What is Your Allergy IQ?

Karen Helton Rhodes, DVM, DACVD & Terri Bonenberger, DVM, DACVD

Board Certified Veterinary Dermatologists


What is Your Allergy IQ?  Do you know these 10 Dog Allergy tidbits?

1.  Dogs absorb allergens through their skin.  Exposure to allergens via inhalation or breathing is not a primary issue in the dog while in people it is a major problem!

This explains why bathing is so important in our canine allergy patients.  Bathing helps remove allergens from the surface of the skin and thus decreases exposure to potential triggers.  Wiping your dog’s paws after a walk outside is also beneficial.

2.  Dog allergies progressively get worse with age.  Allergies in most people tend to improve over time.  This fact explains why it is so important to identify the problem and formulate a treatment plan early in life…..we need to try to prevent an increase in severity of clinical symptoms! Most dogs will start to demonstrate symptoms of allergy (licking paws, rubbing face, shaking head, scratching the armpits, etc.)  between 2- 5 years of age.  Unfortunately, we are seeing clinical expression of allergy much earlier in some of our purebred dogs.


3.  The best way to avoid a lifetime of pills is with allergy vaccine.  Allergies are FOREVER!  Dog’s do not outgrow their allergy so……….to avoid having to administer a lifetime of medication…….. consider allergy testing and vaccine therapy. A simple intradermal skin test can help identify offending allergens that are acting as a trigger for all of your dog’s allergic symptoms.  These antigens (allergens) can then be formulated into a custom vaccine specific for your dog.  This vaccine will modulate your dog’s own immune system to protect your pet.

4.  Oral & Injectable vaccine options!  Allergy vaccine can be given by the owner.  No frequent visits to your veterinarian.  The vaccine can be administered at home in a comfortable setting for your dog.  For pets (or owners) who are “needle shy”…….the vaccine can be given as an oral drop.  Really easy!!  All other necessary medications that your pet may be taking will not interfere with this therapy.  Your dog can also receive all necessary routine vaccines while on allergy immunotherapy.


5.  Brown-stained toes often indicate allergy!  Saliva oxidizes on the surface of the skin and hair and causes a red/brown discoloration or stain.  Dog’s with allergies tend to lick their paws excessively and create this discoloration.    It is easy to tell in an examination if a pet is super itchy and a paw-licker.  Sometimes, pet parents think the paw licking is a habit or an attempt to clean the paws until the behavior escalates!

6.  A large number of ear infections are actually caused by allergy.  Allergies tend to stimulate the glands in the ear canal and create excess wax (cerumen) production.  That excess wax can function as a nice medium for the growth of both yeast and bacteria.  Yes, treat the infection…..but don’t forget to the address the underlying etiology (cause)->allergy!

7.  Chronic inflammation of the ear can cause the ear canal to become completely closed. What was once a large opening can become a pencil thin canal…….it can even become obliterated!  Don’t ignore itchy ears……they may require a long term maintenance therapy to help prevent disaster!

8.  There are NO hypoallergenic breeds!  I know many of you have been told that some breeds will not cause allergies in their human roommates.  Not true ….all dogs have the potential to cause allergies in people.  First: There are No hypoallergenic breeds of dogs that will not cause allergy in people! Second:  Some breeds are more prone to becoming allergic dogs than others.  Allergies are inherited!


9.  Allergies are NOT always seasonal.  The time of year that your dog’s allergies flare will depend on the offending allergen trigger.  Also…..”fun fact”…….75% of seasonal allergy dogs will progress to become non-seasonal over the years.

10.  A large percentage of infections due to bacteria and yeast overgrowth are “caused” by allergy as a primary problem.   Yeast (malassezia pachydermatis…not candida) and staphylococcus bacterial infections are very common in our canine allergy patients.  Routine bathing can prevent these microbial overgrowths and even resolve minor infections.  BATHE your allergy dog 1-2 times per week as a preventative…….and remember, it also removes offending allergens from the skin surface.

For more information from board certified veterinary dermatologists…..on allergies and other topics to help you promote healthy skin for your dog…. visit www.HealthySkin4Dogs.com.