Dog with red, inflamed looking belly lying down on grass

Top 3 Reasons For Dog Allergies, Symptoms & How To Cure

If you’re reading this article, dog allergies probably took over your life and you’re desperately looking for ways to help your itchy pup.

Been there, experienced that.

I was once you!

Thankfully I learned not only how to manage dog allergies over the years, but also how to cure them.

That said, I’ll cover the following in this article:

  • What causes dog allergies
  • Natural remedies for dogs with allergies
  • The best dog food for dogs with allergies (my main tip!) | Top 3 Reasons For Dog Allergies, Symptoms, And How To Cure Them

Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated in 2024. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you. 

Dog Allergy Symptoms

If you’re wondering if your dog is truly having allergy issues, look for any or all of these symptoms:

  • Licking
  • Chewing, and
  • Scratching at his skin, belly, ears, and paws.

As a result, you’ll see red, raw skin on your pup: Rash.

Side note: A chewing or licking dog could also try to rid himself of external parasites like ticks, or could try to alleviate the itching caused by fleas or lice.

What Causes Allergies In Dogs?

Dog allergies can be caused by external factors like pollen and by interior ones like mold.

But they can also be caused by internal factors, like a low immune system caused by a poor diet. 

1. Environmental Allergies in Dogs

Acute Allergies

My girl Missy once developed a bad case of hives covering her entire body, to include her face. This happened after a walk where she had rolled around on a patch of grass. 

Here’s what happened: She started scratching at her skin repetitively soon after we came home from the walk.

A few hours later, the hives formed.

Of course this happened on a Saturday afternoon. 

I forced myself to stay calm and began my research on the various search engines online. 

I found out fairly quickly that Benadryl is an excellent antihistamine which is safe to administer to dogs.

Missy with a case of hives

How to Administer Benadryl to Dogs

Benadryl should be administered as follows: 1 mg of Benadryl per 1 lb of dog weight.

One pill usually contains 25 mgs, and Missy weighs around 50 lbs, so I gave her two 25 mg pills of Benadryl.

I just shoved the initial 2 pills down her throat, because I was so anxious for her to get better asap. 

I wrapped the following ones in a piece of cheese to make the experience a little more enjoyable for my little girl.

It’s safe to give Bendaryl three times per day, which I did for 2 days. It cured Missy of her case of hives 100%!

I am not sure at all what may have caused her allergic reaction.

The grass she rolled around on may have been treated with a pesticide, or she may have been stung by an insect. 

Either way, I learned my lesson not to let the pups roll around on any grass, unless it’s on a lawn I KNOW has not been treated with any chemicals. 

Ever since this case of hives, I also have Benadryl readily available in our doggie first aid kits at home and in my car.

Seasonal Allergies

My pups Missy & Buzz’s predominant Boxer genes make them particularly prone to developing allergies (Boxers are among the high-risk breeds). 

They both reacted to pollen within their first year of living with me.

It made them sneeze whenever we were outside during the spring months, and they’d even wake up with discharge in and around their eyes, especially my boy Buzz. 

I’d make it a habit of brewing up a cup of chamomile tea, soaking some up with a clean dish towel, and then gently wiping out their eyes.

It would get rid of the gunk while soothing the area around their eyes.

Camomile Tea to Soothe Irritated Dog Skin

Other breeds prone to developing allergies are:

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • German Shepherds
  • Irish Setters
  • Dalmatians
  • Bichon Frisés, and
  • Chinese Shar-Peis, but obviously any dog regardless of breed can develop allergies.

Year-Round Allergies

Dogs can develop intolerances of dust mites & mold spores just as we can.

So keeping your dog’s home dust and mold free is the simple, easy solution to this problem.

It’s best to avoid carpets and invest in hardwood (like) flooring, or laminate products. 

Where carpets can’t be avoided, regular, daily vacuuming is necessary, as well as regular dusting of all surfaces.

I also wash my dog beds weekly on the hot cycle of the washing machine. 

P.S. Inflammatory, chronic skin diseases are known as atopic conditions.

You can also invest in a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter for your Air Conditioning System.

Those filters remove 99.97 % of all airborne particles like dust, pollens, tobacco smoke, and pet dander.

They are used in medical facilities as well as in aircraft to prevent the spread of diseases, by the way. 

If your home isn’t equipped with air conditioning, you can still get relief by investing in a portable air purifier featuring a HEPA filter

Or try a TRUE Hepa filter vacuum cleaner (avoid those with “Like-HEPA” filters).

P.S. The use of HEPA filters also benefits any humans suffering from allergies, to include pet dander!

2. Poor Quality Dog Food Causes Low Immune System

While the boxer genes most likely contributed to Missy’s & Buzz’s allergic reaction to the pollen, their highly processed, dry dog food made things worse. 

During the pups’ first year with me, I was feeding Hill’s Science Diet.

That’s a below average dog food that contains a high percentage of grains and lots of fillers, as well as by-products.

After that, I switched to Blue Buffalo.

That’s a much better choice than Science Diet because it’s grain-free, but unfortunately it still contains artificial food coloring.

I then made the switch to healthier dog food lines like grain-free kibbles Great Life and Annamaet, as well as the air-dried, raw dog food ZiwiPeak from New Zealand.

Once they were on ZiwiPeak, the pups were no longer bothered by the extent of their initial allergies.

Ziwipeak air-dried lamb dog food
Our Ziwipeak air-dried dog food

They would still sneeze occasionally and develop some eye discharge, but it was nowhere as bad as it was when I fed low-quality dog food.

Unfortunately, the main downside of ZiwiPeak’s air-dried raw food is that it’s expensive af.

Enter homemade raw dog food.

The Best Dog Food for Dogs with Allergies

Once I started feeding raw dog food, the pups’ allergies completely stopped, AND my dog food budget was back on track, too.

That’s because making your own raw dog food at home only costs a fraction of the price of commercial raw or air-dried dog food. | Easy raw dog food meal prep for dogs with allergies

In my experience, a species-appropriate, raw diet is by far the best dog food for dogs with allergies.

I’ve been feeding it since 2015 and keep getting asked if raw dog food really makes a difference in itchy pups.

Yep, it does.

Once people switch their pups over from kibble to raw, their dogs are like completely new pups!

I’m so happy to have invested the time & energy into researching potential causes of allergies instead of just accepting the fact that genetic predispositions were the sole culprit. 

A healthy diet creates a strong immune system, which in turn will allow your dog’s body to get rid of harmful substances. 

Investing a bit more into the right kind of food will not only keep your dog healthy, it will also minimize trips to your vet’s office, and keep your wallet fuller!

3. Food Sensitivity In Dogs

True allergies to specific ingredients of a dog’s diet are not very common, and only occur in about 10% of dogs. 

If you suspect that your pooch does suffer from food allergies, you can take matters in your own hands by doing an elimination diet for dogs.

As its name suggests, you eliminate certain foods one by one from your dog’s diet (e.g. chicken, wheat, corn, etc.). 

You can also take him to your vet’s office for dog allergy testing, or try an environmental sensitivity test from brands like Pet Medella or Glacier Peak Holistics

Missy took the Pet Medella test

My dog Wally, a 38 lb Feist mix, tried the Glacier Peak Holistics test. See the results of his test here – it was worth taking it!

Chronic ear infections may also be the symptoms of a food allergy.

As a result of being intolerant to certain meats, a dog can also be allergic to rawhide chews.

Side note: There is a difference between true food allergies and food intolerance. 

If your pup has diarrhea or vomits after having eaten a specific ingredient, it is likely for his digestive system to be intolerant of the food in question.

4. Raw-Fed Dogs with Food Sensitivities

In my raw dog food recipe ebook, I focuse on recipes for dogs with food sensitivities and allergies like Wally!

That said, I put on my novel protein hat and whipped up special recipes for him and dogs like him. 

The recipes don’t feature any of the foods he’s sensitive to, and they also don’t feature any turkey, beef, lamb, or salmon!

That’s because many dogs don’t do well with them either.

Fast Relief For Dog Itchiness With These Natural Products

While implementing the options mentioned above, there are several options for soothing and relieving itchy doggie skin in the meantime:

Wondercide Skin Tonic Oil offers localized relief of hot spots and sores. Also helps with insect bites and cuts. 

Dr. Harvey’s Organic Healing Cream. It’s an all-purpose healing first aid ointment. I also use it on my own skin! | Applying Dr. Harvey's Healing Cream For Dogs
Applying Dr. Harvey's Healing Cream On Buzz's Skin Abrasions

Richard’s Organics Incredible Skin Spray. It soothes irritations and speeds healing.

How do you deal with your dog’s and/or your own allergies? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below this blog post!

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.







20 responses to “Top 3 Reasons For Dog Allergies, Symptoms & How To Cure”

  1. MilitaryWifeandPugLife Avatar

    We definitely have the allergies! But Maddie’s has gotten much better!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Glad to hear Maddie’s suffering less! Did you use any ointments, baths, or meds (or different food?) to fight the allergies?

  2. Kate Obrien Avatar
    Kate Obrien

    Having allergies myself, I know what a hassle they are. Jack is itchy in the summer – I think it’s mostly dry skin, although he’s also allergic to chicken, but we just don’t give him ANYTHING with chicken in it.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Ugh, same here, I’m allergic to the kind of pollen flying around here in NC, making spring somewhat less enjoyable than it could be.
      Poor Jack ~ but I know he’s in great hands with the Slimdoggy pack 😉

  3. Tenacious Little Terrier Avatar
    Tenacious Little Terrier

    Mr. N has a flea allergy which drives him insane. And me. He gets lots of baths and I’m punctual about his flea treatments.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Oh goodness, I can see how that would drive you both insane and why you are so diligent about preventative measures!

  4. Emma Avatar

    Thankfully none of us pets have any allergies. Mom has had allergies her whole life. She had injections for five years as a kid which cured them for about twenty years but one year they came back out of the blue. She now takes 1000 mg Vitamin D every day and it has stopped the allergies dead.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you for sharing the Vitamin D tip ~ I may have to try that one and see if it’ll get rid of my pollen allergies!

      1. Emma Avatar

        Mom read an article about some drs suggesting it for children with allergies and shortly after a dr. told her to take if because in MN one doesn’t get enough sun, but coincidentally the allergies stopped. Mom has grass and ragweed allergies mostly, and when it is real bad out, she does feel a very light itch in her eyes and a hint of a runny nose but prior to the vitamin D it would have had her in bed as they were so bad. Just 1000 mg a day every day and it is working for her.

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          I always assumed that I got plenty of vitamin D being outside quite a bit here in sunny NC, but maybe it’s not enough after all? I will be looking more into this Vitamin D option.

  5. 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

    I think food allergies are some of the most difficult to deal with. I have a pal who has a dog with them, and it has been quite the process. Our Golden used to have a flea allergy so we made sure to use flea preventative on him.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Yes, it can be quite the long process trying to figure out if and what kind of food a dog is allergic to.
      I am all for preventative measures!

  6. Diane Silver Avatar

    Luckily Rocco doesn’t have any allergies. However we did use Benedryl once when Rocco got stung by a bee and it relieved his symptoms almost immediately.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Rocco is lucky indeed! Isn’t Benadryl amazing??

  7. Pamela | Something Wagging Avatar

    I feel so lucky that I’ve never dealt with my own allergies or my dogs. But my husband had bad allergies when I met them.

    They’ve gotten less severe over the years. I tease him that he became less allergic when he moved away from his mother. But I’m not sure it was a joke. There may also be an emotional element to allergies, at least for humans.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      I have never made a connection between emotions and allergies, but it actually sounds plausible now that you got me thinking about it. Very interesting!

  8. M. K. Clinton Avatar

    Bentley has allergies and we keep him on a cool protein diet and it helps tremendously.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      I remember you mentioning cool proteins in a blog post not too long ago ~ that was the first time I had heard about that classification of proteins! Very cool to hear that it helps! It’s really amazing what food can do.

  9. Lindsay Stordahl Avatar
    Lindsay Stordahl

    Ace gets itchy skin and hot spots a few times per year, usually in the hotter months. We never really know what causes it. I suspected a food allergy for a long time but since it’s only in the summer it must be related to some sort of pollen or bug bites or even just hot weather. I don’t really know.

    Benadryl seems to help him some, like you said. Also, giving him a bath with a natural, fragrance-free shampoo seems to help. He doesn’t enjoy the bath but I think it gives his skin some relief.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Sorry to hear that Ace gets itchy in the hotter months/it would make sense to assume that it’s likely related to some sort of summer wildlife.

      One of my clients has a Bichon who has terrible skin allergies. She’s able to offer him a good amount of relief by rubbing him down with a cool, wet cloth, giving some some Benadryl, spraying a little Bactine on his hot spots, and putting him in a doggie t-shirt to avoid any scratching. It works amazingly well for several hours, but has to be repeated.

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