Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Allergies in Dogs Symptoms | Airways, Gastrointestinal, Nasal and Emotional Well-Being

Airways and Respiratory Issues

Dogs can experience a range of respiratory issues linked to allergies but fortunately, they are less likely to be affected by this than cats. Irritation, inflammation and swelling can impact the throat, bronchial tubes or lungs and can give rise to a variety of symptoms including congestion and associated secondary infections. For example, you may notice changes in the way your dog breathes e.g. wheezy/rasping, or issues to do with coughing, sleep disturbances, snoring or gagging (especially when drinking or eating). Although in the vast majority of cases such symptoms are relatively mild e.g. slightly wheezy due to a pollen allergy, one must be aware of the risk of less common but more severe allergy symptoms.

Other possible interrelated inflammatory respiratory conditions include bronchitis and asthma:

  • Bronchitis refers to the condition characterized by viscous mucus or phlegm and breathlessness caused by bacteria, viruses or particulate irritants (e.g. air pollution) due to acute or chronic inflamed or infected bronchial tube linings. Bronchitis associated with allergies is termed allergic bronchitis.
  • Asthma refers to a chronic condition characterized by breathing problems, chest tightness, coughing and wheezing caused by swelling, inflammation and muscle tightening of the airways. Asthma associated with allergies is termed allergic asthma.
  • Asthmatic bronchitis refers to when the above two conditions coexist. Allergens such as dander or pollen represent but one of many possible triggers for this condition e.g. exercise, tobacco smoke or weather changes. Asthmatic bronchitis associated with allergies can be termed allergic asthmatic bronchitis.

Allergies in Dogs Symptoms - Airways, Gastrointestinal, Nasal and Emotional Well-Being

Gastrointestinal Issues

Gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and/or diarrhea are commonly associated with food intolerance, although the symptoms of food allergies may appear to be similar. So what is the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy?

Food intolerance

Food allergy

Does not involve immune system reaction and is usually due to the inability to digest a specific ingredient e.g. lactose intolerance (milk contains lactose).

Involves immune system reaction associated with IgE and various chemical mediators.

Symptoms can be debilitating and life impacting (e.g. headaches, dullness of thought, lethargy, skin problems, feeling poorly) though not life-threatening.

Symptoms can be varied in nature and affect multiple organs and systems in the body with the potential to be life-threatening.

Typical symptoms are gastrointestinal related e.g. gas and bloating, constipation or diarrhea.

Typical symptoms include skin problems and rashes (especially ear flaps, muzzle and elbows), itching (with associated repetitive chewing, licking and nibbling of skin) as well as possible vomiting.

Tend to develop over a period of time.

Can present all year round i.e. not seasonal.

Individual may be able to consume small amounts of the problematic food or even larger amounts on an infrequent basis.

Tiny amounts of food can trigger an immediate, serious reaction.


Gastrointestinal problems due to allergies typically result from ingesting the allergen e.g. food or prescription medication allergies, although they can result from contact or inhalation. Symptoms such as eructation (burping) and flatulence (passing gas) may or may not develop. If vomiting or diarrhea occur it results from the dog’s body attempting to expel the ingested allergen as quickly as possible. The severity of the allergy will often determine how quickly the dog vomits; vomiting may occur within minutes of eating in a severe reaction, or an hour or more when less severe.

Irritation and inflammation may develop along the digestive system lining where the allergen has passed, and even if the dog does not vomit or appear to have diarrhea, this type of allergic reaction may be indicated by the dog opening its bowels more frequently and/or passing softer stools. Although the passage of abnormal amounts of jelly-like mucus in the stools can be due to a variety of other conditions e.g. intestinal bacterial/fungal/parasitic infections or Crohn’s disease, it can occur with both food intolerance and food allergies.

It must be noted, however, that allergy symptoms may not always fit conveniently into a clearly defined category. For example, a dog with a food allergy can experience gastrointestinal problems coupled with itching, scratching and/or other allergy symptoms e.g. coughing or breathing issues. Furthermore, as was discussed in allergic to dogs symptoms, remember that the type, frequency and severity of allergy symptoms experienced by a dog are highly individual and can change over time.

Nasal Issues

Sneezing can occur in clusters and last several minutes in duration. During such episodes the dog may produce excessive mucus around its nose but if it is viscous in nature and/or discolored, it may be indicative of congestion and a secondary infection.

Allergy-related sneezing can be triggered by various substances e.g. perfumes or cigarette smoke, though common allergic rhinitis sneezing symptoms are typically associated with grass, tree and weed pollens. In addition, sneezing episodes can be caused by dander, dust and dust mites as well as feathers and mold spores in a dog sensitive to such allergens. Though nasal issues are a common allergy sign in humans e.g. pollen, in dogs, they are less common than skin-related problems.

Physical and Emotional Well-Being

Allergy symptoms can have a significant impact on both the physical and emotional well-being of a dog. Even though a dog may not have the same level of sentience as a human, physical discomfort and pain still affect its emotional stability and, if chronic in nature, the animal may become withdrawn, lethargic, depressed and exhibit neurotic-like behavior.

The inability to communicate as easily as a person means the allergy symptoms could have been present for many weeks or months before the owner recognizes there is a problem. For example, a dog with a predisposition to suffer an anaphylactic response to a given allergen will exhibit obvious and extreme symptoms, whereas a low-grade mild allergy response e.g. to a certain food ingredient, may initially go unnoticed and leave the dog feeling increasing poorly and irritable over a considerable time period.

Sleep disturbances, toilet or leash trained regression, irritability and the risk of snapping or biting can all be a manifestation of a dog suffering from allergies. Therefore, an owner who has invested time and energy in bonding with their dog will be more attuned to their nature and patterns of behavior and therefore more likely to detect a problem at an early stage.

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