Here Are The Most Common Causes of Dog Allergies

November 12th, 2020

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A dog caught mid-blink, looking as if she is slightly wincing.

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Has your dog been feeling unwell lately?

Dog allergies are extremely common. Telltale symptoms include itchy skin, sneezing, ear infections, and watery eyes.

Just as with humans, dog allergies can come from a number of sources, and it can be hard to track the root cause.

In this blog post, we’ll go through the most common causes of dog allergies. Hopefully this can help you figure out what could have triggered those darned allergies in the first place.

Types of Dog Allergens

Dog allergens can be grouped into three broad categories:

  • Food
  • Environmental
  • Flea/Insect Bites

Most Common Food Allergies In Dogs

A lot of allergies can be traced back to what your dog puts in their stomach. It’s only fitting that we begin by examining the most common food allergies.

1. Beef

You might be surprised to hear that proteins are actually one of the most common food allergies for dogs. And since beef is chock-full of them, it unfortunately has made its way to the top of this list.

Many experts say that feeding your dog the same meat over and over will lead to an allergic reaction or intolerance to the food over time. As beef is one of the most common protein sources in dog foods, this may be another reason why it’s a common allergen.

It’s not just the dog food. Beef-based dog products are everywhere–from beef-flavored toothpastes to rawhides.

2. Chicken

Because chicken is Yuna’s absolute favorite, it pains us to admit that it is also one of the most common food allergies for dogs.

The reasons for this are the same as the ones for beef, as chicken is also full of proteins and is a very common dog food ingredient.

3. Dairy

Dogs can also develop allergies towards a number of dairy products, like milk and cheese.

While dairy should make up only a small part of a dog’s diet (if at all), dog owners tend to occasionally feed treats like milk, cheese, sour cream, and yogurt.

Also, just like humans, some dogs are lactose intolerant. Again, while a pure dairy allergy and general lactose intolerance are two different things, they often result in similar symptoms.

4. Wheat

Though dogs are usually allergic to the proteins in meat, wheat allergies are also very common in dogs. It turns out that gluten, one of the main proteins in wheats, isn’t just tough for humans to break down, but dogs as well.

For this reason, any wheat products are considered pretty controversial when they appear on a dog food ingredient list.

Consider exploring a gluten-free diet if your dog has been showing allergy symptoms in response to wheats.

5. Eggs

Egg allergies are also quite common for many an unfortunate dog.

Luckily, diagnosing an egg allergy is relatively easier, since it isn’t a very common ingredient among dog foods.

Avoiding them isn’t too hard either. Just be sure that whatever dog food or treats you feed your dog are completely free of eggs, including egg by-products.

6. Lamb

Some sources dub lamb the “hypoallergenic food” since it’s what many dog owners turn to when their dogs begin showing adverse reactions to chicken and beef.

However, just like those more popular meats, your dog can also develop an allergic reaction to lamb over time. Venison, duck, and sweet potato are suitable alternatives.

7. Soy

While soy is quite healthy for humans, it is yet another protein-rich food that is a common allergen for dogs.

In addition, there are some studies that link soy to other issues such as thyroid, liver disease, and reproductive issues.

Summing Up: Common Food Allergens For Dogs

We’ve learned that the most common food allergens for dogs are beef, chicken, dairy, wheat, eggs, lamb, and soy. We should also keep in mind these general concepts:

  • Of course, proteins are a necessary part of any dog’s diet. However, over time, dogs can develop an allergic reaction or intolerance towards specific proteins found in common dog food ingredients like beef and chicken.
  • Experts recommend “rotating” meats–that is, changing up the main protein in your dog’s diet frequently in order to lower the possibility of developing an allergic reaction to it.

So switch up your dog’s food from time to time–it’s a win-win! They won’t get nasty allergies and they get to enjoy different flavors.

Most Common Environmental Allergies In Dogs

Is your dog constantly scratching and gnawing at itchy parts of their skin? They may have a skin allergy, officially known as atopic dermatitis.

Many times, that constant, itchy skin has little or nothing to do with food allergies, and more to do with environmental factors. Especially as the seasons change, it’s very likely that one of the following environmental allergens are to blame!

A yellow Lab standing on a log in front of a beautiful autumn backdrop.

1. Dust Mites

Dust mites get the better of humans… and unfortunately dogs too.

These microscopic little buggers manage to find their way into every home. They’re most commonly found on mattresses and beds, and homes with carpet flooring.

For you and your dog’s sake, make sure you’re vacuuming and changing your bed sheets regularly.

2. Pollen

On a typical walk, your dog probably picks up a bunch of pollen just sniffing and brushing against various plants. This pollen is then absorbed through the skin, possibly leading to itching and biting at affected areas.

If you find your dog is allergic to pollen, avoid those high-density flowery areas on your next walk!

In addition, consider using grooming wipes or a damp towel to pat down your dog’s paws and coat every day. It’ll help remove some of the pollen and keep your dog generally cleaner.

3. Mold

Mold is another common environmental allergen for dogs. It can be found floating in the air and on just about any damp surface–it really likes humidity.

Mold, like dust mites, are a little tricky to avoid because, well, it’s unavoidable. The best you can do is keep your house clean and well-ventilated (consider a dehumidifier), and don’t let your dog into humid areas like the bathroom or basement.

Also, the grooming wipe/damp towel pat down works wonders to remove mold spores off your dog’s coat.

Summing Up: Common Environmental Allergens For Dogs

Common environmental allergies to dust mites, pollen, and mold can really stir up some trouble for a sensitive dog. Regardless of which one is the culprit, these concepts generally apply for environmental allergies:

  • Keeping you and your dog’s living area clean, well-ventilated, and dehumidified can significantly reduce the amount of allergens present.
  • Wiping down your dog’s paws and coat with a grooming wipe or damp towel at the end of each day can remove environmental allergens before they get absorbed into your dog’s skin.

Most Common Insect Bite Allergies In Dogs

The third and final category of dog allergens are those relating to insects.

A dog caught mid-blink, looking as if she is slightly wincing.
Insects? *shudders*

There are those insects that bite, in which proteins in the saliva trigger an allergic reaction. And there are also those that sting, where your dog may be allergic to the venom itself.

Symptoms can take some time to manifest depending on the bite/sting, but often you’ll see swelling and redness at the area of the bite, and possibly hives developing all over your dog’s body.

Let’s learn about the most common insect-related allergens in dogs so you know what to watch out for.

1. Fleas

Flea allergies are so common among in the dog world, they’re known as the “FAD”… (flea allergy dermatitis).

A single flea bite can be torturous for a dog, causing extreme itching for days.

It’s important to make sure your dog is on strict flea control, whether that be an oral or topical monthly flea preventative.

READ: Flea And Tick Prevention For Dogs

2. Ticks

Ticks are tiny arachnids that can also cause severe allergies in dogs. Like fleas, proteins in their saliva may not only trigger allergic reactions, but transmit diseases as well.

It’s important to check if your dog’s monthly preventative covers fleas and ticks. If not, check with a vet to make sure your dog is protected against both these parasites.

3. Bees & Wasps

We may remember the pain from an initial bee sting as being extremely unpleasant. For dogs, however, the allergic reaction that follows can be much worse: in serious cases, it can lead to shock and even death.

The venom from a bee sting can cause pain and swelling at the site. In serious cases, swelling can cause difficulty breathing.

Wasps and yellow jackets are more dangerous, as their venomous stingers don’t detach after a single sting.

If bees and wasps are common in your area (and your dog has a knack for digging out their nests), you may want to consider keeping an epipen handy at all times.

4. Spiders

Somewhat less common are allergic reactions due to spider bites.

Poisonous spiders, such as the black widow, brown widow, tarantula, or brown recluse, are most common in North America.

5. Ants

Also somewhat less common are ant bites. Carpenter ants, bullet ants, and fire ants are especially problematic for dogs.

When dealing with spider or ant bites, carefully cleaning the wounded area with dog shampoo, drying it off gently, and applying an ice pack are good intermediate steps while you seek emergency vet attention.

Summing Up: Common Insect Bite Allergens For Dogs

The most common insect-related allergies in dogs arise from bite and stings from fleas, ticks, bees, spiders, and ants. It can be scary when your dog is attacked by insects and parasites. Keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Always ensure your dog is up-to-date on a flea and tick preventative.
  • If your dog has a history of allergic reactions to bug bites, consult a vet to figure out if carrying an epipen is a good idea–it could save their life one day.
  • Pain and swelling usually starts at the site of the bite/sting, but can quickly spread to other parts of the body. If you notice swelling worsen, get emergency medical attention immediately. In the meantime, clean the wound and apply an ice pack to soothe the pain.

Conclusion

We’ve covered fifteen of the most common causes of dog allergies. Here they are again, in one handy master list and infographic:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Lamb
  • Soy
  • Dust Mites
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Bees & Wasps
  • Spiders
  • Ants
An infographic listing the most common causes of dog allergies across food, environmental, and insect bite categories.

If you suspect your dog is allergic to something on this list, consult a veterinarian to come up with a strategy to isolate those allergens. It’s best to do this early, so you know how to avoid those allergies moving forward!

Leave a comment if you found this post useful, or if we missed something! Also, be sure to follow Yuna’s Instagram and Pinterest for a lot more quality dog care content.

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