Why is My Dog So Itchy? Understanding Canine Allergies

This post was originally published on January 5th, 2015 and has been updated to include more information for MKHP readers.

As someone who suffers quite regularly from allergies, I can say that they are an awful thing to endure.

Our pets suffer from allergies in a variety of different ways, causing them pain and discomfort. Therefore, as a pet parent, it is imperative to have an understanding of the different types of allergies and how they can affect your pet.

When explaining allergies to pet parents, I start by explaining that there are three main categories of allergies.

Inhaled Allergy (Atopy)

Food Allergy

Flea Allergy

(Other types of environmental allergies, such as an allergy to a cleaning agent, are possible and would be considered Contact Dermatitis, but won’t be discussed in detail here.)

Inhaled allergies

Inhaled allergies, or atopy, is the most common type of allergy (Dr. Foster’s Smith). (This is more commonly known with humans as seasonal allergies). Keep in mind, your pet can suffer from inhaled allergy flair ups year round (like myself & Rooney).

What are the signs of atopy?

According to Dr. Foster & Smith:

Feet Chewing

Licking of the Flank & Growing Area

Rubbing of the Face

Redness or Inflammation of the Ears


Asthma or Wheezing

Rooney suffers from wheezing, hotspots, ear infections, and feet chewing when his allergies flare up.

Flea Bite Allergy or Hypersensitivity

Flea Bite Allergy or Hypersensitivity is the most common skin disease in pets (PetMD). Many pet parent are under the perception that flea allergy symptoms are only possible if your pet is suffering from a flea infestation, but the fleas or flea dirt may not be visible (PetMD). Meaning, you don’t have to see a flea on your dog for them to get bit, and start to have a reaction.

What are the signs of flea allergy?

Severe Itching

Sever Scratching

Hair Loss


Often, these symptoms can be found on the hind end of your dog. Less of the front part of the body is affected (PetMD).

Food Allergy

Food Allergy accounts for about 10-15% of allergies in dog and cats (Dr. Foster’s Smith).

What are the signs of food allergy?

According to Dr. Foster & Smith:

Itching of the Face, Feet, Limbs and Anal Region

Yeast Related Ear Infections

Skin Infections

Increased Bowel Movements

Soft Stool

Keep in mind that your pet can suffer from more than one type of allergy simultaneously. Therefore, it is wise to work with your veterinarian to determine what type of allergy is affecting your pet, and how you should proceed with treatment.

Does your pet suffer from allergies?

Here is an infographic from Petco.co that discusses in detail food allergy commonalities. Please share with anyone whose pet suffers from food allergies.

Does your dog or cat suffer from food allergies?

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16 Comment

  1. Reply
    January 5, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Yes, I’m sorry to tell you that my dog suffers from flea allergies and at the moment she must have them because she is scratching like mad. I need to find a natural flea spray to put on her – do you have any suggestions?
    Barb recently posted…You are the best – thank youMy Profile

    1. Reply
      January 21, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      Barb, that is a great question. I will do some research on this and be sure to share!

    2. Reply
      Jody Miller-Young
      July 9, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Hi Barb – My Chihuahua Albie does, too, and it’s been driving me crazy. I’ve found some products that are completely non toxic and natural that are working, so will share here.
      1) Wondercide – the cedar-oiled based anti flea, tick, and other bugs you use on dogs, cats, yourselves and your lawn (in a concentrated form). Great product. Spray it on the dogs and it kills fleas in all stages of development and life and keeps them off. You do have to reapply each day but can do that with this product. http://www.wondercide.com.
      2) Bobbi Panter’s Itchy Dog Shampoo and Itchy Dog Spray. This is the only shampoo that gets Albie to stop scratching and biting. Bobbi found that many shampoos contain salt which is very drying and harsh to skin and coat. You can even rub a little bit of the shampoo on hot spots after the shampoo when they’re dry and leave on and it makes them go away. http://www.bobbipanter.com. If you want more info, go to http://www.barkandswagger.com. I just did a post on this product.
      Hope this is helpful, Barbara!
      Jody Miller-Young recently posted…A Solution for Common Dog Skin Problems That’s Luxurious, Too!My Profile

      1. Reply
        July 12, 2016 at 2:47 pm

        Thank you for the excellent information Jody!

  2. Reply
    Two French Bulldogs
    January 6, 2015 at 7:17 am

    We see a dermatologist for our itchies. Avoiding wet grass sure helps our feets along with a no grain diet among other things
    Lily & Edward

    1. Reply
      January 21, 2015 at 7:29 pm

      That is so good you go to a specialist, allergies can be so hard to control.

  3. Reply
    Val Silver
    January 6, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Flea allergies and not a flea in sight. That’s my Ted.. As soon as the frost hits we have relief.
    Val Silver recently posted…Should All Pit Bulls Die?My Profile

    1. Reply
      January 21, 2015 at 7:29 pm

      Val, you are so lucky, we don’t get enough frost here is California to kill the fleas.

    2. Reply
      Jody Miller-Young
      July 9, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Sometimes they can give a quick bite and jump off and we’d never see them, Val. But that bite starts the vicious cycle of allergic reaction. It’s awful. Thank goodness you get relief at the first frost. We live in South Florida now and its a year long battle! 🙂
      Jody Miller-Young recently posted…A Solution for Common Dog Skin Problems That’s Luxurious, Too!My Profile

  4. Reply
    Jody Miller-Young
    July 9, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Rachel – This is a great post; lots of good information. Thanks so much for sharing. I, too, have a dog that scratches like crazy. Without extensive allergy testing, there’s really no way to know if its from a flea bite allergy or food or what. We did a process of elimination food test and, based on the results, we think its the fleas, which makes sense down here in South Florida, where it’s like flea central.
    I’ve found some products that have worked well for me and I’ve shared them above with Barbara, whose dog also has an allergy to flea bites. Hope that’s ok. Please feel free to pass around. Again thanks for this great info! Jody
    Jody Miller-Young recently posted…A Solution for Common Dog Skin Problems That’s Luxurious, Too!My Profile

    1. Reply
      July 12, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Of course! Any information is always welcome on any of my blog posts! I am glad you have been able to find a solution for Albie!

  5. Reply
    M. K. Clinton
    July 9, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    This is terrific information. I love the infographic too.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Dogs Don’t Judge ~ Be Like DogsMy Profile

    1. Reply
      July 12, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks Melissa! I too love a good infographic!

  6. Reply
    Groovy Goldendoodles
    July 11, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Great info! Harley is suffering from environmental allergies. So much humidity here in SC and then the A/C – skin is extremely dry and there’s lots of scratching, biting going on. Currently using a oatmeal shampoo and giving Omega 3,6&9 (Sardine, Anchovy and Hempseed oil) in his diet. It’s getting better – but it’s a process!

    1. Reply
      July 12, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Rooney is currently amidst an allergy flare up and I feel so bad, but we do everything we can to keep him comfortable! I hope Harley has less itchy days ahead of him!

  7. Reply
    Two French Bulldogs
    July 12, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    We go to a dermatologist cause we are allergic to 87 things
    Lily & Edward

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