Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Types of Allergies in Pets

If your pet is experiencing an allergic reaction or a yeast or bacteria infection, their symptoms can range from mild to severe:

  • Difficulty breathing is considered “RED” – or true emergency– on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
  • Facial swelling, hives, and wounds caused by itching are considered “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.
  • Hair loss and red eyes, skin, and ears are considered “GREEN” – or non-urgent cases – on our Fast Track Triage system. This means emergency care isn’t needed, but your pet should be evaluated by your family veterinarian within the next few days.
    • Note: If it’s hot out and your dog has been exercising in the heat, red eyes, skin, and ears may be a result of heat exhaustion instead of allergies. Learn more about heat risks here.

Do you have an itchy dog? It could be allergies!

Allergies are common in pets and can be due to a variety of causes. Typically, a pet owner will visit their family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dermatologist after their dog has been unusually itchy and may have sores on the skin. Depending on the allergy, treatment can be simple management like flea allergy dermatitis or it could involve lifelong management of symptoms. Below are some common causes of allergies in dogs and cats.

1. Environmental (Atopic Dermatitis)
Just like with people, dogs and cats can be allergic to grasses, trees, weeds, molds, dander, dust, and dust mites. Signs include scratching, biting, licking or chewing at the paws, red and inflamed skin, sores on the skin, scooting, or chronic ear infections. These symptoms can be seasonal or may occur year-round.

2. Food Allergies
Food allergies or hypersensitivity most commonly develop in response to the protein component in the food (chicken, beef, dairy, eggs, and other sources of protein). Food allergies can develop at almost any age and can produce a variety of clinical signs including itching, digestive disorders, and respiratory distress. The good news is that if your pet has a food allergy, it may be easily controlled with a different diet. Prescription diets can be discussed with your family veterinarian. Grain allergies are extremely uncommon, and grain free is not recommended.

3. Air Pollution in Cats
Another type of environmental allergy is poor air quality. Cats are particularly sensitive to air quality and can develop respiratory issues like wheezing or difficulty breathing. This is known as feline asthma and can be caused by cigarette smoke, aerosols, fragrances, or poor air quality.

4. Fleas
Flea bites can be itchy to most animals. However, some are very sensitive and develop flea allergy dermatitis. This is one allergy that can be cured with the correct treatment plan and prevention.

5. Allergic Reactions
In an emergency setting, the most common type of allergy we see is an acute allergic reaction. Usually, an animal comes in with a puffy face or swollen muzzle, swelling around the eyes, or hives on the body. This type of reaction can be caused by an insect bite, a vaccine reaction, or an unknown allergen. Many times, we are not able to identify the source. Please see your vet immediately if you notice signs of an allergic reaction!

If your pet has any of the above symptoms, please consult with your family veterinarian. There are many causes of the symptoms mentioned above, including and excluding allergies. Your vet can help you determine the cause and can help you come up with a treatment plan. Your vet may also decide to refer you to Dr. Meyer, our board-certified veterinary dermatologist. She can help get down to the bottom of what’s going on with your pet!

Written by Ashley Barott, DVM.


Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet


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