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Symptoms and Signs of Allergies in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on October 06, 2015

Effects of Allergies on Dogs – From the Dog’s Point of View

Dogs, like people, commonly develop allergies. Canine allergies usually cause dermatological (skin) problems, ear irritation and/or gastrointestinal upset. Allergies can be extremely detrimental to a dog’s health and to its quality of life. Continual scratching, licking and biting at irritated areas of skin often leads to physical sores, which can become infected. When the ears are affected, the constant head shaking and scratching can cause hematomas to develop, especially on the tips of the ear flaps. Hematomas are basically blood-filled blisters. If allergic reactions are particularly severe and prolonged, the dog may develop significant behavioral changes as well, as a result of its continual and inescapable discomfort.

Symptoms of Canine Allergies – What the Owner Sees

The visible signs of allergies mimic those of many other conditions. Dogs with allergies usually develop skin problems, ear problems or digestive/gastrointestinal upset. Owners of affected animals may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

Skin Irritation

  • Itchiness; scratching; biting at skin
  • Redness, rash; common in the groin and flank areas, on the paws, between the toes, behind the front legs (in the armpit/axial area), under the neck and on the chin
  • Sneezing
  • Bumps and white raised pustules; pimples
  • Lethargy; weakness; general malaise
  • Restlessness
  • Red, weeping eyes

In an effort to relieve skin irritation, affected dogs may exhibit:

  • Frequent and relentless scratching at affected areas
  • Licking or chewing at affected areas
  • Rolling on the floor or ground
  • Moist sores called hot spots; prone to becoming infected

Ear Irritation

Dogs with allergies frequently develop infections or other irritation on their external ears and in their ear canals. Symptoms may include:

  • Frequent and relentless scratching at the ears
  • Head shaking; often vigorous and persistent
  • Thinning of the hair in and around the ears
  • Waxy build-up in the ears
  • Abnormal yeast-like smell coming from the ears

Gastrointestinal Irritation

Dogs with allergies – especially food allergies - often have gastrointestinal disturbances in addition to skin and ear irritation. The gastrointestinal tract includes the stomach and the small and large intestines. Common signs associated with allergies to ingredients in food include:

  • Burping
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Hives
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Food allergies can continue undiagnosed for years. Many owners mistakenly believe that their dogs’ symptoms are just caused by a sensitive stomach.

Dogs at Increased Risk

There are some recognized genetic components to canine allergies - especially to contact and inhalant allergies. Predisposed breeds include Shar-Peis, Cairn Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Shih-Tzus, Wire-Haired Fox Terriers, Dalmatians, Irish Setters, English Setters, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Miniature Schnauzers. Most dogs don’t develop acquired allergies until they reach adulthood.

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