Itching, licking and scooting; these are just some of the things we’ve grown accustomed to with Yellow Dog. We’ve known for quite some time Yellow is an allergy sufferer, and we’ve also known it’s not food related. Yellow has atopy, one of the four main kinds of allergies found in dogs; atopy is a reaction to harmless allergens in the environment. We didn’t know exactly what those allergens were, until now.

allergic dog has belly rash
Yellow Dog developed this belly rash while we were visiting a friend’s house. Turns out, he’s allergic to cats.

Yellow’s symptoms were getting worse, so our regular vet recommended we see a specialist. We visited the Pet Emergency & Specialty Center of Marin to see a dermatologist who could properly diagnose and treat his allergies. Dr. Nicole Eckholm is one of about a dozen dermatology veterinarians in the Bay Area. She administered a skin test, testing 58 possible allergens; Yellow had positive reactions to 11 items including three types of grasses, several trees, a type of mites, and cats.

It’s that time of year when dogs start licking, scratching, and scooting. It’s allergy season!

Symptoms of dog allergies include redness or rashes on the skin and paws.
Symptoms of dog allergies include redness or rashes on the skin and paws.

Yes, dogs can have allergies, too! In fact, the canine allergy season often coincides with human allergy seasons. And it’s not just grass and tree pollens, dogs can be allergic to anything; wool, cats, mites, insects—you name it!

There are four main categories of allergy:  atopy, flea, food, and contact. You can distinguish atopy, or environmental allergies, from other types of allergies because they are seasonal; allergy symptoms often come and go but symptoms with other forms of allergy are constant.

Dr. Brandy Vickers of Avenues Pet Hospital in San Francisco details some of the symptoms of dogs with atopy, or allergy to airborne pollens:

  • Itchy skin without lesions
  • Licking of feet or front legs
  • Chewing or licking flanks (sides) and belly
  • Face rubbing
  • Scooting
  • Red skin
  • Recurring skin and/or ear infections
  • Loss of fur

“Symptoms usually start between nine months and three years of age and are seasonal,” Dr. Vickers add. “As these pets get older, their itchy season becomes longer until they are itchy year-round.”

It’s important to note licking is not normal behavior for a dog.

“Dogs lick to clean themselves only in the sense that if something is on their paw, they lick to get it off,” behavioral therapist and trainer Beverly Ulbrich says. “They will also lick if they are aggravated or itchy from allergies, and they lick as a nervous habit.”