Can Dogs Get Allergies?

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If you’ve ever experienced the uncomfortable, itchy, sneezy, wheezing side-effects of allergies, you know just how annoying your body’s immune reaction to natural and man-made pollutants can be. Whether seasonal allergies caused by pollen, dirt, mold, or other natural particles or allergic reactions due to foods or medications, allergies are the bane of any sufferer’s existence. Watery and itchy eyes, stuffy noses, hives and even life threatening inflammatory responses all create health risks and concerns.

As a dog owner, you may find yourself noticing familiar symptoms or other odd behaviors from Fido during certain times of the year or after eating particular foods and find yourself wondering: “can my dog get allergies too?”.

Can Dogs Get Allergies?

YES!

Canines are susceptible to allergies, just like their human pet owners. Dogs can’t exactly communicate with us using their voices, but with careful observation, many of the same signs and symptoms are present as you would expect to see in a human with allergies. Pets also tend to be more stoic regarding their sicknesses or discomfort, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t affected just as acutely as you or I.

Does My Dog Have Allergies?

As mentioned above, it’s often difficult to identify if your dog is suffering from allergies. A canine’s thick coat can often mask telltale physical signs and grooming and licking will often take care of the rest. There are, however, a few key signs and symptoms to watch out for if you think your dog is suffering from allergies, and a number of ways to provide proper care, treatment and relief for your furry, canine friend.


Symptoms
Your dog will display many of the same symptoms as you’d expect in a human suffering from allergies or an allergic reaction. A runny nose, watery eyes or coughing or hacking will often be signs of allergies. Your dog may also communicate their skin irritation by licking or chewing excessively at their paws or feet. Finally, yeasty, dirty ears or recurring ear infections may also be signs your dog is suffering from allergies.


Causes
Much like in humans, allergies in your dog are caused by the body’s inappropriate immune action to an external substance. The allergic reaction causes your dog to produce excess fluid and inflammation in an attempt to rid the body of what it views as a contaminant. Your dog’s reaction to these allergens will continue and, in some cases, may worsen over time.

Diagnosis
Luckily your vet will have plenty of experience in identifying allergies in your dog. At your veterinary visit, the doctor will perform a thorough exam and obtain samples including skin scrapings from the coat or ears. Your vet will need information on any medications or dietary changes in order to confirm whether the allergies are environmental or related to something they may have ingested.

To learn more about food allergies in your dog, see this handy article.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Allergies?

Treatment of your dog’s allergies can take a variety of forms. If the allergic reaction is mild, Fido may need monitoring and basic non-medical support. Frequently cleaning your dog’s ears with a mild over-the-counter solution can help to eliminate or reduce ear yeast and infections. Wiping your pet’s feet after they’ve come in from outside can also help with skin allergies due to pollen or grass. You can also eliminate protein sources or other types of food from your dog’s diet in a documented manner in order to determine which foods they may be allergic to. Corn and chicken are common allergens for some dogs.

In severe cases, your vet may prescribe a prescription allergy medicine, similar to those given to humans. You should follow the dosage of these medications precisely and maintain regular veterinary well-visits in order to check bloodwork, as long term medication use isn’t a good idea for Fido or yourself.

How are Allergies Similar in Dogs and Humans?

The basic mechanism for allergies in dogs is the same as that for humans. Both suffer allergies due to an inappropriate immune response due to allergens. Runny eyes and nose are often some of the key bodily reactions your dog is suffering allergies. Excess scratching and general discomfort are also indicators that both people and dogs may get.

How is Allergies Different in Dogs and Humans?

Since dogs have higher pain and discomfort thresholds than people, it may sometimes be difficult to spot that your pet is suffering from an allergic reaction. Look for discoloration around the eyes and ears, which may be a sign that excess moisture is being produced. Dogs also tend to chew on their paws and legs when suffering from allergies, which is decidedly not a human trait.

Case Study

The typical case of allergies in your dog will start off potentially mild and grow over time since allergies tend to increase as exposure to the allergen continues. Your dog may begin with excessively dirty ears or disproportionate amount of grooming. The allergies in your dog may then progress to feet chewing and, potentially, even hot spots or open sores caused by skin irritation. You and your vet will then work together to diagnose the source of the allergy and remove the allergen from your dog’s life to the extent possible, making for a healthier, happier Fido and human owner.