Allergic Skin Reactions in Dogs

Allergic skin reactions in dogs may occur as a result of vaccinations, parasites, environmental factors, medications, foods, sun or insect stings. The allergic skin reactions may vary from hives to a more severe condition known as anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly.


Hives, also known as urticaria, are an allergic skin reaction that will cause a lot of discomfort in the pet. Urticaria manifests through rashes, small bumps, hair loss, sensitive skin and itchiness. These symptoms will be present within one hour of the exposure to the allergen. The causes of urticaria can include food, drugs, vaccines, pollens, chemicals, dust mites, sun, insect stings or parasite bites. Hives can be easily treated with a few topical ointments or natural remedies and bath rinses. However, it is important to detect the factor causing this allergic reaction and administer proper treatment to prevent the recurrence of hives.  

Angiodema or Swelling of Face

The swelling of the face is another allergic skin reaction that can be visible in the eye and muzzle area. In extreme cases, the dog's eyes can be so swollen that he will not be able to open them. This condition may also cause itchiness. The swelling of the face will occur immediately after the dog is exposed to the irritant. This condition can be treated with cold compresses and possibly the administration of antihistamines, which will make the swelling go away. Steroids are given if the swelling is severe. The swelling may subside a few hours after the dog is no longer exposed to the allergen, even without any treatment.

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock, also known as anaphylaxis, is an uncommon allergic reaction that can result in death if no immediate help is administered. This is a condition that evolves from angiodema and also involves the respiratory system, which will become swollen, and the dog may not be able to get air. The dog needs an epinephrine shot, which will immediately reduce swelling and allow breathing.

Prevention of Allergic Skin Reactions

Allergic skin reactions can be prevented by finding the irritant and making sure it is completely removed from the dog's environment. If the dog is allergic to vaccines or a type of medication, this should be recorded in your pet's chart. If the dog is allergic to vaccines, these can be administered, but the vet will administer an antihistamine shot prior to vaccination and keep the dog under surveillance for the first 30 minutes after.

If your dog is allergic to insect stings and the allergic reaction is severe, you cannot prevent the stings, but you can carry an epinephrine shot or an epi-pen at all times and administer this if need be.

Sunscreen is recommended for all dogs, especially if light furred or allergic to sun, and it can prevent allergic skin reactions.