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Skin Allergy in Cats and Dogs: Diagnosis and Treatment

Updated: Mar 28

Skin allergies are the most common reason for itchy skin in pets resulting in major discomfort for your pet. They are more common during the warmer seasons when seasonal allergies are more likely to occur.

Common Symptoms of skin allergies include:

  • Itchy skin

  • Rashes and redness

  • Hair loss (alopecia)

  • Infections (skin and ear infections)

  • Overgrooming

  • Dark, thickened skin

  • Weepy eyes

  • Acute moist dermatitis

  • Skin Sores/lesions

  • Dandruff

There are 3 main causes of skin allergies in pets: Flea Allergy Dermatitis, Food Allergies, and Environmental Allergies.

  • Flea allergy dermatitis: This is caused by an allergy to flea saliva. This makes the pet very itchy, especially around the base of its tail and lumbar area, causing the skin around affected areas to become red, inflamed, and scabbed. You may notice fleas and flea dirt on your pet, but not seeing fleas does not mean they are not there. Flea control involves killing fleas on your pet using preventatives (topical or oral medications) and in their environment (Frequent vacuuming and washing pet beddings).

  • Food allergies: This can cause itchy skin as well, with the ears and paws being the most common places the pet itches. These allergies can often be accompanied by gastrointestinal problems as well.

  • Environmental Allergies: Dust, pollen, and mold can cause atopic allergic reactions or atopic dermatitis. The most common, affected areas are the paws, and ears, but can also include the wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and in between the toes.

If your pet has developed a skin allergy, then it means that they are sensitive to something that they come into contact with daily.

  • Fleas

  • Food

  • Pollens, grass, trees, and molds

  • House mites

  • Dust mites

  • insects

Diagnosing and Treating skin allergy

As stated above, diagnosing pet allergies can be a tricky process due to the uncertainty of what your pet is reacting to. It is recommended to take your pet to a veterinarian to get a better idea of what could be causing the allergic reaction through the process of elimination. For example, to rule out food allergies they may place your pet on an elimination diet, which involves feeding them a novel source of protein for 8-12 weeks. Or, to rule out parasites, they will prescribe medication to get rid of any parasites such as fleas, that may be causing the allergic reaction. Flea allergy dermatitis is usually the easiest allergy to diagnose because veterinarians can identify where fleas are hiding on the body and apply medication that kills them to see if that solves the skin issues.


Pet skin conditions can range from mild to severe, and it is important to seek veterinary treatment to prevent them from getting worse. While it may seem like common sense, the best way to prevent a skin allergy is to avoid the thing that causes the reaction. This may include lifestyle changes such as an altered diet, altered environment, or reduced time outdoors in certain areas. For more information on skin conditions and how they affect your pet, research different articles such as this one, or refer to our list of resources down below. Please call us at 559-434-5470 to make an appointment with us today if you believe your pet is suffering from any form of skin infection. You can also request an appointment online by clicking here.



  1. American Kennel Club. Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatments

  2. PDSA The Vet Charity for Pets in Need. Skin Allergy in Dogs.

  3. MSPCA Kindness and care for animals. Anaphylaxis in Dogs and Cats.

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