Dog Allergy Symptom #8. Loose Stools & Diarrhea.

If your dog has a frequent case of loose stools or diarrhea, it is likely that they are allergic to something in their food or environment. You may notice that their problem becomes worse when they are under stress.

Our dog Elsie had loose stools almost from the beginning.  The poor dog would often get the runs and require emergency trips outside.  Once I learned she had allergies, I figured it was just the way she was.

But, when we switched her to a limited ingredient dog food (we chose
Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison
), we noticed a miraculous transformation.  She suddenly had normal, firm looking stools!  I realize it’s not terribly cool to discuss such things, but when you have a sick dog, you analyze everything – including their poop.  My husband and I were thrilled!  I’m sure Elsie was happier too.

If you often find your dog dealing with diarrhea, you should talk to your vet.  And, preferably, bring them a stool sample. Although allergies are often to blame, there are other causes for loose stools, including stress, bacterial infections, and viral infections.

Dog Allergy Symptom #7. Dark, Red Skin.

Dark hair and skin caused by dog allergies. Photo courtesy of Elsie the Boxer.

If your dog has allergies, you may notice that their hair and skin is turning a reddish brown color.  This discoloration can show up anywhere on your pet’s body, but is often seen between toes, under arms and on abdomens.

With our dog Elsie, we noticed this discoloration most dramatically between her toes and around her muzzle. We first noticed that her white and fawn colored hair was taking on a reddish hue. Eventually this discoloration moved to her skin as well.

An example of Elsie’s dark red skin and fur is shown in the photo to the left.  You can see how bright the top of her white marking is, compared with the bottom area – around her toes.  Although not completely captured in this photo, the skin and hair between her toes was an even deeper red/brown coloring.

Some allergic dogs also have issues with dark, almost black patches appearing on their skin.  This is known as hyperpigmentation, a condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. Hyperpigmentation is often combined with hair loss or balding.

As with all allergy symptoms, if you see reddish discoloration or signs of hyperpigmentation, you should talk to your veterinarian.  They should be able to help you to determine if your dog is indeed suffering from allergies, or if their skin condition is related to a different health issue.

Dog Allergy Symptom #6. Hair Loss.

As our dog Elsie’s allergy sensitivities increased, her fur became dry and brittle. Her hair became thin around her neck, behind her ears, above her tail and on her hips.  Much like an aging, old man, it got to where you could see through her hair to her skin.  It was a pretty sad scene.

I recall one spring day (at the height of allergy season), I took Elsie for a walk and ran into an acquaintance.  Elsie was young and excitable at the time and started marching around in circles, pulling on her leash – as she would often do when I’d stop to chat with someone.

As we exchanged small talk, this fellow looked at Elsie and his face morphed into a concerned, almost angry expression.  I looked down too, to make sure she wasn’t doing something embarrassing.  She was just wiggling and wagging from what I could see – nothing unusual.  He then said, “You really should loosen her collar. It’s making all of her hair fall out.”

I recall being shocked at his statement; an emotion that was immediately followed by anger. I tried to explain that she had allergies that were causing the hair loss, but my efforts were a waste of time and energy.  He just nodded and continued on his way.  I’m sure it was much easier for him to believe that I was an uncaring dog owner, rather than try to understand the frustrating complexities of dog allergies.

Hair loss is a common symptom of dog allergies. Although seasonal hair loss and shedding is normal for dogs, if your pup’s hair is thinning in patches, be sure to have them checked out.  Be aware that hair loss can also be related to mange, ringworm, or other non-allergy problems, so visit your vet before jumping to any conclusions.

I’m happy to say that with Elsie’s current allergy treatments (allergy testing & allergy shots), her hair has grown back wonderfully. Her bald, thinning coat is now plush and glossy – well, at least as plush as a Boxer can be. I’m also happy to say that I don’t run into that know-it-all fellow on walks anymore.  I’m sure if I would, he’d take a look at Elsie’s plush coat and pat himself on the back for giving me such good and effective advice!

Dog Allergy Symptom #5. Bacterial Skin Infections & Skin Bumps

Ahh, the dreaded Dog Cone Collar. A necessity when your pup won't stop licking open sores.

Unlike humans, who display allergy symptoms through watery eyes and sneezing, dogs often show their allergy symptoms through their skin.  In his book “Pet Allergies“, Alfred J. Plechner, DVM refers to a dog’s skin as the “external spokesman for internal affairs.”  Reoccurring skin problems are often signs that your dog is suffering from more serious food or environmental allergies.

Unfortunately, dogs do not understand how bacterial infections are spread.  When dogs have a skin infection, they are usually pretty uncomfortable.  The only way they know to “treat” the problem is to lick and chew where it hurts.  They do not realize that their constant licking, biting and chewing can introduce and spread bacteria – which often leads to more infections.

If you notice red bumps on your dog’s belly, chin, ears, feet or other areas, you should visit your vet.  These skin bumps may be staph or other serious bacterial infections and should be treated. Most veterinarians will recommend antibiotics to treat the infection.

If your dog has frequent infections, you should press your veterinarian to find out what the real cause is.  Antibiotics may treat the problem in the short term, but unless you treat the cause, you will likely find your dog in the same predicament in the very near future.

Dog Allergy Symptom #4. Licking and Chewing Their Feet.

Dog PawsWhen our dog Elsie was less than a year old, she started to lick her paws whenever she was resting. I had read that Boxers were fastidious cleaners, so I assumed that this was a breed trait coming out and thought cleanliness was a good thing.

Over time, her foot licking became more frequent and vigorous, and eventually lead to foot chewing. She would often wake up from a deep sleep and start biting and chewing her feet such intensity that we realized something wasn’t right. Her paws became red and irritated and the hair around her toes became thin.

At closer inspection, we noticed that the skin between Elsie’s toes and the area around her nails were becoming a dark brownish, red color. Our puppy’s beautiful white “socks” were turning a rusty red and she was clearly uncomfortable.

Obsessive foot licking and chewing is a common sign of atopic dermatitis or skin allergies.  If you find that your dog is constantly licking or gnawing at their feet, it is quite possible that they are suffering from allergies.

Before you jump to any conclusions, you’ll want to inspect their feet. Gently check between their toes and the bottom of their paw pads to make sure there aren’t any cuts or splinter.  If you have a dog with longer hair, make sure they don’t have any items like matted fur or sticks or burs which may be irritating their feet.

Once you’ve determined that your dog’s licking and chewing is not related to an injury or irritant, take your dog in to a veterinarian. Too much foot chewing can lead to bacterial infections or other skin problems. Plus, it can make life quite uncomfortable for your furry friend.

Once we found an allergy treatment that worked for Elsie (more on that later), her rusty red feet eventually reverted back to their original pretty white coloring. She no longer licks or chews on her feet and is able to relax like a normal dog.

Dog Allergy Symptom #3. Gas.

For the first two years of Elsie’s life, our family and extended family had several good laughs about our farting dog.  She farted, tooted, squeaked – you name it.  My husband and I were used to it, but it would get a bit embarrassing during holidays or visits from friends.  I always tried to keep a candle going after dinner, in attempts to mask the suspicious odor that would come from her direction.  Inevitably someone would say “Oh, Elsie!” and the room would clear out. Poor smelly dog.

I remember thinking that maybe it was a boxer thing. My family never had boxers growing up. I read once that boxers tend to have digestive issues, so I just wrote it off as a breed problem. When we finally switched her to the right diet, the gas almost completely went away. Thankfully for her, and us, all we live with now is an occasional toot.

If your dog has excessive gas, he or she may have a food or environmental allergy.  Although farting can be humorous, excessive gas is often a sign of a more serious digestive problem and should be checked by your veterinarian.

Dog Allergy Symptom #2. Ear Infections.

Does your dog have frequent ear infections?  Do they continuously flap or scratch at their ears?  Do their ears have an odor? It is often assumed that ear infections are a sign of ear mites. However, in many cases, chronic ear infections are a sign that a dog allergies.

Ear infections were a regular part of Elsie’s life. In the beginning, whenever she had a bath, went swimming, or had any interaction with water, she’d end up with a nasty ear infection. As months went on, her ear infections would flair up for little reason at all.  The weather would change, we’d go out of town for a weekend – any small change in routine would trigger an infection.

In attempts to ease her discomfort, she’d claw at her ears and rub her head on the floor. Her head flapping and ear scratching resulted in cuts and scratches that would open and introduce new infections. It was a pretty ugly scene.

Elsie is now on allergy shots, and thankfully doesn’t have the same ear issues.  However, we still find that regular ear cleaning is an absolute must as part of her grooming routine.  To prevent infections, we clean her ears each week with a solution called Epi-Otic®. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a similar non-irritating cleansing solution.

To clean your dog’s ears, simply squirt the solution in their ear canal, gently rub the ears and then wipe off any excess liquid.  It takes less than five minutes and can make a big difference in your dog’s comfort. If your dog is like most, it will automatically shake its head – so you may want to do this in your bathtub or outdoors to prevent your walls being covered with the cleanser.

If your dog has frequent ear infections, talk to your veterinarian. This is likely a sign of allergies or some other problem with their immune system.

Dog Allergy Symptom #1. Itchy, Scratchy Skin.

All dogs scratch themselves, right?  Of course, it’s part of being a dog.  There’s the occasional, normal head scratching and then there’s allergy itching. Allergic dogs scratch as if they want to remove a layer of skin – and they often will.

The itchiest areas are often their ears, muzzles and chin. If your dog often rubs their chin on the floor, rubs their paws over their eyes or scratches at their ears – they may have allergies. When my dog Elsie’s allergies were at their worst, she would wake up every morning and rub her face on the carpet. When she wasn’t rubbing her face, she was scratching at her mouth and ears.

Elsie with her ear-protecting bandage

Over time, this excessive scratching not only causes open cuts and sores, but can also lead to infections. At one point, we had to wrap Elsie’s head in bandages to prevent her from opening up existing sores on her ears.  During less dramatic scratching sessions, we would stick Band-aids on the tips of her ears to minimize the bleeding.  Sure, she would scratch them off, but they would usually hold for a couple of hours.

Although constant scratching is often a symptom of allergies, it’s important to know that other conditions such as mange and fleas can contribute to this itching.  First consult with your veterinarian prior to taking any steps to treat allergies.

Dog Allergy Symptoms

It’s safe to say that my Boxer dog Elsie has a severe case of allergies.  When her allergies were at their worst, I was convinced she would not live to be four years old. She was on a constant diet of prescription allergy drugs and antibiotics, which did little more than keep her from tearing out her fur. That year alone, we spent over $2,000 on veterinary bills. And all we had to show for it was a sick dog.

Elsie first started exhibiting allergy symptoms when she was less than a year old.  I remember giggling to myself one night as I watched her rub her chin on the floor.  I thought she looked so cute, bobbing her head back and forth on the rug.  “Oh, does someone have an itchy chin?” I said.  Little did I know how itchy that chin and the rest of the dog would get.

Over time, the cute itching would turn into violent scratching and chewing. Her scratching would create sores on her ears which would open and bleed each time she flapped her head. Her chewing would turn her paws dark red and cause hair loss on her haunches.  In the beginning, I thought she was just being a dog.  Later, I learned she was losing a painful battle against her deficient immune system.

Over the next several posts, I’ll share some of the top dog allergy symptoms. If your dog is showing some of these symptoms, it’s possible they may have a food or environmental allergy.  If so, you should consider consulting with a qualified veterinarian for specific instructions on the treatment and care for your dog.