Your dog’s itchy, red skin could be a skin allergy.
If you think your dog has skin allergies, also called “allergic dermatitis,” you’re not alone. Skin allergies are the most common allergy dogs can have. From itching to rashes to swelling, allergic reactions can be quite uncomfortable for your furry friend — which is why it’s important to stay informed and know how to treat their reaction.
Types of Skin Allergies in Dogs
- Canine atopy or atopic dermatitis: Atopic allergic reactions in dogs, caused by one or more environmental factors, are very common. Just like humans, dogs can be allergic to otherwise harmless substances like pollen, dust mites or mold. Your dog might even have seasonal allergies.
- Flea allergy dermatitis: Fleas can bite your dog and cause a lot of itching and skin discomfort, otherwise known as flea allergy dermatitis. But your dog’s reaction is to the flea’s saliva, not the flea itself. You may notice redness or hair loss at the base of your dog’s tail, or notice flea dirt or fleas in their fur.
- Food allergies or sensitivity: True food allergies are less common in dogs; however, if your dog is experiencing a food allergy, they may have itchy, red skin and, less commonly, gastrointestinal signs.
- Severe allergic reactions: Although uncommon, dogs can experience a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to an insect bite, food protein, medication or vaccine. This type of allergic response can be fatal and requires immediate action and treatment. If you ever notice sudden onset of distress, swelling of the face or muzzle, or breathing difficulty in your dog, seek emergency veterinary care right away.
Signs and Symptoms of a Dog Skin Allergy
The most common signs of a dog skin allergy include:
- Itchy, red or scabbed skin, especially on their feet, face, ears, front legs and groin
- Scratching that leads to hair loss, scaling or scabbing
- Licking or chewing paws and rubbing face and eyes
Other signs to watch for:
- Self-inflicted damage to the skin
- Ear inflammation
- Evidence of a flea infestation, including fleas and/or flea dirt in their fur, which could indicate flea allergy dermatitis
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, which might indicate a food allergy. Sensitivities to ingredients like beef, milk products or wheat can also lead to inflamed ears and/or ear infections
It’s important to follow up with your vet to better understand your dog’s allergic response and the best treatment. Also, if your dog licks and scratches irritated areas, they may expose their skin to bacteria or yeast, potentially causing a secondary infection that requires medical attention from your vet.
How to Treat Skin Allergies in Dogs
If your dog shows any signs of allergies, schedule a visit with your vet to confirm a diagnosis. Your vet will provide more detailed information about your dog’s specific case and symptoms and offer in-home treatment ideas to help manage the issue.
If your dog has flea allergy dermatitis, flea prevention is critical. These parasites can become quite a nuisance to you and your dog. Keep them at bay with regular preventive treatment.
Skin allergies can make your dog itchy and miserable, so it’s important to seek a vet’s advice if you notice any signs. By working with your vet to try to identify the cause of your dog’s skin allergy, you can help make them feel better and more comfortable.
- Burke, A. (2019, October 4). Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-allergies-symptoms-treatment/
- Cornelius, S. (2020, April 27). Dog Skin Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Home Remedies, Treatment & More. Retrieved from https://www.caninejournal.com/dog-skin-problems/
- Mayfield-Davis, M. J. (2020, April 13). Signs and Symptoms of Dog Skin Allergies: Vetericyn. Retrieved from https://vetericyn.com/blog/signs-and-symptoms-of-dog-skin-allergies/
- PetMD. (2020, February 13). Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_dg_atopic_dermatitis
- White, S. D., & Moriello, K. A. (2018, June). Allergies in Dogs - Dog Owners. Retrieved from https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/allergies-in-dogs