About Canine Allergies

You might be surprised to find out that canine allergies are actually pretty common, and that dogs with allergies don’t usually show the sort of allergy symptoms that you might expect.

When people have allergies, they tend to sneeze and cough, their eyes get red and itchy, and they may have trouble breathing properly.

Dogs with allergies don’t react the same way at all.

Like humans, some dogs have allergies and some don’t, but it does seem that certain breeds are more likely to experience problems than others.

Rottweilers are one of the breeds that seem to be susceptible to allergies, as are Boxers, Bulldogs, Dalmatians, Pugs and many others.

  • How can you tell if your Rottie has allergies?
  • What are the most common allergy triggers and symptoms?
  • What can you do to help?

All these questions and more are answered below, so read on to make sure that you know how to protect your dog from the misery of canine allergies…


There Are A Whole Host Of Dog Allergy ‘Triggers’

Although there are many difference between humans with allergies and dogs with allergies, your dog can be allergic to seasonal triggers (such as pollen, weeds and so on) and other inhalant particles such as dust, dust mites, mold and so on, just the way you are.

There is a similar ‘trigger’ for the allergy, but the symptoms produced are usually totally different.

Another common trigger for canine allergies are fleas – flea saliva to be exact. Many dogs are very sensitive to the proteins in flea saliva, and when a flea bites them, they have an allergic reaction.

Dog food allergies are another ‘biggie’, and account for many of the incidences of allergy symptoms in dogs. Feeding a hypoallergenic diet can help prevent this.

Although less common than the above canine allergy triggers, contact (or ‘atopic’) allergies can occur. This is when a dog reacts to the actual physical contact with an item or product.

It may sound strange, but some dogs are allergic to grass, more commonly it’s seen as a reaction to chemicals or ‘man-made’ products – perhaps in shampoos, carpet cleaners/deoderizers, laundry detergent, garden chemicals and many more things.


These Common Dog Allergy Symptoms May Surprise You…

So what sort of symptoms are you most likely to see in dogs with allergies? The following list contains the most common dog allergy symptoms…

  • Intense itching/scratching that seems excessive
  • Rubbing/pawing at face/head. Repeated head shaking
  • Red, irritated skin
  • Rash, pustules or raw, red ‘hot spots
  • Patchy hair loss – especially on legs, rear and tail areas
  • Continual, excessive licking or biting (often at legs, paws, rear/tail)
  • Repeated ear infections. Inflammation inside the ear. Scratching or pawing at ears

Other symptoms of canine allergies can include the following, but are not as common….

  • Eye/nasal discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Dry, flaky skin. Patches of scaly skin
  • Flatulence
  • Behavioral issues such as aggression, agitation or anxiety


What’s Causing Your Dog’s Allergies?

Allergies can make your dog very, very uncomfortable, and you’re going to want to do all that you can to help make him feel better – and to prevent them from re-occurring.

Of course, in order to do that you’re going to need to find out what’s causing your dogs allergies in the first place!

We’ll start with the easy one first – dog flea allergies.

It’s pretty easy to tell if your dog has fleas, and if he does and is having a major attack of the ‘itchies’, then chances are good that his canine allergies are down to those pesky fleas.


Flea Allergies – Using an effective flea/tick preventative such as Frontline plus is your best bet when it comes to keeping your dog flea-free.

Also treat his bedding, and areas where he has been with either flea powder or a flea spray at the same time. If the infestation was pretty bad, using a flea ‘bomb’ (pressurized canister of flea-killing chemicals) is a good idea.

And don’t think your pup needs to have a whole lot of fleas to have a reaction! Just one flea bite on a sensitive dog can cause a lot of misery.

Inhalant Atopy Allergies – Now let’s take a look at inhalant dog allergies. These are trickier, as you can’t see whatever it is that he’s reacting to.

If you notice your dogs allergy symptoms are seasonal then pollen/grass/weeds are likely culprits, if they are year-round it could be dust/mold and so on.

The only way to be certain about this is to have your veterinarian run some allergy skin tests. These are similar to the ones that your doctor may run on you if you suffer from allergies.

However, before you go that route, you may want to try some of the dog allergy remedies/treatments given in the next section. Fairly minor allergy symptoms can often be reduced, and even eliminated, with some simple measures, so they’re worth a try first.

Dog Food Allergies – According to research, dog food allergies account for at least 10% of all canine allergies, and an elimination diet, or changing over to a hypoallergenic dog food may be just what your dog needs to feel better.

You may be surprised to know that dogs generally don’t have a reaction to a ‘new’ food, but to a familiar food they may have been eating for months, even years.

Just because your dog has “always eaten XXX brand without any trouble..” doesn’t mean that he can’t develop an allergy to it!

In fact, it’s not the dog food itself that he’s allergic to, it’s one (or more) of the ingredients in that particular food.


Best Treatment Options For Dogs With Allergies

What you do to reduce or eliminate your dogs allergy problems, obviously depends on what he’s allergic to.

Here are some tips to help you relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of canine allergies, eliminate the ‘allergy triggers’, and prevent them from re-occurring.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

I mentioned dealing with flea-related canine allergies above, and keeping your dog free of fleas is the answer to this problem. Using an effective topical flea preventative is usually the most effective method. Frontline and Advantix are the most commonly used brands and both work well. I definitely wouldn’t recommend using over-the-counter flea/tick medications as they aren’t generally very effective and they can also cause unwanted (and sometimes very serious) side effects.

There are natural products that you can try if you want to avoid the chemicals in the mainstream products, but only continue to use them if you find that they do indeed keep the fleas at bay. Here are a couple of the best natural options………..

Meantime, to help relieve the itching and discomfort that your dog is experiencing you can use products containing hydrocortisone and other soothing ingredients or natural remedies such as PetAlive Homeopathic Allergy Itch Ease.

Inhalant & Contact Allergies

For inhalant canine allergies, antihistamines may work well. There are several different ones to choose from, and if the first one doesn’t help (allow at least a week to 10 days trial first though), you can always try something else.

Don’t just run out and buy any antihistamine and start giving it to your dog though – it’s vital to discuss this with your vet first, and to make sure that you give your dog the correct dosage.

Your vet can prescribe whatever he feels would be the best medication, and tell you exactly how much and how often to give it. That is the best (and safest) way to help your pup.

Strengthening your dogs immune system, and reducing the inflammatory response to ‘allergy triggers’ can also help.

Certain natural dietary supplements can help with this, and many dog owners have found them to be very successful in reducing (sometimes even eliminating) canine allergy symptoms.

Here are a couple that are worth a look – PetAlive Immunity & Liver Support and PetAlive Skin & Coat Tonic

Again, relieving the itching, inflammation and irritation that accompanies a canine skin allergy reaction is important. Hydrocortisone, hypoallergenic, and herbal products can all help.

A variety of shampoos, salves, ointments and sprays are available, check out the wonderful, all natural products in the Quick Relief Collection for Dogs.

If your Rottie seems to suddenly develop allergies, think back over the last few weeks and see if you’ve made any changes to his environment.

For example, have you washed his dog bed in a different detergent? Had the carpets shampooed or used a new carpet deoderizer? Used a different shampoo on him, or a nice smelling spray?

You may get lucky and find the culprit right away.

Dog Food Allergies

If your dog doesn’t have fleas, his allergy symptoms don’t seem to be seasonal, and you can’t think of anything environmental that could have triggered his problems, then he may be reacting to an ingredient (or more) in his food.

Canine allergies that result from a sensitivity to certain ingredients aren’t rare, and research has shown that some ingredients are more likely to create a problem than others, these include (but aren’t limited to), beef, pork, dairy products, whey, chicken, eggs, soy, wheat, and yeast.

Many dogs are also allergic, or sensitive to, chemicals, colorings and additives/preservatives.

Because the lower quality, more generic dog foods contain more of these type of ingredients, they are more likely to trigger canine allergies than the premium foods which are free of this sort of ‘junk’.

However, if your dog is allergic to pork for example, he will react to it whatever type of food it is in.

Rottweilers are big dogs who grow very rapidly, and they need a high quality dog food with the right balance of nutrients. Making sure you choose the best puppy food to start with will help minimize your growing dogs’ chances of developing canine allergies related to their diet.

If canine allergies do show up though, and you suspect his diet may be to blame, switching to one of the quality foods that have been specially developed for dogs with sensitivities/allergies is a good move.

Many dogs who have shown an intolerance for certain dog foods do very well on one of these allergy free dog foods. Try to choose a food which contains ingredients that your dog hasn’t ever eaten before.

Many of these special foods contain more ‘exotic’ ingredients such as duck, venison, fish, sweet potato and so on.

There are several dietary supplements that you can give to your dog to help his digestive system handle food sensitivities, digest his food better, and improve his overall GI function.

These include probiotics (the good bacteria in your gut) such as Integrative Therapeutics NF Spectra Probiotic for Dogs and Cats, Prozyme Powder or Only Natural Pet GI Support for Dogs and Cats

If you change your dogs diet, you will need to keep him on the new food for at least a month to determine whether or not it is helping. This is because it can take quite a while for the effects of the previous food to be completely eradicated.

If simply changing your dogs’ diet doesn’t eliminate his allergy symptoms, you may need to try an ‘elimination diet’. Allergies related to food ingredients can be difficult to diagnose properly due to the number of different ingredients in most foods.

An elimination diet basically means choosing a food with the minimum number of ingredients, or even a home-made dog food diet that has only two components. One ingredient should be a meat that your dog hasn’t eaten before (rabbit or venison for example.

Lamb used to be considered a good choice, but because of it’s inclusion in many foods today, you probably want to try something less commonplace). The second ingredient should be a starchy food such as potato or rice.

Feed your dog only this (no treats, human-food tid-bits, dog biscuits, edible chew toys etc.) for two to three weeks and see if his dog allergy symptoms decrease/disappear.

Then very slowly add one additional ingredient at a time to his diet, waiting a week in between additions to check for the reappearance of allergy symptoms. This way you can slowly and carefully figure out which exact ingredient/s is causing his problems.

Because this sort of diet isn’t nutritionally complete, you shouldn’t keep your dog on it for more than 10 – 12 weeks maximum, and you should always consult with your veterinarian before AND during the elimination diet period.

You want to be sure that your dog is getting the nutrition that he needs and isn’t having any difficulties due to the restricted diet.


Allergic Reactions to Canine Vaccinations

Although true allergic reactions to canine vaccines are fairly rare, many puppies and dogs have mild reactions.

These may include loss of appetite, low grade fever, pain or swelling at the site of the injection, and occasionally even diarrhea or vomiting.

Mild symptoms like this are generally nothing to worry about and don’t last for more than a day or two.

But…. a small percentage of puppies can suffer a severe allergic reaction to their puppy shots (Rabies, Parvo and Leptospirosis vaccines are the most likely culprits, but any vaccination can trigger a response).

Symptoms of severe canine allergies in response to vaccination include swelling (particularly of the head/face/neck), hives anywhere on (or all over) the body, vomiting and/or diarrhea, difficulty breathing, loss of balance or co-ordination, seizures and even death.

This type of reaction usually happens within minutes of the shots being given, and needs urgent veterinary treatment.

If your pup/dog has this sort of reaction, it’s important to make sure that your veterinarian is aware of, or remembers, that when giving the next set of shots as he will probably want to take additional precautions to avoid a repeat performance.

Some breeds of dog are particularly vulnerable to canine allergies in response to vaccination.

These include (but aren’t necessarily limited to) Miniature Dachshunds, West Highland White Terriers, Old English Sheepdogs, Akitas, Portuguese Water Dogs, Weimaraners, and Harlequin Great Danes.

If you own one of these breeds, work closely with your veterinarian to work out a canine vaccination schedule that you’re happy with.


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When Itching Might NOT Be A Symptom Of Allergies

I think it’s also important that dog owners realize that intense itching or scratching and/or patchy hair loss in dogs isn’t ALWAYS due to canine allergies.

There is a skin condition called Mange which can cause a lot of itching, sometimes a rash, and often hair loss. Mange is caused by tiny mites, and there are two different types, Demodectic Mange and Sarcoptic Mange.

These can be diagnosed by your veterinarian taking a skin scraping from your dog, and there are several different treatments available. Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of mange by visiting this webpage Mange In Dogs.

Sometimes what looks like an allergy can actually turn out to be a yeast infection, and systemic yeast infections usually have similar symptoms such as skin irritiation, itching and so on.

If your puppy or dog has had several courses of antibiotics, is eating a poor quality food or one that has a high percentage of grains, or has had a reaction to vaccinations, it’s possible that his symptoms are yeast-based, not allergies.




About The Rotty lover 2159 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone