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Pet Allergies: Types, Symptoms & Treatment

Pet Allergies; spaniel dog lays in grass, flowers

People have all kinds of allergies, whether it’s a food allergy or something environmental. But did you know that your furry friends can also suffer from allergies? 

Today, we’re going to dive into pet allergies to uncover:

What are allergies?

According to the Mayo Clinic, allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance.

That sounds simple enough.

But wait … there are different types of allergies:

  • Skin allergies (topical, or atopic)
  • Food allergies
  • Drug allergies
  • Insect sting allergies
  • Inhalant allergy

Types of Allergies

Let’s take a closer look at the many types of allergies and how they’re generally classified.

Allergen (that thing that causes an allergic reaction)

  • flea allergy
  • food allergy

How the allergens get into the body

  • inhalant allergy -- aka: atopy (mold spores or pollen in the air)
  • skin contact allergy (rolling around in poison ivy)
  • food allergy (peanuts, shellfish)

Allergy reaction time

  • immediate-type hypersensitivity -- aka: anaphylaxis; aka: shock (think bee sting or peanuts)
  • delayed-type hypersensitivity (your boyfriend just got a new cat and 20 minutes into your date you can’t stop sneezing)

Clinical signs of allergic reaction

  • allergic dermatitis (think skin rash, lumps and bumps)
  • allergic bronchitis (wheezing and coughing)

Inherited types of allergies

With so many possibilities, it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of an allergic reaction. So let’s move on to identifying specific symptoms and look at ways to treat them.

Pet Allergy Symptoms 

The following symptoms may signal your pet is having an allergic reaction:

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking

Caution: Some symptoms may be caused by another condition. Be sure to check with your veterinarian to rule out any other serious illnesses. 

Personal Story

Last week, we took Jessie to the river in the late afternoon. We stopped at a food truck for supper and decided she could have a pork smokie as a treat. 

It’s not something we usually do but I thought we’d give it a try. The next day, she was itchy, her eyes were weepy, and she developed a small red splotch on her tummy.

We gave her Restore, our potent anti-inflammatory, and she was back to normal within the week.

Sometimes these things happen. Sorry 'bout that, Jessie, no more pork smokies for you!

Pet Allergy Treatments

The best way to treat an allergy is to avoid whatever is causing it. This may or may not always be possible. Allergy treatment depends on the type of allergy. For example, the best way to treat flea allergy dermatitis is to kill the fleas. And the best way to treat a food allergy or intolerance is a change in diet. 

You probably figured those ones out on your own.

In addition to making some lifestyle changes, your vet may also prescribe an allergy relief medication to help prevent scratching, which can cause secondary skin infections.

But before you turn to medications, you may want to try a holistic approach to treating allergy symptoms.

So on that note, let’s talk about ...

Skin Allergies

This is the most common type of pet allergy. It’s not that your pet is allergic to his skin, but rather, his skin is reacting to something it came into contact with -- something it didn’t like. 

Symptoms include:

  • Dry skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Rash
  • Swelling
  • Flaking or peeling skin

The most commonly affected areas are the paws, ears, wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and in between the toes. 

All skin allergies pose the risk of secondary infection. Due to the excessive itching and scratching, your pet is at risk of causing sores and injuries on its skin thereby opening the skin to yeast and bacterial infections that would require treatment.

How can I treat my pet’s skin allergies?

Starting with the obvious, if you can identify the source of the allergy, try to remove it. 

When that’s not possible -- you’re not going to rip out your wall-to-wall broadloom because Fluffy is a little itchy (or will you?) -- you can opt for topical treatments, such as using hypoallergenic shampoo to lift allergens off the skin.

Learn about Restore, our natural anti-inflammatory, to ease irritated skin.

Acute Allergic Reactions 

Perhaps the most alarming of all allergies is an acute allergic reaction. Dogs, like people, can go into anaphylactic shock when suffering a severe reaction to an allergen.

Fortunately, it’s not a common occurrence. But when it does happen, it can be fatal if not treated quickly.

Bee stings, food, drugs, and vaccine reactions are top causes for anaphylactic response in some dogs. It’s important to watch your dog closely after he gets a new vaccine, and also if he takes a new medication or eats a new type of food.  

Hey, that was another great segue! Let’s talk about food allergies.

Food Allergies 

They aren’t as common as you may think. In fact, what we call food allergies are actually more like food intolerances -- a gradual reaction to an offending ingredient in your dog’s food

Common food allergies include:

  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Rabbit
  • Eggs
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Yeast
  • Soy
  • Dairy

Dogs with food intolerances can present with several symptoms:



  • Itchiness
  • Dry, flakey skin
  • Lacklustre coat
  • Chronic ear or foot infections

In some rare cases, a severe allergic reaction may result in anaphylaxis —similar to the reaction you’d see a person have to peanuts, for example. 

According to an interview conducted by Pets WebMD, roughly 10% of allergies in dogs are food allergies.

It’s not your fault. It’s a genetic predisposition. 

Unfortunately, if your doggo is allergic to one type of food, he’s probably allergic to others. It’s rarely one stand-alone item. 

Why does my pet have allergies?

It could come from his early weeks of life. Young animals treated with antibiotics may be predisposed to problems later in life because antibiotics change the environment inside the gut. 

It could also be something as simple as the air freshener you’re spraying around the house thanks to that new roommate. Or maybe those scented candles you got for your birthday. 

Though research has not yet proven how harmful air fresheners are to our pets, it is known to cause respiratory illnesses and stomach upsets. 

Can I prevent pet allergies?

If your puppy or kitten is predisposed, there’s no way to prevent food allergies. So, the key is to maintain their gut health by providing them with a diet that has some variety in it, so they’re getting a natural rotation of different types of foods.

At PureForm, we are against the use of antibiotics for growing animals because it can mess up their gut balance and, over time, makes them more likely to have allergies.

So, for puppies and kittens, we recommend that pet parents try to avoid antibiotics. If that’s not possible, use micro-biome enhancers for up to six months to one year of age and feed them a diet that’s fairly high in variety.

If your dog has a severe allergic reaction, your best course of action is to get him to an emergency veterinary hospital as quickly as possible.

Also be aware that allergy symptoms can be mistaken for other disorders. Please do not attempt to diagnose your dog without your vet’s help

So now you know a thing or two about pet allergies. But if you still have questions, or you have your own story to share, tell us about it in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

Pet Allergies Infographic: causes, diagnosis, treatment