Itchy skin, watery eyes, excessive sneezing – most people are very familiar with the common symptoms of allergies. It’s common knowledge that people are susceptible to reactions, but believe it or not, dogs also suffer from allergies.

Like humans, canine allergies can develop from certain foods, seasons, and insects. While people are quick to take store-bought meds or use nasal spray when symptoms show up, do pet owners know what to do for dog allergies?

Allergies affect each dog differently and symptoms and reactions are often unpredictable. Seasonal allergies, for example, occur only at certain times of the year while food allergies have no seasonality and can develop at any stage of a canine’s life.

Treatment for dog allergies can range from vet-prescribed and over-the-counter medicine to holistic remedies. In this article we’ll explore the most common dog allergies and how to treat them, so your pup can enjoy the highest quality of life.

Types of Dog Allergies and Symptoms

Two dogs sniffing on the roads

Dogs can suffer from a number of allergies, just like us. However, the three most common types found in pups are food, flea, and environmental allergies.

Even if your dog has never had a negative reaction to their food or environment it doesn’t mean they will never have an allergy attack. Canines are also prone to acute allergic reactions from unpredictable sources, like bee stings.

Dogs with allergies can exhibit similar behavior to humans (excessive coughing and sneezing, for example) but those are just a few symptoms your canine may show. In fact, there are many ways a dog can react when faced with allergies.

Allergies Symptoms in Dogs

Every pup is different but in general, these are some of the most common canine allergy symptoms:

Pug sitting on couch

  • Itchiness
  • Hives breakout
  • Face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps swelling
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Excessive licking

Symptoms of seasonal allergies are often specific and easy to spot. Common signs of seasonal allergies are:

  • Itchy, red, scabbed skin
  • Excessive scratching and irritation
  • Itchy, runny eyes

You never know what compound is irritating your pup, so hold off on attempting to treat seasonal dog allergies with over-the-counter meds like eye drops before talking to your vet.

If your dog is reacting poorly to their food, chances are it will affect their digestive system. Because of this, the most common symptoms of food allergies are diarrhea and vomiting.

Once you know how to tell if there are allergies in your dog, the next phase is treatment. Keep in mind: these symptoms are not always due to allergies. Some symptoms may be signs of other serious issues. Always consult your veterinarian before medicating or treating your dog.

Dogs and Food Allergies

Some humans suffer from specific food allergies, while others do not. This is the same for dogs – there is no one-size-fits-all guide to spotting and treating canine food allergies. If your pup reacts to one food, chances are they’re also allergic to others.

Dalmatian feeds in apartment

Even more concerning, about 30% of pets with food-related reactions also suffer from seasonal or flea allergies.

The reality is your dog could be allergic to countless ingredients and compounds in their food, and the signs aren’t always apparent right away. In fact, it could take years to develop a food allergy, so it’s important to pay close attention to your pup’s digestion and reactions after meals.

Again, every dog is different and can be allergic to various foods. These are simply a few of the most common ones:

  • Grains: dogs can have aversions to corn, wheat, and rice
  • Vegetables: usually root vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrot, and yams
  • Legumes: pups can have reactions to peanuts, lentils, peas, beans, and soy
  • Proteins: dog allergies can come from chicken, beef, eggs, pork, rabbit, fish, and lamb
  • Dairy: milk, yogurt, and cheese can upset a pup’s digestive tract


Since a dog can have allergic reactions to numerous ingredients, treating a food allergy isn’t always as simple as buying a new brand. One way to find out what may be causing a specific food allergy is by trying an elimination diet. An elimination diet is a procedure where suspected foods are excluded and reintroduced one-by-one in order to find which ones cause allergic reactions.

While elimination diets require a lot of patience and time, they are very effective in discovering the root cause of an allergy.  Another option is to purchase hypoallergenic dog food, which is often grain-free.

Never ignore known or potential food allergies in your canine. Continuous exposure to bothersome foods left untreated can quickly become life-threatening to your pup. Talk to your vet about different options for treating food allergies in dogs.

Seasonal or Environmental (Atopy) Allergies

Dogs usually love outdoor playtime, but not when it’s hindered by allergies to the environment, like grass, that happen seasonally or year-round. Holistic veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney explains:

“In Los Angeles, for instance, it’s always warm, so things are blooming year-round which can expose your dog to more allergies. But in New Jersey, things bloom in the spring, then they’re gone in the winter.”

Certain indoor factors can be controlled to avoid bothersome allergies, but most outdoor environmental allergens are impossible to avoid.

2 puppies running on the road

In order to give your pup the best quality of life, it’s crucial you identify the cause of your dog’s allergies so you and your vet can find proper treatment.

Below are common seasonal dog allergies:

  • Pollen (tree, grass, weed, or flower pollen)
  • Mold
  • Dust

The changing weather isn’t the only cause for canine allergies. Dogs are just like us, so strong chemicals, materials, and environmental changes can strongly affect them.

These are just a few examples of artificial allergens that could potentially be bugging your pup:

  • Perfumes
  • Cleaning products
  • Plastic and rubbers
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Fabrics
  • Soaps and shampoos

Treatments for Seasonal or Environmental Allergies

A couple of well-known brands of allergy relief for humans also make medicine for dog allergies. Veterinarians generally recommend popular brands like Zyrtec and Benadryl.

While these may be safe for dogs to consume in certain dosages, you should never feed your pup these medicines without consulting your vet first. Your veterinarian is the only one who can dictate the proper dosage and will be able to make sure there aren’t more serious underlying issues.

Flea Allergies

Bulldog at backyard

Not every pet owner will encounter canine food or seasonal allergies. However, flea allergies affect most dogs at some point in their life – and just a couple of bites can be highly bothersome to a pup.

While other insect bites can affect canines, flea saliva is the most common insect allergen in dogs as it causes flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Pups who suffer from FAD excessively bite and scratch the irritated area, sometimes to the point where chunks of hair fall out. When scratched, these areas run the risk of developing harmful bacterial infections.

Fleas will most commonly irritate an area called the “flea triangle”, which starts at the tail-base region and extends down to the dog’s hind limbs.

In addition to fleas, these are other insect bites that can potentially bother sensitive pups:

  • Arachnids (spiders and ticks)
  • Fleas
  • Blackflies, deerflies, and horseflies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Ants
  • Bees, hornets, and wasps

Dog having shampoo

Treatments for Flea Allergies

First and foremost: flea prevention is the best option. Your veterinarian will have suggestions for flea preventatives based on how often your dog stays outdoors.

Flea preventives are not miracle products, and even with proper medicine, there is a chance your dog can become irritated from flea bites. If you prefer natural home remedies for dog allergies, you can apply coconut oil to soothe irritation or use diatomaceous earth to eliminate pests

Acute Allergic Reactions

Dogs commonly suffer from acute allergic reactions often triggered by specific events, like ingesting certain medications or receiving vaccines. As with humans, there are innumerable, unplanned circumstances that can arise and cause symptoms of dog allergies – even a small bee sting will trigger swelling or hives on the skin.

These reactions usually look dramatic, however swelling of the face, throat, lips, eyes, or earflaps are seldom fatal. These acute dog allergies are usually treated by veterinarians with an antihistamine.

Couple that wears glasses holds a dog

Treatments for Acute Allergic Reactions

There are several natural home remedies for acute dog allergies seasoned pet owners choose to administer if their pup has a reaction. If your dog suffers from allergies, it’s important to consult your vet about a treatment plan. However, holistic remedies are useful for easing the symptoms of various allergies. Oatmeal baths are a popular way to soothe dogs with sensitive skin. Coconut oil has a similar effect on pups with dry, irritated skin and can be applied topically or mixed in with food and treats. Pet parents also rely on CBD oil to treat a variety of problems, from anxiety to itchy skin. CBD oil can treat irritated skin and cracked paws, reduce shedding and dandruff, and is even believed to help prevent allergies.

Dog Breeds Prone to Allergies

Beagle looks at camera

No pup is safe from experiencing allergic reactions; in fact, up to 10% of dogs are known to suffer from allergies. That being said, some breeds are more prone to allergies than others – specifically brachycephalic breeds (dogs with flat noses).

Below are dog breeds that have a higher risk of developing allergies:

Living with a Dog with Allergies

If your dog begins showing symptoms of allergies, it’s crucial to act fast and consult your veterinarian. Allergies don’t just cause excessive sneezing or heavy wheezing; the effects can be serious and even fatal.

With dog insurance, you can ensure your dog’s health stays in tip-top shape. Prudent Pet offers optional preventive coverage for a little more cost that includes wellness exams and preventive medications throughout the year.

Your pup’s health should never be compromised because you can’t afford treatment. Get your free pet insurance quote today!

The information provided on this website is made available for educational purposes only. It should in no way be substituted for professional veterinary assessment of each individual patient by a suitably qualified veterinary surgeon or veterinarian.