How to Know Your Dog Has an Allergy


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Your pup is scratching excessively, her eyes are runny, she’s got a rash or is biting her feet. With research showing 20% of all pups will develop dog allergies in their lifetime, it may be that your dog’s allergic to something.

Allergies were PD Insurance’s no. 1 most common claim for dogs and cats in 2022, so we know this is something many pets and their parents struggle with. They can be uncomfortable for you doggo and will require treatment, so it’s important to know how to identify them. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, causes and treatment of dog allergies.

PS: If you’re sniffing and sneezing due to dog or cat allergies read this to find out what you can do.

A black and white dog against a background of flowers. Dog allergies can include pollen

Causes of allergies in dogs

The daisies are in full bloom, you’ve just spritzed on some perfume, and your dog is busy chomping down on a peanut butter treat. A few hours later, she’s scratching her ears and face like her life depends on it.

There are several types of dog allergies, all with unique causes. Here are some of them:


Airborne allergens are usually environmental and are carried through the air to your dog’s respiratory system, which can affect their sinuses and breathing. They include dust, pollen, mould, spores, cigarette smoke and perfumes. Luckily, airborne allergens like pollen and spores happen season to season, so you’ll know exactly when to step in with treatment for your pup.


‘Topical’ basically refers to something that’s affecting a specific part of their body. The most common are skin allergies. These can come from sources such as fleas, grass, shampoos, ointments or medications. Not all skin conditions are allergies though, so read up on dog skin conditions.


Food allergies are quite rare and are different from food sensitivities. If you dog has a food allergy they won’t be able to tolerate certain types of food and may break out in skin hives or have gastrointestinal problems. Sensitivities, on the other hand, don’t involve an immune response and are a gradual reaction to an ingredient in you pup’s food. Foods that commonly cause allergies or sensitivities include beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb/mutton, soy, or pork.

Acute allergic reactions

This is a more sudden or severe reaction to an allergen and includes things like bee stings or a vaccine. Though they can cause anaphylactic shock, luckily these types of allergies are rare in dogs.

cute French bulldog puppies

How do I know my dog has an allergy?

An allergy is basically your dog’s body trying to get rid of a substance that’s irritating or inflaming their skin or organs. When your pup comes in contact with something they’re allergic to, their immune system goes into overdrive and creates what’s called histamines.

You’ll know your dog has an allergy if they show reactions like scratching, constant licking, feet chewing, ear infections, itchy, red, moist skin, sneezing, red or runny eyes or sneezing. Food allergies commonly cause diarrhea, scooting due to chronic anal gland inflammation, ear infections, itching, and sometimes frequent vomiting.

Flea allergies usually appear as a red rash or dots on your dog’s body. They’ll scratch and gnaw at their coat excessively, and you’ll probably be able to see the fleas on their body. Read more about flea and tick treatment in dogs.

Treating dog allergies

Treating an allergy is about finding the cause through a process of elimination. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for allergies and your vet will focus on treating the symptoms.

First they’ll want to rule out any other condition that could be causing the reaction. Though there are tests for food allergens, they’re not considered consistent or 100% reliable. The best way to pick up a food allergy is through an elimination diet where your pup will be fed a new source of protein and carbohydrates for 12 weeks to see which cause a reaction. Once the food culprit has been confirmed, your vet will recommend a limited-ingredient or hydrolysed protein diet.

Once your pup is diagnosed, your vet may suggest anti-itch therapy. This involves daily oral or monthly injections that block itch pathways. Another topical treatment is a medicated shampoo, which helps keep Fido’s skin barrier healthy so they’re better protected. Though it’s less common, some dogs may need antihistamines – especially for airborne allergens.

From there, you’ll want to safeguard your dog against exposure to that substance. This would include things like taking the problem food out of their diet, stopping a cream or medication, or keeping them away from things like perfume or cigarette smoke.

A black puppy scratching itself. Dog allergies can lead to itchniness

Dog allergies FAQ

Here are some of the top questions people ask about dog allergies…

Can dogs be allergic to each other?

It’s fairly uncommon, but yes. There are allergens carried by dogs – including dander or dead skin, saliva and urine – that can also agitate other dogs. If this is the case and your dogs are living together, get medicine from your vet, then make sure you give both dogs regular baths and use air purifiers to reduce airborne allergens.

Can dogs be allergic to cats?

Again, this is uncommon but possible. If you suspect Fido is allergic to Felix, go see your vet. They’ll first want to eliminate any other possible causes through an intradermal allergy test. Then they’ll possibly prescribe medication.

Can dogs be allergic to peanuts?

Yes, like humans, some dogs can be allergic to peanuts and it can be severe. Monitor your dog closely the first time you feed them peanuts or peanut butter to ensure they don’t experience difficulty breathing or excessive scratching and licking. Also be aware peanut butter can be dangerous in another way; read our article on xylitol and dogs.

Which dogs are prone to allergies?

There are certain dog breeds that are more prone to allergies than others and these are mostly purebred dogs. They include the American and English Bulldog, Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Chinese Shar-Pei, Cocker Spaniel, Doberman Pincher, English Setter, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Maltese, Pit Bull Terrier, Pug and Standard Poodle.

this springer spaniel is one of the kindest dog breeds you can find, they're also more prone to dog allergies than other dogs.

Safeguard your pup for allergies and more

So now you know the most common dog allergies to look out for. Also know there are plenty of accidents and other emergencies your pup may find themselves in. Make sure you never have to weigh up finances against getting the best care for your pup, with a good dog insurance plan.

PD Insurance is an award-winning service provider that offers value-rich month-to-month cover for your pet. Why not get a quote today?

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