Where Does It Itch? 3 Common Dog Allergies And How You Might Be Able To Tell Them Apart

by Dr. Anna M. Coffin, DVM

Itching is the most common symptom of allergies in dogs.  

Where Does It Itch? 3 Common Dog Allergies And How You Might Be Able To Tell Them Apart

There are three common dog allergies.  If your pet is itchy, this article will help you identify the cause.

3 key factors are used to help diagnose these three common dog allergies:

  • Where on the body is your dog itchy
  • At what age does the itching begin
  • What time of year is your pet itchy

Food allergies

Food allergies are caused by an allergy to either the protein or carbohydrate source found in your dog’s food.

Dogs with food allergies are itchy primarily in the face, feet, ears, and rear.   

Food allergies can occur in any age dog but should be highly suspected if your dog becomes itching between 6-12 months of age. Because your pet is constantly exposed to the food, this type of allergy occurs all year around.

Reoccurring ear infections are very common in dogs with food allergies.  

Diagnosis is made by a food elimination trial which involves placing your dog on a prescription diet with no other food or treats for 6-8 weeks.  Once diagnosed, treatment is simple and involves strict diet control.

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)

Flea allergy dermatitis is caused by a reaction that your pet has to flea saliva.

Dogs with FAD are primarily itchy at the base of their tail.  

Flea allergy dermatitis can occur in any age dog and it also a very common problem in cats.  This type of allergy is usually seen only during flea season.

This is the easiest allergy to treat!  A flea eradication program for all pets that live in the household and treating the environment will resolve the problem.

However, dogs can be itchy for up to one month after the bite of just one flea.  Fortunately, the itching can be relieved by giving your dog steroids prescribed by your veterinarian.

Inhalant allergies (Atopy)

Inhalant allergies, also known as atopy, are caused by environmental allergens such as grass, trees, pollen, and mold.

Dog with atopy are itchy all over their body and not in a specific area like food or flea allergies.  

Symptoms for inhalant allergies usually develop in dogs between 1-3 years of age.

Dogs with atopy are usually itchy only during a portion of the year when the allergen they are allergic to is high in the environment. Diagnosis is usually made by ruling out the two other types of allergies. However, skin and blood testing can be performed to help determine what your pet is allergic to.

Here is a recent article I wrote about treatment options for inhalant allergies.

Some dogs can have all three types of allergies which makes diagnosis and treatment more difficult. 

Generally, dogs with all three allergies are less itchy in the winter, especially if they are on a diet specifically for their food allergies.

Categories: AllergiesConditionsDiagnosesDog health advocacyItchingSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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