Dog Allergies To Fleas And Atopy

Up to 20 per cent of dogs have skin problems due to allergies1. Amongst other things these can be triggered by fleas and pollen, make the animal very itchy and drive both owner and dog crazy.

While scratching is the most obvious sign that a dog is itchy, there are other signs, such as licking (particularly the paws), biting and chewing, rubbing its body along the ground or, in the case of itchy ears, shaking its head.

You may also see other signs such as reddened skin, hair loss, pimples, or weeping or flaking skin. Allergic skin is normally inflamed, which raises the skin temperature and humidity and makes the environment perfect for bacterial and fungal growth. Skin infections are common in dogs with allergic skin diseases.

The following are some of the more common types of dog allergies.

Flea allergy

While flea bites themselves can be itchy, dogs with an allergy to flea saliva will show extreme symptoms when infested
with only a small number of fleas.

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A common pattern observed in cases of flea-allergy dermatitis, (FAD) is hair loss and red skin which progresses to thickened dark-colored skin in a Christmas tree pattern over the rump and down the top of the tail.

Allergies to other parasites, such as mites or lice may also occur, but far less commonly. A good flea treatment for the dog and any other pets in the household, as well as treating the environmental stages of fleas, is the best place to start for managing flea allergies.


Atopy is an allergy to inhaled pollens or other substances. It usually starts in dogs at least one to three years of age, and has a seasonal pattern corresponding with the time the particular pollen is prevalent in the dog's range.

Animals can also be allergic to house dust, dust mites, molds and even feathers - these allergies occurs all year round. Some breeds seem to suffer this problem more often than others, with small terriers (particularly the West Highland White), Poodles, Dalmatians, Labradors, Boxers, Schnauzers, Setters and Beagles more susceptible. However these allergies can occur in any breed or cross.

"The hair on their paws is commonly stained brown due to chewing, licking and exposure to substances in the saliva."

Atopy-affected dogs seem to get particularly itchy on the paws and ears. The hair on their paws is commonly stained brown due to chewing, licking and exposure to substances in the saliva. They may get recurrent ear and skin infections. Some allergic dogs also suffer hayfever-like symptoms, such as sneezing and runny eyes. Identifying and removing the allergen is the best way to treat these allergies, but that is often impractical. Bathing the dog in a soothing, hypoallergenic shampoo, such as one containing oatmeal or aloe vera, will help to remove allergens from the dog's skin and is a good place to start. Fatty acid supplements with food may also help.

1. What is Shampoo Therapy? Dermapet Inc.