Treating a Dog with Allergies

Humans can have a wide range of allergies, but did you know that dogs can develop allergies as well? 

Just like humans, allergies can become apparent when dogs are little or spring up later in life. They can be an ongoing problem or only be apparent once or twice in their life. If your dog has allergies, there is, most of the time, nothing to worry about. However, some allergic reactions are serious and will require that you rush to the vet immediately for treatment. 

If you are worried that your dog has allergies, try and spot which allergy symptoms he’s experiencing so you can give your vet a thorough health summary. From there, you can begin treating a dog with allergies to help him get back to his happy go-lucky self. 

How to Know If Your Dog Has Allergies

Has your dog been excessively licking parts of his body? Has he been scratching certain parts of his body, such as his head, paws and muzzle? Did he throw up? Did he have diarrhea? Is he sneezing or coughing a lot? Does he have runny eyes or a runny nose? Do his eyes look red? These are all symptoms of dog allergies to be aware of. 

The types of allergies dogs experience include food, environmental, parasitic and fleas, and contact allergies, according to CertaPet. 

A food allergy is caused by a reaction to a protein or carbohydrate within your dog’s food. Dogs are not born with food allergies; instead, dogs become allergic over time. Dogs’ bodies lose the ability to break down some proteins. According to Patton Avenue Pet Company, “The body begins to mistakenly identify chicken as a harmful ingredient, and creates defensive antibodies to fight against the food,” which then shows up in the form of allergy symptoms like scratching, throwing up, and diarrhea. 

An environmental allergy, also called atopic dermatitis, leads to chronic itching in dogs, according to Preventive Vet. They will experience an allergic reaction, or a hypersensitivity, to things like pollen, dander, mold, and dust. Your dog may have an environmental allergy because of his genetics or the environment he’s in, whether he’s inside your home or spending time outdoors. When dogs breathe in environmental allergens or their skin is exposed to them, then they may develop symptoms like itching and redness. Usually, you’ll notice that a dog’s skin is red or inflamed, or your dog is scratching himself a lot. His nose may start to run and his eyes could become watery, too. He may sneeze or cough around anything he’s allergic to as well. 

Fleas, or parasites like ticks and dust mites, cause a parasite or flea allergy. The contact with flea saliva is the allergen that causes a dog to develop an allergic reaction. According to CertaPet, fleas are the most common biting parasite. Fleas are always around, but they appear more in the summertime or in places with hot temperatures year round. When these parasites bite dogs without flea allergies, they will scratch, but dogs with flea allergies will keep scratching until they get lesions on their skin or even experience hair loss. If you notice your dog scratching a lot he is developing other skin problems, check around the base of his tale and his hind legs. This is where fleas tend to hide. You’ll also want to check him for ticks, which are easier to see when they are feeding off your dog. While you can’t see dust mites with the naked eye, you’ll know your dog has them if he has red, itchy patches

You know your dog has a contact allergy if his skin touches something and it looks irritated. For instance, your dog may have a contact allergy to a certain type of material, like wool, a dog shampoo you’re using, a plant in your yard or flea medicine. If you apply something to your dog or he comes into contact with allergens and you see redness on the skin, then you may be dealing with contact skin allergies. These are not as common as flea and parasite, food and environmental allergies, but they can be just as uncomfortable for your pup.   

How to Treat Dog Allergies

The best step in treating a dog with allergies is to try and prevent them from occurring in the first place by getting on a canine allergies treatment plan. Below are some prevention steps you can take as well as effective dog remedies for allergies.

Food Allergies

Whether you realize it or not, your dog’s diet can have a major impact on his overall health. In terms of food allergies, make sure you’re feeding your pup high quality dog food free of unnecessary fillers and synthetic ingredients. Go for dog foods with lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, healthy carbohydrates and grains, vegetables, and fruits to avoid potential allergens. Additionally, you’ll want to switch up your dog’s food. Humans don’t eat the same thing every day, so dogs should have some variety as well so they’re less likely to develop a food allergy. Feeding dogs deboned coldwater fish, boiled chicken and white rice, peanut butter, baby carrots, pumpkin and eggs will not only keep them happy, but will  contribute to their good health as well. In cases where your dog has an allergic response to food, your vet may recommend putting him on an elimination diet to try and find the trigger. 

Environmental Allergies

To deal with environmental allergies, your vet may recommend giving your pup an over-the-counter medicine like Benadryl or Zytrec. It’s best to ask the doctor about the dosage because you don’t want to give your dog too much at once. If those options don’t work, your vet might put your dog on a stronger prescription drug. Unfortunately, if your dog has seasonal allergies, it can’t be avoided, since you need to take him on walks and go to the dog park. Plus, outside environmental allergens will always make it into the home when the door is open or there’s a crack in the window. 

If your dog’s suffering is the result of environmental allergens inside your home, you have a little more control over the situation. It’s best to always keep your home and your pet’s area as clean as possible. Wash your dog’s bedding once a week, vacuum your floors and be mindful of dust everywhere. If your dog sleeps in your bed, wash your sheets once a week, and don’t forget to dust or throw those curtains in the wash. Houseplants, countertops and bookshelves tend to get dusty as well. Install an air purifier in your home to help combat the amount of dander, pollen, and dust that can build up within your home.

Instead of buying commercial cleaning products, which may contain harmful ingredients that cause an allergic reaction in your dog, make homemade, natural cleaners. For instance, according to the Honest Kitchen, you can create an all-purpose cleaner by combining three cups of hot water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Then, shake up the mixture in a spray bottle. If you have stains on your carpet, just combine 2 tablespoons of salt and ½ cup of white distilled vinegar. Then, soak a rag in it and use it to clean. 

Flea and Parasite Allergies

Fleas are naturally apart of a dog’s life. Every dog will have fleas at least once in their life, if not multiple times, throughout the years. You can call an exterminator to flea bomb your home and yard; just remember to use products that are not going to harm your pup. You can also buy a topical flea prevention medicine that you apply on your dog once per month to stop fleas from biting. If your dog already has a flea allergy, give him a flea bath using dog medicated shampoo or your own homemade flea bath solution. 

According to JetPet Resort, you can dilute ½ cup of lemon juice into 2 cups of water and combine it with a little bit of your dog shampoo to make a flea bath treatment. If your dog hates flea baths, then make a flea spray by combining six cups of apple cider vinegar with 4 cups of water and a dash of sea salt. Then, spray it on your dog. Make sure you don’t accidentally spray it in his eyes. If your dog is allergic to fleas or ticks, you may need to ask your vet for a medicated shampoo to relieve your pup of  his symptoms. 

If your dog has a tick, you’ll need a special tool, like fine-point tweezers or a tick removal hook, to remove it, according to the American Kennel Club. You’ll have to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pull it straight upward to get it out. 

Contact Skin Allergies

The best way to treat a contact allergy is to avoid it. Don’t walk your dog past a plant he’s allergic to or give him bedding that makes him itchy. It’ll take some research to figure out what’s causing the issue – you’ll have to monitor his habits – but once you do, it’s simple to avoid. If you want to go the natural way when treating your dog’s itchy skin, rub it with coconut oil or aloe vera, or give him a chamomile or green tea soak. According to The Spruce Pets, these are safe solutions, but you’ll want to test the waters first by rubbing a little bit of the oil, aloe vera or other natural substance on your dog’s skin to see how he reacts. 

A Healthy Dog

Treating your dog’s allergies will make him feel better and have a much more enjoyable life. With some help from your vet, you can ensure your dog is comfortable and content at all times.  


Camille Arneberg, Co-Founder of PetHonestyCamille is a co-founder of PetHonesty and VP of Pup Parent Education. After watching her own family dog suffer from joint issues for years she became passionate about improving dogs’ quality of life. With the help of a team of veterinarians and dog nutritionists she now helps educate other dog owners about the small but powerful things they can do to positively impact their dogs’ health and wellness! She lives in Austin, TX and loves cuddling puppies, being outside and reading.