Dog skin allergies

Due to your dog's sensitive skin, you might find they are scratching excessively, which suggests an allergic reaction. Read more to understand how allergies work in dogs, and how you can manage the signs.
Adult Jack Russell walking through a field with face close to the grass.

Dogs can develop allergies to particular things in their diet or environment. There are several things to understand about the likelihood of your dog having an allergy. If you think your dog may have an allergy, consult with your veterinarian for nutritional advice and diet recommendation.

What is an allergy in dogs?

An allergy is a reaction triggered by a specific element – internal or external to the body – known as an allergen. These may be unique to an individual dog or more generally known across their breed, age or population. The reaction is triggered by their immune system, which overcompensates and responds abnormally to what should be a normal environmental or internal issue.

What are some common allergies for dogs?

Across the dog population, there are some common allergic reactions to look out for. One of these is to flea bites, where your dog’s skin reacts more dramatically than normal to the common flea. This can also happen with mosquitos and other parasites. Dogs can also suffer allergies similar to humans, and have a reaction to environmental factors such as pollen or dust mites.

Dogs can also be hypersensitive to certain components of food, which can then develop into an allergy.

What are the symptoms of an allergy in a dog?

The first thing you’re likely to notice in your dog is a behavioural change; they will scratch much more than normal, either in a specific place on their body or all over. Upon investigation, you might find they have the sort of signs you would associate with an allergy in a human – their skin might look red, feel scaly or dry, and seem itchy.

Adult Beagle sitting outdoors in long grass scratching its ear.

How likely is it that my dog has an allergy?

When you take your dog to the veterinarian to establish the cause of the symptoms, the veterinarian will conduct a series of diagnostic tests to determine if it is an allergy or something that can be treated more easily.

The first test is for fleas and other parasites, as these are common. The veterinarian may also test for any infectious diseases and ask you questions about the history of your dog’s signs. Next, your veterinarian will try to rule out a food hypersensitivity or allergy; this can take a few weeks as you’ll be asked to give your dog a specific food and monitor their behaviour.

Finally, they may look into a specific allergy test where they’re testing your dog for atopy, also known as an environmental allergy. Some of the signs of this include itchy skin, inflammation of the skin between the toes and inflammation of their ears.

What can you I do to protect my dog from allergies?

If your dog has an allergy, your veterinarian will advise you on the best course of action. However, you can make sure you are managing any hypersensitivities they may have through their diet and care.

Their food should include highly digestible protein from quality sources that aren’t likely to cause a reaction. It should also include omega 3 and omega 6 acids to help nourish the skin. If you’re at all unsure, choose a food that’s specifically designed for dogs with dermatological sensitivities.

When washing your dog, do so gently and with a specially formulated dog shampoo or product that doesn’t strip their skin of sebum, as this protective film of oil helps protect their skin against external irritants. You can also speak to your veterinarian at any time for advice on caring for your dog’s skin and coat.

Jack Russell Terrier adult standing in black and white on a white background

Find a vet

If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, consult a vet for professional advice.

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