Is your dog suffering from a food or skin allergy? How would you even know? While the main symptoms of allergies in dogs are itching & scratching and inflamed skin, there are many possible causes.

If your dog seems chronically uncomfortable and you suspect allergies, it’s best to get to the bottom of the problem as soon as possible by taking him to the veterinarian. Here's what to expect and how you can help.

Food Allergens

Your dog may be allergic to his food, although it takes time to make that diagnosis. Usually, a veterinarian will put a dog on a food elimination diet to determine if he has a food allergy. That means going on a special hypoallergenic diet for eight to ten weeks.

If your dog’s clinical signs improve on the hypoallergenic diet, he will then be challenged with his original diet. If he’s truly allergic to his food, there will likely be an increase in clinical signs, such as itching and inflamed skin. If these appear, further testing will be needed to determine which specific ingredients trigger the allergy symptoms.

Skin Allergies

It has been estimated that up to 15 percent of dogs suffer from skin allergies, also known as allergic dermatitis. Allergic reactions often lead to skin inflammation — signs generally occur seasonally, but can extend throughout the year. Environmental contaminants, such as dust and mold, can cause allergies as well.

How to Work with Your Veterinarian 

  • Ask your veterinarian about medications your dog is taking. Some medications can trigger an allergic reaction in some dogs.
  • Keep a journal of other foods your dog may have eaten, so if there is a reaction, you can provide useful information to your veterinarian.
  • Work with your veterinarian to determine the best dog food for your dog with food sensitivities or intolerances.
  • Contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.

Precautions to Take at Home 

  • If you have more than one pet, feed other dogs in a different location to ensure your allergic dog doesn't eat their food.
  • Keep all dogs out of the room at your mealtime, so they can't eat any table scraps.
  • Don't give your dogs human food or non-approved treats.
  • Don't offer seemingly “harmless” items, such as toothpaste or edible toys, because they could contain a potential allergen.
  • Keep your dogs away from garbage and compost receptacles.

If it turns out your dog does have allergies, at least you will know what the problem is, and have a clear course of treatment to help alleviate your dog's symptoms. So if you have a suspicion your dog has allergies, make an appointment with your veterinarian today!