I have a passion for animals. I enjoy researching and writing educational articles to help dog and cat owners become better pet parents.
Does your dog constantly scratch and lick his paws? If so, then he probably suffers from allergies. Just like humans, dogs can develop allergies too. Though your dog probably won't ask you to pass the Kleenex, there are ways to tell if he or she is suffering from annoying canine allergies.
Allergy Symptoms in Dogs
- Licking and chewing of the paws (one of the most common symptoms!)
- Redness around the armpits and groin area
- Rubbing of the face and eyes
- Constant all over scratching and licking
What Causes Canine Allergies?
Dogs can develop allergies to the same things that cause people to sneeze and wheeze. Airborne particles such as dust, molds, and plant pollen are the most common reasons your dog scratches. People often develop watery eyes and have sneezing fits, while dogs battle constant itchiness and scratching.
It is unusual for puppies to develop allergies. Most dogs do not develop allergies until at least 9–12 months of age. Some dogs only suffer during certain months of the year, while others have allergies all year long.
What Type Of Allergy Does My Dog Have?
When humans want to figure out what they are allergic to, they simply make an appointment with their family doctor and have what is known as a "prick test." The same type of test can be performed on your dog (sorry, Fido!).
Your dog's veterinarian will inject small amounts of various substances into your dog's skin and then measure the allergic reaction (if any). Canine prick tests do not take very long (under an hour), and they are not painful. Once the vet determines what your dog is allergic to, he may recommend allergy shots. Allergy shots do not cure your dog of his or her allergy; they simply alleviate the symptoms (which mean less scratching and itching!).
How to Avoid and Alleviate Allergy Problems
Once you and your dog's veterinarian have determined what your dog is allergic to, there are several things you can do. If airborne allergies are your dog's primary problem, then it might be a good idea to invest in a high-efficiency (HEPA) air purifier. Air purifiers can greatly reduce the amounts of allergens that are floating around in your home. Place the air purifier in the room in which your dog sleeps or spends most of his day. Humidifiers can also help.
Though your furry friend might enjoy sleeping with you in your bedroom, it might be a good idea to set up a comfortable sleeping space for him in another area of your home. Sorry to tell you this, but bedrooms often have the highest dust mite populations of any room in your house. Sweet dreams! Training your dog to sleep in a room other than your bedroom might be difficult at first; however, if your best friend suffers from dust and or mite allergies you are actually doing him or her a favor.
If you just can't bear the thought of keeping Fido out of your room at night, consider buying a special allergy cover for your mattress, box spring and even your pillows. These covers can be purchased on-line or at major home good stores. Oh, and one other way to reduce allergens in the bedroom is to keep it clean and vacuum often (don't forget to wash your sheets, blankets, and pillowcases, too).
If you have a small dog that suffers from skin allergies, consider putting a doggie t-shirt or jacket on him before you go outside for your daily walk. I know many people are not fans of "dressing up" their dogs, however, if it helps, why not?!
Relieving Allergy Symptoms
Besides allergy shots (that the vet must administer) there are other ways to bring much-needed relief to your itchy dog. Antihistamines like Benadryl may bring relief but beware, Benadryl can cause drowsiness, which may be a good thing…if your dog is asleep, he can't scratch. Consult with your veterinarian for dosage information.
Allergy relief skin sprays are also available for purchase at most pet supply stores. Though they only bring temporary relief to your pet's itchy skin, it is a good idea to keep a bottle handy if you have a dog that suffers from allergies.
If your pup is scratching himself into a frenzy, fill the tub with cool water and let him soak for a bit. The cool water will bring relief and will feel good on your dog's skin. Remember cool water, as hot water will only add to the problem. An oatmeal bath is also a good idea. If you do not have an oatmeal bath product handy, simply fill an old tube-sock with oatmeal and place it in the bathwater. Allow it to soak for at least ten minutes before putting your dog into the tub. This may not work as well as a purchased oatmeal bath product, but it will bring some relief. Baths are especially important for dogs that have allergies that affect their paws. Dog paws have an enormous amount of blood vessels near the surface of the skin. Because of this, anything they step in is almost always absorbed into the body. After each walk, clean and wipe your dog's paws thoroughly, and two to three times per week soak them in an oatmeal bath.
Overall, the best way to bring relief to your dog if they have severe allergies is by regular allergy shots administered by your dog's veterinarian. Many vet pet insurance plans cover allergy-related problems so if you have a plan, be sure to check the coverage before making your first visit!
Though many people tend to reach for the flea powder when they first notice their furry friend scratching, more often than not, it is allergies that are causing the problem, not fleas! Allergies are one of the most common conditions in dogs and one of the main reasons that owners take their dog's to the vet. While allergy shots are helpful, it is also a good idea to stock your canine first aid kit with Benadryl, itch relief skin spray, and oatmeal dog shampoo. Good luck and here's to good health and no paw licking!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Joey on May 18, 2017:
My Joey has I believe what is Flea allergy. His skin is red and itchy. I bath him and put Eucerin on him. He seems better then gets worse again. He is loseing his hair. His feet and legs are really swollen. Does he maybe need antibiotics?
Azi's Mom on April 15, 2012:
Great article!!! - with some very good tips I haven't heard elsewhere (such as making sure the bathwater is cool, not warm) ... I'm going to give my poor itchy dog a bath right now! I also heard that pure coconut oil or olive oil (in the bath) helps, too. It will feel more like cooking, than bathing - lol - I'm going to try both the coconut oil with oatmeal.
wendymckee from Ontario, Canada on June 17, 2010:
My dog licks and scratches, doesn't want to go outside, and even gets a runny nose/coughs. I don't like the idea of allergy shots as I have seen people suffer more after having the shots. I wonder if claritin/reactine is safe for dogs?? I know Benadryl is ok but hate to make her sleepy. What to do?
Cygstarz (author) from Maryland on July 18, 2009:
Happygiggle: Thanks and good luck with your pug's itchy skin!
happygiggle from A long way from home on July 18, 2009:
Great article, I am going to ask the vet about the shots as my pug never stops scratching