anaphylactic shock if they have a severe reaction to an allergen. This can be fatal if not treated.

How much does an allergy check up cost? ›

LifeScience Comprehensive Allergy Test only costs P106/allergen preparation or P30,600. LifeScience also offers installment plans.

What food is best for a dog with allergies? ›

Best Foods for Dogs with Allergies
  1. Nom Nom Fresh (Limited Ingredient Food) ...
  2. Wellness Simple (Limited Ingredient Food) ...
  3. Royal Canin Veterinary Diets Hydrolyzed Protein (Hypoallergenic Food) ...
  4. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet (Limited Ingredient Food) ...
  5. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets (Hypoallergic Food)
15 Nov 2021

Can dogs recover from allergies? ›

Allergies in dogs generally can't be cured but can be managed. This article explains the different types of allergies in dogs, their symptoms and how they can be treated. We also discuss how allergies are diagnosed and the dog breeds that more prone to skin conditions.

How can I reduce my dogs allergies naturally? ›

Apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, or aloe vera can be put on the skin to calm any itching. A relaxing oatmeal bath can relieve itching, burning, and dry skin.

What gets rid of allergies fast? ›

Try an over-the-counter remedy
  1. Oral antihistamines. Antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, a stuffy or runny nose, and watery eyes. ...
  2. Corticosteroid nasal sprays. These medications improve nasal symptoms. ...
  3. Cromolyn sodium nasal spray. ...
  4. Oral decongestants.


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