How to Know if Your Dog Has Allergies

March 31, 2015

By Laurie Darroch

Dogs can have an allergic reaction or ongoing allergies caused by a variety of things including food, fabrics, cleansers, shampoos and detergents, and bites from fleas. The symptoms of dog allergies can vary depending on the cause. It can take some detective work to ferret out the offender that causes the allergic reaction. Sometimes the cause is obvious and other times you may have to use the process of elimination or get the advice of your vet who can help to treat the allergies and their symptoms when they are severe or do not go away.

Allergies can make your dog very uncomfortable and cause a great deal of distress. If you were having difficulty breathing, or itching and scratching all the time, you would react the same way. Your dog can’t tell you what the problem is, so that is when you as their companion have to discover and solve their allergy issues.

An allergic reaction is the body telling itself that something dangerous is present and trying to ward off that offender. Some dogs will have no reaction whatsoever to something that may give another dog a severe reaction. Like us, dogs are individuals and their bodies handle things differently.


Some of the same allergens that affect humans can bother your dog as well. If you notice your dog sneezing or they have developed a chronic cough, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what is around them when they are having the worst reactions. It may be ongoing or may be acute and only occur when they are exposed to a specific allergen.  For instance, dogs can be allergic to cigarette smoke the same way humans can. Scents can also set off an allergic reaction. Chemicals we use for cleaning or even perfumes can irritate your dog and make them sneeze or cough.


You may see your dog scratching incessantly or constantly licking, even to the point of developing sores, raw patches or losing patches of hair. Skin allergen causes of this type can include the type of detergent you use to wash their bedding or toys (or even your own bedding if they sleep on your bed), the kind of shampoo you use to bathe your dog, the bites of fleas or mites, and so forth. You need to check for the presence of bites or pests, keep their skin and coat clean and free of debris and other matter that can irritate their skin, and treat the effects of the reactions such as sores. If they are scratching nonstop, there is a reason why.


Dogs are like human toddlers in many ways. They are oral and curious, and they don’t know what is or is not harmful for them to chew or eat. They will often pick up and chew any number of odd items that are fun or tasty to chew. Chewing and ingesting any of those can cause an allergic reaction. Many toys or things, such as items of clothing for example, are laden with various allergens.

Food itself can be the source of an allergy for your dog. It is important to feed him a good quality, healthy dog food like CANIDAE that does not have byproducts and other unnecessary fillers. Dogs, like some humans, can have very sensitive digestive systems, and if they eat the wrong food for their bodies, they can develop allergic reactions and digestive issues such as ongoing diarrhea or an upset stomach. Oral-caused reactions may display as those similar to the airborne and skin reactions to an allergen with itching and sneezing.

The cause of your dog’s allergic reaction may not be immediately obvious and may take some diligent observation or even testing by your vet to figure out. Runny eyes, itchy ears, ear infections, sores, constant scratching, vomiting, diarrhea and so forth can all be symptoms of an allergic reaction to something your dog is coming in contact with internally or externally. Check with your vet if it’s not something you can figure out and help your dog deal with what caused the allergic reaction.

It may be something you can remove easily, or it may be an allergen that takes diligence to keep away from your dog in order to keep them comfortable. If you have ever had allergies of any severity, you know how miserable they can make you feel. Your dog may feel the same way from whatever is making them react. An allergic reaction can also be very dangerous in extreme cases, so it’s important to figure out the source of the allergy and deal with it.

Top photo by Maarten Van Cutsem/Flickr
Bottom photo by In All Your Glory/Flickr

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

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