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How to recognize skin and food allergies in dogs

Allergies can affect anyone, even the family dog.

According to the American Kennel Club, various types of allergies can affect dogs. Skin allergies and food allergies can be very unpleasant. And just like their owners, dogs may be vulnerable to environmental allergens like dust, pollen and mold.

Learning about allergies and how to recognize them in dogs can help pet owners ensure their four-legged friends live as happily and as comfortably as possible.

Skin allergies

The most common type of allergic reactions in dogs, skin allergies, also referred to as "allergic dermatitis," are caused by flea allergy dermatitis, food allergies or environmental allergies. Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to flea bites. Dogs may be allergic to flea saliva, which can make them very itchy, particularly at the base of their tails. As dogs scratch their itches, their skin can become red and inflamed and may scab over.

The AKC notes that itchy skin may also be a byproduct of food allergies or sensitivities to certain foods. In such instances, the most common places dogs will itch are their ears and paws. Itchiness also may be accompanied by gastrointestinal issues.

Dogs that only seem to itch their skin during certain times of the year may be dealing with skin allergies resulting from environmental allergens like dust, pollen and mold. The ears and paws are the most commonly affected areas in these instances, though dogs also may feel itchiness in other areas, such as their wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around their eyes, and in between their toes.

Food allergies and sensitivities

The AKC notes that food allergies may not be as common as people think. In many instances, food sensitivities are to blame for many symptoms dogs exhibit. If the veterinarian suspects a dog has a food sensitivity, he or she will work with dog owners to identify the ingredient that is causing a reaction. Both food allergies and food sensitivities can trigger gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and/or vomiting. Skin conditions like hives and facial swelling may be indicative of an allergy. Itchiness, poor skin and coat, and chronic ear or foot infections are among the symptoms of food sensitivities noted by the AKC.

Diagnosing allergies in dogs can be complicated. Veterinarians may first try to rule out other conditions that may be causing symptoms in your dog. If the vet suspects an allergy, he or she may try to confirm this by utilizing an elimination diet that restricts what the dog eats for 12 weeks. Learn more about dogs and allergies at

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