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Learn : Dog Allergies

Dog Skin Allergies Causes and Treatments

Big Dog

When it comes to an itchy, uncomfortable or generally irritated dog, allergy relief is one of the first places to look. Treating skin allergies in dogs on your own can feel like a complicated process that leads to as many questions as answers, but we’re here to help clear that all up. 

Broadly speaking, there are only so many ways to treat skin allergies in dogs, but finding the right avenue for your dog (and the most likely cause) requires a little detective work.

Identifying dog skin allergies

In their most common forms, symptoms of a skin allergy in dogs may include:

  • Increased scratching
  • Ear infections
  • General discomfort
  • Skin irritation, redness, bumps, cracks or flakes
  • Bald spots and hair loss
  • Sudden and persistent sores or blemishes 
  • Nasal congestion or wheezing
  • Bloodshot, itchy eyes
  • Upset stomach and/or irregular stool

Though that’s not an exhaustive list. Changing seasons in particular can bring out the worst in your dog’s skin allergies, and the symptoms may begin intensifying or even doubling up on one another.

Which breeds are prone to skin allergies?

We’ve mapped out individual guides for some of the most commonly plagued breeds. Skip ahead to yours if you’re looking for breed-specific information.

What’s an allergen, anyway?

Allergens are known as any substance that potentially causes reaction in the immune system. There are hundreds and hundreds of these otherwise-harmless substances, though for simplicity’s sake, it’s easiest to categorize the most common ones into four categories:

Contact allergens such as soaps, shampoos, pesticides, cleaners and lawn products often cause skin irritation at first contact. If your pet is allergic, it won’t take long for you to notice. 

Inhaled allergens such as dust, mold, pollen, smoke and perfumes may be more difficult to spot, as your dog’s exposure may waver on any given day and the effects may take longer to grab hold. 

Food allergens may seem like they worsen with age, and despite how pervasive they may feel, can often be avoided through replacement with a more transparent diet with traceable ingredients.

Ingested or injected allergens such as medication, insect stings or flea bites are often an occupational hazard for any dog that likes to spend time outside or with other pets. For sensitive dogs, even one flea bite can lead to a big reaction.

Treating skin allergies

Regardless of which allergen is causing your dog to suffer, it’s best to start thinking about treatment sooner rather than later.

The longer your dog goes with an untreated skin allergy, the more likely they are to experience lasting effects and the more difficult it will be to pinpoint the cause and resolve their signs. Excessive itching, for example, can lead to additional skin irritation that puts them at risk for bacterial and fungal infections or even permanent scarring. 

Nipping symptoms in the bud is key to ensuring your dog can get back to living their best life. Here’s five places to get your discussion started when you book your next vet appointment:

How it works

Where to start

What to know

Dietary management

Trimming down your dog’s diet to reduce potential allergens may resolve skin allergy issues months or even weeks if a protein or allergen in the food is the culprit.

Nom Nom fresh food (and even treats) contains a healthy, limited ingredient list, making it easy to single out and avoid troublesome food allergens.

Elimination diets require close management and attention to ensure your dog gets the vital nutrients they need. Make sure you craft a careful plan with your vet while you make the switch.

Essential fatty acids

Fish oils (such as those found in our foods) contain anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA and other fatty acids to help moisturize and maintain skin health. Many ‘essential oils’ are actually toxic to dogs and should be avoided without proper consultation.

Speak with your vet about adding oils to your pets diet. Most come tasty droplet-sized doses that give your dog some extra flavor with breakfast and dinner.

It’s possible to overdo it. Overdosing with omega 3s and other healthy compounds may cause vomiting or diarrhea, so follow the directions closely.

Vitamins & supplements

Vitamins A, C, and E have all been shown to help improve skin health in pets and dampen the effects of allergies.

Most vitamins come in pill or liquid form, which are easy enough to sneak into food or a treat. 

Our fresh food diets come packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, which could help you avoid adding another pill to their regimen. But remember, there can be too much of a good thing — always contact your vet first.


Research points to the gut microbiome playing a real role in dogs’ immunity to allergens (or lack thereof). Probiotics help support gut health to keep it functioning at its best.

Our supplements are easy to mix in at mealtime, providing a boost to their immune system that should build over time.

A probiotic rarely hinders your dog’s digestion issues, and oftentimes can be exactly the boost they need. Talk to your vet about it, regardless.

Topical remedies

There are many shampoos, sprays and creams on the market to help your dog deal with itching and irritation that comes with allergies.

Speak with your vet about the products they recommend for your dog. Not every breed’s coat will respond to products in the same fashion. And never use a product intended for people unless at the express direction of your veterinarian.

While they may provide temporary relief, many of these products won’t get at the root of the issue. Lasting allergy relief may require more drastic changes to diet or allergy medication.

A word on severe skin allergies

In some cases, a particularly harsh skin allergy may overpower the relief a diet shift, diet supplement or topical remedy can provide. In these instances, your vet may prescribe medication to help ease symptoms seasonally or year-round.

Corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and often come in the form of a small pill or liquid formulation. They’re often best used to help dogs and their parents tackle seasonal skin allergies, rather than chronic issues. 

Antihistamines are some of the most commonly prescribed medications, as they typically pair well with additional medication and potential side effects are often mild.  

Immunosuppressants or Immunomodulatory medications do exactly what their name says, suppressing an overreaction from your dog’s immune system to help tamp down swelling or redness. 

Antibiotics and antifungals are usually prescribed to help address the accompanying infections that come with too much itching or biting. 

Whichever course of action you and your vet decide to take, make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep the skin allergies at bay at the bowl and beyond. A dog with a healthy diet, exercise regimen and socialization schedule is more likely to have a stronger immune system capable of fighting off allergens.

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