Skin Allergies In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Ushuaia, Argentina - December 30th, 2011: a dog scratching in Gable Island of the Patagonian south. may have skin allergies.

(Picture Credit: Eduardo Fonseca Arraes/Getty Images)

Skin allergies in dogs occur when the immune system over-reacts or is hypersensitive to a particular substance, also known as an allergen. Veterinarians also refer to skin allergies as allergic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis.

Some of the most common allergens include dust, pollen, insect stings, or certain foods, to name a few.

Dogs with skin allergies might appear itchy and have red, sensitive skin. Allergies can vary greatly in severity; most dogs might be itchy, sneeze, or cough after encountering an allergen, while a dog with a severe allergy could go into anaphylactic shock.

Certain breeds, namely Terriers and other small companion breeds, are more prone to sensitive skin and skin allergies.

Even if your dog has mild allergies, you must check in with your veterinarian to make sure there aren’t any other underlying conditions that are making your pup itchy. Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of skin allergies in dogs.

Symptoms of Skin Allergies in Dogs

The most common symptoms of skin allergies in dogs — or any allergies in dogs, really — are similar to the symptoms humans with allergies experience.

A dog with allergies might start scratching more frequently after an encounter with an allergen, especially after going outside and walking through grass or other plants. Their skin might appear blotchy or red where the allergen made contact with their body, but they might also have a full-body reaction.

Dogs with skin allergies might also sneeze and cough, though not as much as they would be scratching. Some dogs can handle the itch better than others, but some might chew and scratch to the point of breaking skin, which could lead to secondary infections.

Here are some more common symptoms:

  • Constant licking and/or scratching
  • Patchy fur and/or hardened skin due to scratching
  • Rubbing against furniture or surfaces
  • Sneezing, wheezing, or other respiratory ailments
  • Anaphylactic shock in rare-but-serious conditions

Causes of Skin Allergies in Dogs

A hairy light brown and white male dog scratching his right ear.

(Picture Credit: athima tongloom/Getty Images)

The most common cause of skin allergies in dogs is fleas. Flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD, occurs when a dog’s immune system overreacts to the proteins in the flea saliva.

A dog doesn’t need to be infested with fleas in order to suffer from flea allergy dermatitis, either, as one bite can be enough to make a dog itch for days.

Many breeds are predisposed to allergies, and these sensitivities develop when your dog is between one and three years old. It could start as a seasonal allergy and grow into a year-round irritation, too.

Here are several possible causes of skin allergies in dogs:

  • Fleas (Flea allergy dermatitis)
  • Seasonal allergens, like pollen
  • Sensitivity to a normally benign bacteria or fungi
  • Genetic predisposition to atopic dermatitis

Treatments for Skin Allergies in Dogs

Since there are so many potential allergens or substances causing atopic dermatitis in your dog, it’s important to bring them into the vet for a checkup and testing. Skin allergies can be a concurrent condition, and there might be other reasons your dog is showing symptoms.

Once your vet is able to narrow down what’s making your pup itch, they’ll be able to recommend a course of treatment.

Of course, the best way to keep your dog’s skin allergies at bay is to prevent your pet from coming into contact with the allergen in the first place. However, that isn’t always possible.

Depending on the cause of your dog’s skin allergies, your veterinarian is likely to recommend one or more of these treatments:

  • Medicated baths
  • Antihistamines
  • Antifungal topical
  • Antibiotics
  • Hypoallergenic food and treats
  • Flea prevention

Does your dog suffer from any type of skin allergies? What do you find works best to alleviate their allergies? Let us know in the comments below!