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Allergic Flea and Food Skin Reactions in Dogs - Treating your Dogs Allergies

Updated on May 16, 2013

My personal experience with dog skin allergies

My dog Simon has had severe skin allergies since he was very young (about 2 when we noticed) and treating his skin allergies has been tough on Simon and tough on his family. Growing up with allergies myself, I could relate to Simon's symptoms and for the last 10 years it has been a battle to keep Simon's exposures to allergens at a minimum.

I can give you some tips and ideas here about treating your dogs allergies but you should also talk to your vet about the best way to treat your dogs allergies. Here is Simon's story about his allergies and what the signs and symptoms of skin allergies are in a dog.

Enlarged photo of a flea


California - a BAD place for fleas

We live in California so our temperature here is very temperate - and a perfect breeding ground for fleas. Although we have other dogs and they will get the occasional flea or so - we noticed early on that Simon's reactions to fleas was extreme. After a consultation with his vet, he speculated that Simon was actually allergic to fleas - and that even one flea bite could set him off into an itching, biting and scratching frenzy. This kind of flea allergy in a dog is also called flea allergy dermatitis or flea bite hypersensitivity. At that time we erroneously thought that we only needed to fully treat for fleas during the summer months, but just this week our new vet suggested that we treat for fleas all year round (she said that in states where there are freezes this would probably not be the case) But in California fleas can be a year-long pest.

So in the past we have usually used Advantage or Front-line to treat our dogs for fleas, and occasionally we also have to spray our yards. This summer has been an exception though as we not only need to spray the yard and treat the dogs, we need to start with a year long flea preventative program to keep the fleas at bay (this summer for some reason has been particularly bad) This year round program was suggested by Simon's new vet as this has been the worst allergic reaction that Simon has ever had - perhaps too because he is getting older.

The symptoms of flea allergies in dogs

Common findings in a dog that is allergic to fleas include:

1. Increased scratching or itchiness

2. Loss of hair, broken hairs, crusts and erosion's on the skin, and pimple-like bumps.

3. Thickened skin with darker areas in severe cases.

4. Fleas or flea feces, which can be difficult to detect, indicate that your dog has fleas.

5. Hot spots sometimes can be seen along the dog’s back and at the base of the tail. The sores are usually circular, red, oozing, and very painful, often requiring medical attention.

Simon also has an allergy to corn

Besides beings allergic to fleas, Simon is also allergic to any type of corn - corn in his food, corn syrup and corn in any form. This we also discovered early on and we needed to make sure that every food we gave him had no corn whatsoever in it. The current food we have Simon on is called Diamond, and he has been on this for several years with good results.

Symptoms of a food allergy in a dog could present itself with the following symptoms:

Symptoms of a Dog Food Allergy

1. Heavy shedding, or shedding in just certain areas

2. Dry and itchy skin

3. Ear infections or stinky/smelly ears

4. Chronic hot spots

5. Chewing on self to the point of self mutilation

6. Poor coat

7. Stomach upset

8. Paw chewing

Horrible flea infestation on a dog

Excoriations and crusts and stick-tight fleas on a dog; above eye.
Excoriations and crusts and stick-tight fleas on a dog; above eye. | Source

Untreated allergies in dogs may lead to prednisone treatment

If left untreated, your dogs allergies can become a vicious circle of scratching, biting, itching and misery for your dog. If your dogs allergies get severe, a prednisone shot may be needed to treat a skin bacterial infection and to calm your dogs system down. Prednisone shots are not a long term cure however. They are only meant as a way to treat your dogs emergency with his /her allergies and give your dogs systems a chance to heal. After a prednisone shot you will usually be given more prednisone tablets for a 2 week course of treatment, with a tapering off in the second week (it's not good to stop prednisone cold turkey - it is a steroid) Your dog may also be given an anthi-histamine to help with the itching. An antibiotic will also be given if there is a skin infection. Bathing your dog with a medicated dog shampoo can also provide temporary relief of symptoms.

Over the course of Simon's life we have had to give him prednisone shots and treatment about 3 times. This is when his food/flea allergies have gotten really bad and he was chewing on his skin (this is one of the symptoms) If you have a dog with food allergies you need to make sure they do not have access to cat food, another dogs food with the offending allergen in it, any table scraps that may contain the allergen and also be careful of any food that you buy for your dog (check for corn - it is a common allergen and used as a filler in many dog foods) Also be careful what treats you feed your dog - hypoallergenic treats are best.

If your dog is showing any of these signs of an allergic skin reaction, I would advise you to see your vet and begin treating the source of your dogs allergies. Although sometimes time consuming, and expensive, treating your dog allergies will give your dog a much better quality of life (and help you sleep at night) Feel free to ask me questions her about your dogs allergies here under the comments sections.

(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer.publisher and mother to 2 border collies and stepmother to 2 pit-bulls)


Submit a Comment

  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    6 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    @BrightMeadow) I know what you mean about the expensive dog food. We feed Simon "Diamond", it costs us $30 for a 40 pound bag from our local feed store. It is a high quality food without the big price tag. It also has no corn in it. Try that and also make sure your dog has no fleas. Even one flea on an allergic dog can send them into a frenzy. Let me know how things work out.

  • BrightMeadow profile image


    6 years ago from a room of one's own


    Thank you so much for this hub. I'm pretty certain one of my dogs has food allergies, possibly two of them. The poor guy had chronic ear infection when I first got him-- finally got that cleared up for the time being. He also chews on himself a lot, especially his paws, often to the point of whining. My vet has not been the best, so I have been doing research myself on how to help he dog, also looking for a new vet. I plan to buy new dog food on my next pay check. Any suggestions. I have found some where corn is not one of the first few ingredients on the list, but the ones with no corn at all are increadibly expensive.

    Thanks again for the hub. It has confirmed some of my suspicions.

  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    7 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    @Karen) Thanks for the tip! I love those natural remedies.

  • Karen Ellis profile image

    Karen Ellis 

    7 years ago from Central Oregon

    Hi Dorsi,

    Thanks for stopping by and reading my piece on Occupying Wall Street. Here, in Central Oregon, flees are not a big problem. However, we addopted a Jack Russel dog and she is wonderful. However, she's like a blood hound, keeping her nose to the ground most of the time. Recently we noticed her starting to scoot her bottom on the floor, a sign of intestinal worms. I didn't want to give her the standard chemical medication from the vet, as I had heard it is very strong and hard on the dog. I did some research and found that ground raw pumpkin seeds would do the trick. Sure enough, she is not longer scooting on the floor after about a week of pumpkin seeds. Because, this is a common problem for dogs, I thought it might be of some use.

  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    7 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    @Koffee) Thanks for reading and yes, it's amazing what just one flea can do to a dog that has a flea allergy.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Hazelton 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Great advice. When our dog showed the symptoms of flea allergy we had no idea what it was. We were amazed to find out that a flea could affect a dog this severely.

  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    7 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    @Eiddwen) Thank you for reading. Yes it seems to be a bad season for dog allergies. I appreciate your comment.

  • Eiddwen profile image


    7 years ago from Wales

    Hi Dorsi,

    Thank you so much for this very useful hub. Allergies in dogs seems to be rife round here at the moment with owners racking their brains not knowing what to try next.

    I'm sure this hub will benefit many.

    Thanks for haring and take care


  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    7 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    @Robin) I don't know what vet you use but this time I tried Simon on a product called Simple Guard which is made by VCA Vet. I just bought one vial to check it out but so far so good. I have had good luck with Frontline and Advantage too (and BTW you can get these cheaper on EBay) They are so expensive but so worth it!! Good luck with your furbaby. Allergies are horrible for the poor pooches. I lost A lot of sleep these last few weeks - and so did poor Simon he was so miserable poor baby.

  • Robin profile image

    Robin Edmondson 

    7 years ago from San Francisco

    This is great advice and so pertinent right now for us. After reading your Hub, I think our German Shepherd has a flea allergy. She doesn't have many fleas, I've never found one on her, but she has the exact symptoms. I haven't put frontline on her since her last bath and she's been itching again. She went on antibiotic a few months back because of the skin irritation and I'm hoping she doesn't have to do that again. It was so hard getting her to take the medication! Going to put that frontline on as soon as we get home! Thanks!


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