Dogs with Allergies: the Best Foods and Treatments

dogs with allergies the best foods and treatments petrage

As a dog owner, it can be heartbreaking to see your pup suffering from allergies. Just like humans, dogs can experience allergic reactions to certain foods or environmental factors. The good news is that there are plenty of options available when it comes to managing your dog’s allergies. In this article, we will discuss the best food and treatments for dogs with allergies.

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Understanding Dog Allergies

Before we dive into the best food and treatments for dogs with allergies, it’s important to understand what causes these allergic reactions. There are several common allergens that can affect dogs, including:

  1. Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD): Dogs can be allergic to flea saliva, and even a single flea bite can trigger an allergic reaction. Symptoms include itching, redness, and skin inflammation.
  2. Food Allergies: Dogs can develop allergies to certain ingredients in their food, such as beef, chicken, dairy, wheat, soy, or corn. Common symptoms include itching, digestive issues, and skin problems.
  3. Environmental Allergies (Atopy): Dogs, like humans, can be allergic to environmental factors such as pollen, mold, dust mites, and grass. This type of allergy often leads to itching, especially around the face, paws, and abdomen. A Veterinary dermatologist may perform skin testing and blood tests to diagnose the allergic dog.
  4. Contact Allergies: Some dogs may develop allergies to substances they come into direct contact with, such as certain cleaning products, shampoos, or fabrics. Skin rash, irritation, redness, or inflammation may occur.
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When a dog is exposed to an allergen, their immune system can overreact and cause an allergic reaction. Dog allergy symptoms can vary, but some of the most common signs include:

  1. Itching and Scratching: Persistent itching, especially around the face, paws, ears, and belly, is a common sign of allergies in dogs. They may scratch, chew, or lick excessively.
  2. Skin Redness and Inflammation: Allergic reactions often lead to skin redness, inflammation, and sometimes the development of hot spots (localized areas of infected and inflamed skin).
  3. Ear Infections: Dogs with allergies may experience recurrent ear infections. Signs include shaking of the head, scratching at the ears, and a noticeable odor.
  4. Digestive Issues: Food allergies can manifest as gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, dogs may also show signs of increased flatulence.
  5. Watery Eyes and Runny Nose: Similar to humans, dogs with allergies may have watery eyes and a runny nose. This is more common in cases of environmental allergies.
  6. Sneezing and Coughing: Respiratory symptoms like sneezing and coughing may occur, especially if the dog is allergic to airborne particles like pollen or dust mites.
  7. Paw Licking and Chewing: Dogs may excessively lick or chew their paws if they have allergies. This can lead to irritation, redness, and even secondary infections.
  8. Snoring or Breathing Issues: Allergies can sometimes cause inflammation in the airways, leading to snoring or other breathing difficulties, particularly during sleep.
  9. Swelling: In severe cases, allergic reactions can cause swelling, especially around the face and eyes. This requires immediate veterinary attention.

Best Food for Dogs with Allergies

Some of the most common allergies in dogs are food allergies. Research has shown the following rates of common food allergens in dogs:

Food% of Reactions
Rice / Fish2%
BMC Veterinary Research Study

A food allergy is different than a food intolerance where the digestive system cannot process a protein source or ingredient, so it is important to distinguish between the two. If your dog is suffering from a true food allergy (resulting in an immune response), it’s important to switch to a diet that is free of the allergen. The best way to do this is to switch to a limited-ingredient diet or an elimination diet. Here are some of the best options for dogs with allergies:

Limited-Ingredient Diets

Limited-ingredient diets contain a small number of ingredients to reduce the risk of triggering an allergic reaction. Some of the most popular limited-ingredient dog foods are:

  • Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet
  • Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets
  • Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet

Elimination Diets

An elimination diet trial involves removing all potential allergens from your dog’s diet for 8-12 weeks and then gradually reintroducing them to identify the specific allergen. This can be a time-consuming process, but it’s the most effective way to identify and manage food allergies. Some of the most popular elimination diets include:

  • Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP
  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Formula

Best Treatments for Dogs with Allergies

If your dog is suffering from environmental allergies or flea bites, there are several treatments that can help. Here are some of the best options for treating allergies in dogs:


Antihistamines are a common treatment for allergies in dogs. They work by blocking the release of histamines, which are responsible for many of the symptoms of allergies. Some of the most common antihistamines for dogs include:

  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
  • Claritin (loratadine)
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine)


Corticosteroids are a powerful anti-inflammatory medication that can help reduce the symptoms of allergies in dogs. However, they should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian, as they can have side effects. Some of the most common corticosteroids for dogs include:

  • Prednisone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Triamcinolone


Immunotherapy involves gradually exposing your dog to small amounts of the allergen to desensitize their immune system. This can be a highly effective long-term treatment for allergies in dogs. Most will show significant improvement, with almost 75% of dogs treated reporting improved symptoms and/or cure. The basic steps of immunotherapy are:

  1. Identification of Allergens: Through allergy testing, veterinarians can identify the specific allergens triggering the dog’s allergic reactions. This information is crucial for creating a customized immunotherapy plan.
  2. Allergy Shots: Based on the identified allergens, a veterinarian may administer a series of allergy shots containing small amounts of these allergens. The concentration is increased over time.
  3. Desensitization: The goal of immunotherapy is to desensitize the dog’s immune system to the allergens, reducing or eliminating the allergic response. This process can take several months to a year or more.
  4. Maintenance Phase: Once a therapeutic dose is reached, dogs typically enter a maintenance phase where they receive regular, but less frequent, injections to maintain the desensitization.
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Additional Considerations for Dogs with Allergies

In addition to the above treatments, the following should also be considered:

Bathing and Grooming:

  • Regular bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo can help remove allergens from your dog’s coat and skin.
  • Keeping your dog’s coat clean and well-groomed can reduce the likelihood of itchy skin or skin reactions.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, have anti-inflammatory properties that may help alleviate skin irritations and reduce itching. Consult your veterinarian for appropriate dosage and supplement options.

Environmental Modifications:

  • Make changes in your home environment to reduce exposure to indoor allergens. This may include using air purifiers, regular cleaning, and minimizing dust and mold.
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If your dog is suffering from allergies, it’s important to identify the allergen and take steps to manage their symptoms

Switching to a limited-ingredient diet or an elimination diet can be an effective way to manage food allergies, while antihistamines, corticosteroids, and immunotherapy can help treat environmental allergies and flea bites.

As a responsible dog owner, it’s important to work closely with your veterinarian to identify and manage your dog’s allergies. With the right food and treatments, your pup can live a happy, healthy life free from the discomfort of allergies.


  1. How can I tell if my dog has allergies?
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    Some common signs of dog allergies include itching and scratching, red, inflamed skin, sneezing and coughing, watery eyes, and ear infections.

  2. Can dogs be allergic to certain types of food?
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    Yes, dogs can be allergic to certain types of food, including chicken, beef, dairy, and grains.

  3. What is a limited-ingredient diet?
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    A limited-ingredient diet is a type of dog food that contains a small number of ingredients to reduce the risk of triggering an allergic reaction.

  4. Can antihistamines be used to treat allergies in dogs?
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    Yes, antihistamines can be a helpful treatment for allergies in dogs by blocking the release of histamines, which are responsible for many allergy symptoms.

  5. What is immunotherapy for dogs?
    faq logo page

    Immunotherapy for dogs involves gradually exposing your pup to small amounts of the allergen to desensitize their immune system and reduce the severity of allergy symptoms over time.

  6. What are the most common allergies that dogs experience?
    faq logo page

    The most common allergies that dogs experience are food allergies, environmental allergies (such as pollen or dust mites), and flea allergies. It’s important to identify and manage these allergies to ensure the well-being of your pup.

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