If you’ve ever suffered from an allergy, you know how debilitating it can be. The same is true for your dog. And because they can’t nip out to the chemist for an ointment or a spray, the itching, wheezing and sneezing can drive them (and you) potty. Knowing the cause is the first step towards making life more comfortable for you both.

When Allergies Attack

Allergies (or a hypersensitivity reaction) happen when your dog’s system thinks certain ordinary substances in the environment are dangerous and begins to react violently.  Depending on the type of allergy, symptoms may include:

  • Itchy, red, inflamed skin
  • Chewing paws
  • Constant licking
  • Scabbing or moist skin
  • Swollen eyes
  • Increased scratching
  • Itchy or infected ears
  • Itchy back or base of tail
  • Sneezing (less common)
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting

For most dogs, an allergy will typically show up in the first three years and sadly, it will often worsen as they age. Some breeds, like pugs, terriers and bulldogs seem particularly susceptible. The most common allergies in dogs are skin allergies followed by food allergies.

Usual Suspects

The list of common allergens is quite similar to those for humans, such as tree, grass and weed pollens, dust and house mites, dander, feathers and cigarette smoke. Flea bites are another familiar foe. Not to mention things like cleaning products, rubber and plastic, fabrics and even food.  Food allergies are caused by specific proteins in your dogs’ diet. Unsurprisingly, it can be quite the Sherlockian feat to uncover the culprit.

Outflank the Enemy

Once you and your vet have tracked down the source of the allergy, it will be easier to try different treatments. In the meantime, here are a few simple suggestions to help alleviate a range of symptoms:

  • Comprehensive flea and parasite control –  see the We ae Pets Shop for a wide range of treatments.
  • Frequent vacuuming and washing of pet bedding (with hypoallergenic products)
  • Keeping floors, furniture and other surfaces free of dust and irritants
  • Keep secondhand smoke away from your dog
  • Air filtration systems can help
  • Bathe your dog as directed by your vet to help wash allergens off their coat

Full Frontal Assault

If the allergy is severe, your vet may try various therapies, such as injecting tiny amounts of allergens under the skin (immunotherapy), which is often used for dogs with atopic dermatitis. Or, your vet may prescribe medication that helps depress the allergic response and makes your pet more comfortable.

If your vet suspects a food allergy, then you’ll probably have to do a food elimination diet.

Dr Lisa says..

  • Allergies happen when a dog’s system thinks an ordinary substance is harmful
  • Symptoms may include itching, runny nose and eyes, sneezing, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Keeping your house and their bedding clean and dust-free can help
  • Talk to your vet about the causes and possible treatments available

Dr Jo says..

If your pet is scratching or licking a lot due to allergies, try occupying their mind and mouth with toys or chew treats.


If your dog has a persistent cough, it may be caused by an allergic reaction to an inhaled irritant like cigarette smoke. Get it checked out by a vet.

Getting Help

It may take several attempts to find something that works. But persevere – with advanced treatment and better understanding of allergies in general, you’re sure to find a strategy that can restore a measure of peace to you and your dog.

Top tip:

Is mould a problem in your house? It could be a problem for your dog too. Try to ventilate as much as possible and clean up mould wherever you see it.


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