Dog Allergies: When It’s More Than Just a Sneeze

Key Points

  • Dog allergies are a common occurrence for canines and may cause a wide range of symptoms.

  • Puppies are most prone to allergies or food sensitivities but they can also develop in a dog's later years.

  • When diagnosing dog allergies, many factors may be the root cause, such as diet, health, and their external environment.

Dogs are strong, loyal, and courageous; always getting back up as soon as they're knocked down. However, despite their tough exterior, your pet is susceptible to dog allergies regardless of breed, age, or size.

There are many internal and external causes for dog allergies, all creating their own unique symptoms and conditions. If you've noticed your dog sneezing more frequently or if they've developed a sudden skin condition, they may have encountered an allergen.

If you've suffered from allergies of your own, you understand just how annoying and uncomfortable they are. Your pet could be feeling just as crummy but lacks the voice to let you know they are suffering.

Continue reading to learn the signs and symptoms of common allergies found in dogs and how to offer your pet relief.

When Do Dog Allergies First Develop?

Dog allergies are tricky and seem to develop at random. Puppies often carry more food sensitivities than when they are adults. Their bodies aren't used to certain ingredients, and they experience reactions initially. Sometimes, these sensitivities carry on into their older years, but not necessarily.

Some dogs also develop allergies in their later years. This is rare but still definitely a possibility.

Certain factors cause allergies, such as only eating the same food throughout their life, moving to new locations that expose them to new elements, and developing conditions that affect their immune system.

If your dog is developing allergies, don't worry. Dog allergies are a common condition that many canines develop, and there are plenty of treatment options available.

Dog with allergies sneezes

Signs and Symptoms

Some dog allergies are mild, while others are more concerning. Certain symptoms may resolve over time, while others require medical attention. Here are the most common allergy symptoms found in dogs.


Hives are a common skin condition that occurs in dogs. You notice them appearing very quickly, and it's a strange sight to see initially. They create symptoms of itchy, raised bumps on your canine's skin accompanied by discomfort and irritation.

If you notice your dog developing hives, try to locate any potential irritants and remove them from the premises. The hives resolve themselves once you remove the allergen.

If your dog experiences trouble breathing along with the hives, you must take them to the emergency vet, as this is likely a sign of anaphylactic shock.


Having a dog means sometimes walking into an unexpected puddle of vomit. Your pet's stomach is sensitive to certain foods that may cause them to regurgitate their dinner.

A little nausea is normal from time to time but is concerning when it's continuous or long-lasting. If you notice your dog vomiting large amounts or many times throughout the day, there's likely an underlying issue, such as exposure to an allergen or a blockage in their stomach. A medical professional can identify the underlying cause of the vomiting and get your pooch feeling better as soon as possible.


Now, just because your dog sneezes it doesn't automatically mean allergies are the culprit. Dogs sneeze for a variety of reasons and even use it as a form of communication.

Sneezing becomes an issue when it's continuous and seemingly out of your pet's control. They may experience sneezing fits that last a few minutes outside of their normal behavior patterns. If this happens, examine your dog's nasal passageways to make sure there isn't anything blocking their airway. If nothing is there, allergies may be the cause.

Watery Eyes

Dogs don't cry. Your canine's eyes water from time to time, but this is because something is irritating them.

Watery eyes are one of the most common forms of dog allergies and one of the milder symptoms. If you notice their eyes becoming red, itchy and producing excess tears, they may be having an allergic reaction to something in their environment.

A pet professional administers eye drops if these symptoms persist and may be useful for dogs that experience allergies year-round.

Dog sticks nose out of flowers

Swelling of the Body

Swelling is a common symptom associated with dog allergies. These swellings are found in the face, paws, and reproductive areas. More severe allergies may lead to general inflammation throughout the entire body.

This is rare and considered a life-threatening condition, often accompanied by hives, redness of the skin, vomiting, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and diarrhea. Please seek medical attention immediately if your dog is experiencing these symptoms.

Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

As the seasons change, pollen and other allergens become more apparent. You aren't the only one who may develop the sniffles — your furry companion may also.

Seasonal allergies in dogs are a very real occurrence and are often seen as respiratory issues such as nasal discharge or wheezing. Their symptoms may become triggered after spending time outdoors.

Luckily, some medications combat these symptoms if it's deemed necessary.

Can a Dog's Allergies Go Away With Time?

Dog allergies are challenging because there are so many different types of reactions and irritants.

In some cases, your pet's allergies may subside over time as their immune system adapts to what has triggered the reaction. This is commonly found in puppies because they are commonly sensitive to certain foods initially. As they grow and their body adapts to different foods, these sensitivities subside and disappear.

If your puppy can't initially tolerate corn or wheat, after a few months, try re-introducing these ingredients into their diet in small amounts. Start slow and see how their body reacts. If you begin feeding them a regular serving of these foods, it may be too much for their bodies to handle at this time.

Pay attention to the symptoms listed above to determine whether they have an allergic reaction. Even if the symptoms seem mild, like watery eyes, it's best to cut back and try again later.

Environmental allergies, like grass and pollen, may be life-long triggers for your canine and may require ongoing treatment for management. Most of the time, these external allergies aren't enough to diminish your pet's quality of life.

Dog runs through field of flowers

Food Allergies in Dogs

If you notice your dog not tolerating certain foods well, have a vet instruct you on how to put them on an elimination diet.

An elimination diet consists of removing all food allergens from your dog's consumption for some time. Allowing enough time to pass is crucial to bring your dog's body back to its natural balance. Then, slowly introduce each food into their diet one by one.

By only introducing one food at a time, you create a process of elimination that makes it easy to identify which foods are causing a reaction and which foods aren't.

Every canine's body is different and responds to foods differently. For instance, grain allergies typically cause skin irritation or inflammation in a canine's body. Excessive licking, hives, and sneezing may also be present.

Beef, dairy products, wheat, corn, and eggs are all ingredients that have the most potential to cause your dog to have an upset stomach or other allergy symptoms.

Hypo-Allergenic Dog Foods

If your dog suffers from food allergies, finding hypo-allergenic dog food is essential. Certain brands cater to specific symptoms, so find a brand that's geared toward treating your dog's allergies. These products contain allergy-friendly foods such as brown rice, salmon, sweet potato, and peas.

If you want to take it a step further, try cooking your own dog food. If you like to meal prep at the beginning of your week, throw another pot on the stove and whip up a batch of delicious meals for your pet. Include ingredients like rice, peas, and salmon, and divide it into a couple of meals per day.

These ingredients should be kept in the fridge or even frozen. If you decide to start cooking your dog's meals, make sure you include enough essential nutrients. There are various supplements to add to your home-cooked meals to ensure your pet is healthy and nourished.

Research what foods dogs can and can't eat. It's surprising to learn of foods that may irritate your dog's stomach, such as avocados, grapes, and onions. Once you've gathered a list of ingredients that are canine-safe, start cooking! Once you feel confident, try making your own dog treats.

Dog with allergies sneezes

Cooking for your pet is a great way to have food transparency to keep track of what they're consuming and have better control over managing their allergy symptoms. If you don't have enough time to prepare entire meals, cook a large patch of these ingredients and add a spoonful to their kibble.

Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Wild Earth, talks about how his allergen-friendly plant-based dog food is helping resolve allergies in dogs. “We’ve seen many improvements in animals, whether it’s reductions in allergies and skin issues or reductions in digestive issues. Plant-based foods are high in anti-inflammatory compounds, and we think that’s what’s helping dogs. If you remove the bad meat with potentially toxic ingredients and add anti-inflammatory compounds from plants and yeast, then it should reduce systemic inflammation."

Other Common Allergens for Dogs

Dogs seem to get into just about anything. They're close to the ground, easily jump on high surfaces, and don't mind making a mess of their surroundings. While their innate need for exploration is adorable, never allow them unsupervised access to spaces that have toxic products or products with allergy-inducing ingredients.

Toxic Cleaning Supplies

Check the labels on the cleaners you use to mop your floors, wipe down your counters, and even wash your laundry. All these products contain chemicals that may have the potential to be an allergen for your dog.

One of the most common allergies found in cleaners is chlorine. Your pet may also have a negative reaction to air fresheners, candles, and fragrances.

Avoid triggering your dog's allergies by using canine-safe products as much as possible. If you notice your pet sneezing more or developing watery eyes after mopping or washing their favorite toy in the washer, there may be something in your cleaning products causing the reaction.

If your dog is having a reaction to these chemicals, chances are they aren't great for you to be around, either. Many natural cleaning supplies are dog-friendly and better for their human companions.

Grooming Supplies

If you bathe your dog at home, you may not have thought to look at the ingredients in their shampoo. Unless you've ever had a dog react negatively to grooming products, you may not have a reason to be cautious.

Some grooming products contain chemicals that cause reactions in certain dogs. Often, the reason is unknown, and your dog may just be more sensitive than others. Before buying any grooming products, make sure to research how pet-safe they are and read reviews from other dog owners.

If your dog is allergic to their shampoo, they develop swelling in the eyes and face, have trouble breathing, or develop a rash. In these cases, it's best to treat it like an emergency and take your pet to the vet right away.

Dog lies on couch near hair

Allergies to Other Pets

One of the more uncommon allergies found in dogs is an allergy to other pets or animals. Some canines are allergic to other dogs, rabbits, and even birds.

If you have other pets in the home, keeping them separated from your dog may be necessary. Your dog may react to the saliva or dander in these animals, causing them to have trouble breathing or develop insatiable itching.

If your dog develops allergy symptoms, don't immediately conclude that it's due to having other pets around. This allergen is least likely, so you're better off addressing the potential allergies already listed in this article first.

Testing Your Dog for Allergies

Take your dog to the veterinarian to have them tested for certain allergies. The veterinarian performs these tests using skin or blood from your dog.

Even though dog allergy tests have come a long way, there are still allergens that they aren't being tested for. Most tests check for tree and grass allergies and may not be specific enough to catch more unique triggers.

After receiving the results, if it's determined that your dog has allergies, a vet may prescribe certain medications to offset future symptoms. Medication isn't always necessary, and changes in their diet or environment may do enough to combat these symptoms holistically.

Husky dog sneezes near flowers

When Should You Contact a Vet?

Depending on the symptoms your dog is experiencing, they often mimic other illnesses, such as an infection. Don't ignore any symptoms your dog develops, even if they seem insignificant at the time.

If your dog isn't in a serious or life-threatening condition and is breathing properly, wait a few days to see if their symptoms resolve. Dogs develop colds, just like us, and their symptoms often mimic allergies. However, if your pet's symptoms do not resolve themselves or pose a threat to their life, take them to a vet.

The sooner the symptoms receive treatment, the faster your dog gets back to normal. Keep track of any changes in your pet's behavior or physical health, as this allows you to connect the dots for what may be triggering your dog.

Just a Sneeze or Something Else?

Now that you've learned all about dog allergies, it's important not to believe every sneeze or cough they have is an allergy. Dogs get into so many messes throughout the day, eating bugs, licking their fur, and rummaging through the garbage — of course, you're going to hear a few noises come out of them.

You know your dog better than anyone else and are most likely able to pick up on any new patterns in their behavior. If you start feeding them a new brand of food and they are more nauseous than usual, there's a potential allergen there.

If your dog's sneezing fits become more frequent and less controlled, there may also be a trigger that needs to be addressed.

Use all the helpful tips outlined above to provide a safe and health-promoting environment for your pet. Even if they aren't currently experiencing symptoms, using safety precautions may avoid allergies altogether.

Your dog's immune system only does so much to combat these allergens. You have an even greater impact on overall their health and well-being by being attentive to their symptoms and watching out for potential allergens in their life.

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