Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Allergies in Dogs Causes

The range of allergens responsible for allergies in dogs is vast and this can give rise to numerous types of allergy e.g. to food, to insects etc. In effect, there is the potential for almost any substance to elicit an allergy reaction in an individual hypersensitive to it, although in practice, the overwhelming majority of allergens are protein molecules.

A dog predisposed to an allergic reaction will have had to be exposed to the allergen previously and fortunately, most allergy sufferers are only hypersensitive to a limited number of allergens. The most common allergic reaction will involve Type 1 Hypersensitivity (immediate hypersensitivity associated with IgE), although other types of allergic response may be involved e.g. Type 4 Hypersensitivity associated with allergic contact dermatitis.

Categorizing allergens varies depending on the attribute or characteristic chosen. For example:

  • They may be grouped based on the route of exposure and whether they fall into contact (e.g. soap), ingested (e.g. food storage mites) or inhalant (e.g. dander) allergies.
  • Alternatively, one may attempt to group them according to whether they are non-seasonal (e.g. metal allergy) or seasonal (spring – certain tree pollens; summer – various grasses; fall/autumn – weeds such as ragweed; winter – dust mites due to amount of time spent inside) etc.
  • Categorizing them based on symptoms can be a challenge given that the symptom profile resulting from exposure to a given allergen may vary considerably between individuals e.g. one dog may respond to a bee sting by having a small, localized rash whereas another may experience anaphylaxis.
  • Another approach can involve grouping them based on the allergen source or ‘allergen vector’ e.g. allergens associated with fleas (source) can be placed in an insect related category.

Allergies in Dogs Causes - Allergen Source

As opposed to less well-known allergies, such as Dermatographic Urticaria (allergy to touching skin), Aquagenic Urticaria (allergy to water) or even Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity (allergy to semen), the following chart represents the more common sources of allergens that can affect dogs.

Source of Allergens Responsible for Triggering an Allergic Reaction in Dogs

  • Animal dander. Dogs can be allergic to a range of other dander including cat dander (primarily Fel d 1 and Fel d 4 ), human dander (HD) as well as possibly to other dogs.
  • Feathers.
  • Vermin e.g. allergens present in mouse or rat urine.
  • Wool.
  • Carpet fibers.
  • Cigarette smoke.
  • Cleaning products e.g. air fresheners, bleach, furniture polish.
  • Conditioners.
  • Cosmetics.
  • Deodorizers.
  • Detergents e.g. used to wash laundry.
  • Fabrics.
  • Metals e.g. nickel.
  • Perfumes and Fragrances.
  • Pesticides and Insecticides.
  • Plastic based materials.
  • Rubber (latex) materials.
  • Shampoos including medicated shampoos e.g. insecticidal shampoos.
  • Soaps.
  • Wood – dust or solid e.g. cedar.

Note: If you have an allergy-prone dog and use a dog groomer consider a possible link between the products they use and the dog’s allergy.

FOOD RELATED Can include both plant or animal derived ingredients.
Parallels can often be drawn between dog and human food allergies. For example:

  • Literature on human food allergies commonly cite the ‘big 8’ allergy foods (account for 90% of cases) as being eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat (e.g. FDA). However, one must remember that there are numerous other food ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, including eggplant, lentils, maize and rice.
  • Common problematic ingredients known to affect dogs include beef, chicken, corn, dairy produce, fish and shellfish, soy, lamb and wheat. Other common food allergens include celery, eggs, legumes (e.g. peanuts and soybeans), tree nuts (e.g. almonds) and yeast.

Consumption of grains contaminated by storage mites is associated with atopic dermatitis (Arlian et al. 2003, Goicoa et al. 2008). Storage mites include grain mites and their associated pollutants (carcasses, excrement).

Note: Grains in themselves are no more a food allergen than other food ingredients such as beef or chicken.

  • Cockroaches.
  • Dust mites and dust:
    e.g. Asthma linked to bacterial protein in house dust (Wilson et al. 2012).
  • Fleas (including chemicals contained in products designed to treat them).
    Flea bite related allergies are often termed flea allergy dermatitis (FAD); the allergy is triggered by flea saliva being injected during biting. The life cycle of a flea involves the adult flea requiring a blood meal to reproduce and during this time it will seek out a dog to feed on. Therefore, avoiding biting through preventative flea treatment is essential. A single bite can lead to a reaction lasting up to a week.
  • Insect bites or stings e.g. ants, bees, mosquitos, spiders, ticks, wasps to name but a few.
  • Insect droppings, body parts, carcasses and fluids e.g. Asian Ladybugs release a foul smelling orange liquid whose allergenic airborne proteins trigger allergies in those susceptible.
  • Various medications including antibiotics e.g. penicillin.
  • Medicine related allergies can occur via various routes e.g. contact (topically applied medicine), ingestion (tablets, liquids etc.) or inhalation (sprays and inhalers).
  • Immune response to microbial antigens e.g. bacteria, fungi.
  • Typically to the skin residing bacteria Staphylococcus in dogs; particularly in those with pre-existing medical conditions e.g. hypothyroidism, and/or who have concurrent allergies e.g. to fleas.
  • Fungi – Mold and mildew spores.
  • Pollen from grass (e.g. ryegrass, Timothy), trees (e.g. birch, poplar) and weeds (e.g. ragweed and nettles).
  • Autoimmunity and various conditions that result from allergic reactions associated with Type 2, 3 and Type 4 Hypersensitivity.


As noted previously on this site it is important to remember that allergies:

  • Vary significantly between individuals. For example, the age when they develop (or possibly disappear), the frequency/severity of the symptoms experienced or the way they respond to a given treatment.
  • May not always come about in an obvious manner. For example, a severe food allergy can result from exposure to minute amounts of allergen via contact or inhalation (Tan et al. 2001) or due to food ingredients such as almonds, celery, milk, sesame or walnuts being added to treatments or cosmetics.
  • Are not necessarily categorized by the route of exposure i.e. contact, ingestion or inhalation. For example, ingesting an allergen does not mean that a resulting allergy is considered a food allergy. To illustrate this point, an individual with an allergy to plastic additives (Osmundsen 1980) may develop an allergy after consuming food (no allergy to the actual ingredients) that has been stored in plastic bags.
  • Can be concurrent. An individual may be allergic to more than one allergen (concurrent allergies) and the frequency/severity of the different allergies can vary significantly.
  • Can be difficult to determine. Not only for the reasons cited above but also because the symptoms may be similar to other completely unrelated conditions.·


Allergies in Dogs Causes
Most Common Allergies in Dogs – Facts and Statistics Most Common Allergies in Dogs – Facts and Statistics
Discover the most common allergies in dogs including environmental, allergic skin conditions (flea allergy dermatitis and atopic dermatitis) and food allergies.

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