Dog allergies can often be triggered by substances they inhale, ingest, or get on their fur and skin. The substances that trigger an allergic reaction are usually referred to as allergens. While there are many different types of allergens, some of the most common tend to be environmental allergens and food allergens.
Environmental allergens can come from both natural and artificial sources, and they can trigger many of the allergic reactions described above. Some of the most common types of environmental allergens for dogs include:1
- Seasonal allergens: These are naturally occurring allergens — like pollen, mold, grass, dirt, and plants — that tend to grow or appear at certain times of the year.
- Flea and parasite allergens: While flea bites and other parasites can be annoying by themselves, another common cause of skin allergies is flea allergy dermatitis — an allergic reaction to the saliva spread by flea bites or dust mites.2
- Other animals: Your dog can have an allergic reaction to animal dander, fur, or feathers.
- Chemicals: In addition to cigar or cigarette smoke, dogs may be allergic to cleaning products or strong soaps, perfumes, and shampoos. Your dog may also have a reaction to the plastics found in some food bowls and water dishes.
- Pest control products: This may include bug sprays and chemical traps. If you hire an exterminator, let them know you have a dog so they can use a pet-safe products.
Another possibility can be a food allergy, which may be caused by one or more ingredients in your dog’s food. Some common ingredients that may trigger an allergic response in your dog include chicken, beef, lamb, or even wheat.
Also, food allergies don’t always occur right away. Your dog may develop an allergy to a type of food, even after they’ve eaten it for a number of years.
If your dog doesn’t tolerate some store-bought food well, it may be food sensitivity rather than a food allergy. While a food allergy is triggered by the immune system, a food sensitivity is triggered by the digestive system.
Signs of a food sensitivity may include gastrointestinal problems, like diarrhea or vomiting. If your dog isn’t getting enough nutrition because their food doesn’t agree with them, it can also contribute to a poor coat, itchy skin, or chronic infections of the ears or feet.
If your dog is suffering from allergies, there are different treatment options available based on whether the allergen is environmental or food-related. Depending on your chosen method — medication, immunotherapy, or diet — dog allergy treatment costs can vary.
If you suspect an environmental allergen is contributing to your dog’s allergies, try to eliminate it if you can, or switch to a pet-friendly product. If it isn’t possible to keep your dog away from an environmental allergen, your veterinarian may be able to recommend one of these over-the-counter treatments to help make your dog’s life a little easier.
- Antihistamines: Certain medications, like Benadryl for dogs, can block the body’s immune response to prevent allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.
- Steroids: Your vet may prescribe topical hydrocortisone for use on your dog’s skin to relieve hot spots, itching, and other skin problems.
When over-the-counter medications aren’t strong enough, your vet may prescribe an anti-itch pill, like Apoquel, or an anti-itch allergy shot, like Cytopoint. These dog allergy treatment costs can vary depending on where you live, the size of your dog, and how often they need the medication — and could be a few hundred dollars per year.
If your dog has severe allergies or doesn’t respond well to medication your vet may recommend immunotherapy. This treatment introduces small amounts of the allergen to your dog’s body and gradually increases the dose over time, allowing them to build up a resistance.3
To help narrow down a potential cause, your vet may recommend a skin test or blood test that can show what substances, or types of substances, your dog may be reacting to. Dog allergy testing costs vary based on where you live and how many tests are needed, but it may cost around $200 or more.4
Once the allergens are identified, your vet may use under-the-skin injections or under-the-tongue drops to introduce the allergen. It can take up to a year to determine if the treatment is effective, so your vet will probably continue to recommend medication or other treatments.3
If you’re concerned that your dog may be allergic to an ingredient in their food, talk to your vet. Depending on the severity of your dog’s response, the vet may recommend an elimination diet.
With an elimination diet, you may need to feed your dog a prescription diet for a few months. Once their allergy symptoms have cleared up, you can reintroduce foods back into your dog’s diet to help determine which ones were causing the allergic reaction.
From there, your vet may be able to recommend a different brand that provides them with the right balance of nutrients while eliminating ingredients that may be causing an allergic reaction.
If you suspect your dog has an allergy, it’s recommended that you get a proper diagnosis by scheduling a vet visit. A complete evaluation and medical history review can help target the root cause quickly and effectively.
While allergies can be treated, they can’t currently be cured. This can lead to long-term costs for medications or immunotherapy. Getting a dog insurance policy can help make these more affordable, so you can focus more on giving belly rubs and less on veterinary bills.
Take Millie, a young pup from California, for example. Millie’s owners started noticing her itching after playing outside. One vet visit later, she was diagnosed with environmental allergies. The visit and initial treatment cost almost $1,300, but her pet parents were reimbursed for the entire bill thanks to their pet insurance policy.
A MetLife Pet policy also helps senior Nevadan dog, Tank, with his yearly allergy exams and treatments that cost around $500. For his third-year visit, Tank’s parents were reimbursed over $460 because of their dog insurance policy.5
Ready to explore coverage options with MetLife Pet Insurance? Learn more about the cost of pet insurance, or get your free personalized quote today.