Dog Skin Allergy Causes, Signs and Treatments

Dog scratching
Scratching is one of the first symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Dog skin allergies can leave owners feeling almost as miserable as their pets.

What Causes Dog Skin Allergies?

Few things are more stressful than watching your pet go to town scratching and licking itself. Not knowing what to do for dog skin allergies can leave a loving owner feeling a bit helpless, but that needn't be the case.

First, let's get a basic understanding of how an allergic reaction happens.

  1. A dog is exposed to something in it's environment that triggers a response from the immune system. This can be something your pet has eaten, sniffed, or even rubbed up against.
  2. The immune system then sends out histamines in the bloodstream to attack the offending substance.
  3. The histamines have the unfortunate side-effect of causing an irritating reaction in your pet's skin, resulting in an itchy feeling that your dog seeks to remedy by scratching.
  4. Scratching only intensifies the skin irritation, causing an increase in inflammation, and unleashing a vicious cycle of itching and scratching that can result in a serious infection if not dealt with swiftly.

Basic Types of Allergies

Let's learn more about the different types of skin allergies dogs can be subject to.

Atopic Allergies

Atopic refers to being inhaled, so atopic dog skin allergies are caused by something the dog inhales in the environment. Much like humans, dogs can also be allergic to the standard molds, pollens, dandars, and dust mites we're all exposed to on a daily basis.

Contact Allergies

Certain substances may cause an allergic reaction in your dog's skin when he comes in contact with them. Some dog toys are made with laytex rubber, and humans and pets alike have been known to suffer allergic reactions to this substance, breaking out in itchy hives. Grass allergies may also cause extreme itching and irritation to your pet's skin.

Food Allergies

Some food sources will also cause an allergic reaction in dogs. One of the most common food allergens for dogs has turned out to be corn, a main component of many commercial dog foods. However, a reaction may also be caused by one or more of the other ingredients and chemicals used as preservatives.

Parasitic Allergies

Fleas can be imitating enough, but if your pet develops a particular allergy to flea saliva, it only take the bite of one flea to do the work of ten. The itching becomes extremely intense, and once the scratching breaks the skin, your pet becomes eligible for a host of secondary skin infections.

Mite infestations beneath the skin can also cause the same visible reactions as flea allergies.

Signs Your Dog May Have Skin Allergies

dog itching itself in the grass because of a skin allergy
Fleas and grass can both cause skin allergies.

Scratching alone isn't an indication of dog skin allergies, but when scratching is persistent, accompanied by other signs of skin trauma, it's time to consider the possibility that your pet may have developed an allergy.Signs to watch for include:

  • Persistent scratching
  • Redness, irritation, and inflammation
  • Persistent licking/biting
  • Blisters or pustules
  • Inflamed ears
  • Hot spots
  • Scaliness
  • Hair loss
  • Excessively oily skin

How to Treat Dog Skin Allergies

Treatment for specific types of dog skin allergies can vary but they all usually follow this basic formula.

  1. Consult your veterinarian to figure out the exact cause of the allergic reaction. This may involve taking skin scrapings to aid the diagnosis.
  2. Once identified, remove the allergen, or limit exposure to it as much as possible.
  3. Thoroughly cleanse all affected areas with a medicated shampoo as directed by your vet.
  4. Apply any topical pet medications as prescribed by your vet.
  5. Follow your vet's recommendations for administering any oral medications. These might include antihistamines to interrupt the allergic reaction, and corticosteroids to put an end to the resulting itching and inflammation.


Dealing with dog skin allergies is never easy, but with determination and proper veterinary care, you can get a handle on the situation and bring your pet some much needed relief.

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Dog Skin Allergy Causes, Signs and Treatments