Is your pup prone to allergies? Find out how to recognize allergy symptoms in your dog and how to test for allergies.

You’d think that doggie allergies would make pups sneeze. But unlike people, a dog’s response to allergies skips the nose entirely. Instead, they itch! The poor darlings take a sniff or come into contact with something that simply doesn’t agree with them, and before you know it, they’re chewing on their feet, rubbing their faces against the carpet, and scratching away, even to the point of breaking their skin. With some pooches, it’s not as obvious, maybe their fur starts falling out or they pick up yet another ear infection.

This is stuff that tips off veterinarians to canine atopy, which is really just an official word for “inhalant allergens.” In fact, atopy is the second most common among canine allergies, just after flea bite allergies and right before food allergies. For the facts on atopy, the Woof Reporters turned to a trusted source in veterinary care, the Drs. Foster & Smith’s website. Here’s what we found.

It’s a Family Affair

Just like your dog’s good looks and sweet disposition, his propensity for canine atopic dermatitis runs in the family. After repeated exposure to dust mites or pollen or whatever the allergen happens to be, dogs with an inherited predisposition to atopy will start to show the itchy symptoms. This usually happens between one and three years of age, and can strike any dog, but is more common among certain breeds, including English and Irish Setters, some Terriers (Scottish, West Highland White, Cairn, and Wire Haired Fox), Lhasa Apsos, Retrievers, Dalmatians, Pugs, Miniature Schnauzers, and English Bulldogs.

Which Itch?

Canine allergy sufferers are easy to spot, they lick, chew, bite and rub their little paws, muzzles, ears, groins and armpits, but how are they diagnosed? Allergy testing, intradermal or blood testing, is used, or another option is to isolate the cause by systematically eliminating things from your dog’s environment (or diet, as this method is often used to detect food allergies).

Help Is On The Way

Thank goodness for advances in veterinary care. Today, not only can your dog get excellent routine care, but specialist attention for chronic allergies and skin conditions. From avoidance therapy in conjunction with treatments like special shampoos and topical anti-itch solutions for short-term relief, and immunotherapy to adding Omega-3 fatty acids into your dog’s diet and antihistamines or other medications for severe cases, there are many treatment options. Ask your vet for assistance in the best treatment plan for your dog or for a referral to a trusted canine allergist in your area.

The Scoop:

For more information about canine allergies and treatment options to discuss with your vet, check out the entire article from the Drs. Foster & Smith PetEducation’s site.

Originally published August 2009; reviewed and updated August 2016.