Allergies that can plague dogs are grouped into four types: flea dermatitis, food allergies, atopic (inhalant) and contact dermatitis.

The most common type of allergy in dogs is flea allergy. Flea allergy is also the easiest to control. Use a topical flea preventive that repels and kills fleas before they bite the allergic pet. Just because a pet is kept indoors doesn’t mean it can’t have fleas. Just a single flea bite can cause an allergic pet to itch severely for days. The offending allergen is actually the protein in flea saliva left in the skin after a fleabite.

The second most common type of allergy that can affect your dog is Atopic or inhalant allergy. Inhalant allergy is from breathing in or coming into contact with grasses, pollens, mold spores and dust. Many atopic allergies start out as a seasonal problem. A classic symptom of Atopic allergy is licking and chewing the feet. Ear infection is also common.

Food allergies are the third most common type of allergy in dogs. Food ingredients most likely to trigger allergies are beef, soy, chicken, milk, corn, wheat and eggs. To test for food allergies, the pet is put on an eliminations diet for at least 10 weeks, which means it is fed a food that the pet has never eaten before, such as duck, venison and potatoes. If the dog’s itching subsides by at least half, the allergen is considered to be one or more food ingredients.

Problem Behaviors

There are two types of Contact Dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis.

  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis is rare, and occurs when an animal’s skin overreacts to certain substances in the environment. Substances, which can cause allergic contact dermatitis include certain antibiotics applied to the skin; metals such as nickel; materials such as rubber or wool; and chemicals such as dyes and carpet deodorizers.
  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis occurs when the skin is exposed to severely irritating chemicals such as the sap in poison ivy and salt on the road. Lesions generally occur on the areas of skin that are sparsely haired and directly exposed to the offending irritant. This often means the back of the paws, abdomen, muzzle, and lips. The affected areas are very red, have small bumps or vesicles (blister-like lesions), and itch.