Dog Allergies: When Do They Need Emergency Care?

Dr. Lauryn Benson

Mar 4, 2021

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Although it may be hard to imagine, dogs can suffer from allergies in the same way that humans do. There are many different factors that can cause your dog to experience this condition, and they tend to fall in one or more of these three categories: fleas, food and the environmental.

But how can you tell when your dog needs to see an emergency vet for their allergy symptoms? Below are some causes of dog allergies and when you should take your pet for immediate emergency care. 

6 Common Signs of Dog Allergies

As a pet owner, it’s important to learn about some of the common signs that your dog has allergies so you can get them the care they need as soon as possible.

6 causes of dog allergies include, but aren’t limited to:

Itchy Skin

A very common sign that your dog is suffering from allergies is that they have itchy skin. While it may be difficult to determine if your dog is having an allergy issue, usually dogs who constantly scratch, chew or bite themselves are experiencing itchy skin.

Something else that’s important to keep in mind about itchy skin is that it can lead to your dog developing hot spots. Hot spots can be caused by your pet licking or scratching an infected area of skin over and over again and causing a wound. Constant itchiness can also make your dog start to lose their fur, bleed and develop red spots on parts of their skin. If your dog’s itching is creating wounds, that would be considered an emergency. 

Keep an eye on your dog’s itching and if you notice that they can’t seem to stop this behavior, it’s best to take them to get veterinary care as soon as possible to find out the cause of this problem.

Red Skin

Another sign that your dog may be experiencing problems with allergies is that they’ll start to develop red skin or other types of skin irritation. This is more commonly caused by constant licking or scratching of the same area. 

If you see that your dog has red patches of skin or if they seem to have a type of skin infection, take them to see a veterinarian or emergency vet so your pet can start getting treated and the infected areas of the skin can start healing.


Hives look very similar on dogs as they do on humans. These are raised bumps on the skin that are usually brought on by an allergic reaction to something. 

Hives can form for a variety of different reasons, including if your dog has an insect bite, if they’re allergic to the shampoo you use for them, plants they may be around when they go outside, and many others. 

Though they may not be seen as a severe emergency, hives should still be taken seriously and should be treated as soon as possible so they don’t continue to spread and bother your dog.

Constant Licking and Facial Rubbing

Another common sign that may indicate dog allergies is constant licking of certain areas on your dog’s body, especially the paws, legs, and rectum. In an effort to relieve any itchy sensation, dogs will often lick the areas that are experiencing this rather than using their other paws.

You may also notice that your dog is rubbing their face on things such as the wall, carpet or pieces of furniture. This is another way that dogs try to satisfy the itchiness they’re feeling on certain parts of their body. Rubbing every now and then isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, but if you notice your dog doing this multiple times a day, it’s more than likely that allergies are playing a factor here.

If they are doing it excessively it could warrant an emergency visit to the veterinarian. 


Similar to humans, dogs will begin sneezing if they’re suffering from allergies. Sneezing every once in a while doesn’t necessarily mean that they have allergies, it’s when your pet starts sneezing at a more constant rate that you should begin to consider this condition.

Sneezing could also be caused by other respiratory problems, so it’s important to seek veterinary care sooner rather than later to find out the true cause of this behavior.

Hair Loss

Another symptom of possible dog allergies is hair loss, or alopecia. Dogs lose hair just like we do, and that’s completely normal. However, it’s when your pet starts to lose so much hair that they begin to develop bald spots that this becomes a problem. 

Similar to how redness of the skin can form, hair loss can be caused by your dog constantly scratching or licking the same spots while trying to alleviate the itchiness they’re feeling from their allergies. Other potential causes of hair loss can be if your dog reacts to eating a certain food, fleas or other environmental allergens, but more often than not constant licking or scratching is the culprit here.

Hair loss due to allergies can also be triggered by parasites, such as mange, so it’s always best to take your pet to see a veterinarian or emergency vet as soon as you can.

When Does My Dog Need Emergency Care for Allergies?

There are several cases where you should seek emergency care for your dog’s allergies, and some of the signs and symptoms are listed below.

Swelling of the Ears, Eyelids, or Face

If you notice that your dog is beginning to develop swollen eyes, ears or muzzle, you should take them to see an emergency vet. There could be multiple reasons why this is happening, but it is likely that your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting, plants, new medications or other environmental factors.

In this case, go to an emergency veterinarian right away so your dog can get immediate treatment for their condition. Swelling around the face and neck can lead to restricted airways and can cause your dog to have difficulty breathing, so time is of the essence for caring for your pet.

Scratching and Shaking of the Ears and Ear Infections

You may notice your dog spending an unusual amount of time messing with their ears, whether that be by scratching or shaking them. Just like sneezing, if your dog is doing this every now and then it may not necessarily be an emergency that needs immediate attention. However, if you see that your dog is constantly scratching at or shaking their ears, then this is when you’re going to want to take them to receive immediate veterinary care.

Scratching and shaking of the ears are often signs of an ear infection in your dog. It’s very common for ear infections to be caused by allergies, especially in breeds that tend to have floppy ears such as hound dogs or Cocker Spaniels. They also can come on commonly after a bath. These infections can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog, so taking them to get immediate care will help alleviate the pain and discomfort as soon as possible.

In addition to ear infections being uncomfortable and painful for your dog, they can also lead to other serious conditions that can leave your dog with permanent damage. If your local veterinarian is unavailable, contact an emergency veterinarian, since untreated ear infections can cause permanent hearing damage.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea may be signs of allergies as well, and more often than not, may indicate a food allergy.  

If vomiting and diarrhea persist, contact an emergency vet immediately as continued vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in your pet.

Ocular Discharge

If your dog presents with any kind of discharge from the eye, it’s very important to get them veterinary care as soon as possible. Conjunctivitis is a condition that can be caused by dog allergies, and some common symptoms include green or yellow discharge from either one or both of your dog’s eyes. 

If you notice ocular discharge coming from your pet, it’s best to not wait to see a vet. If your general veterinarian is closed, take your pet to see an emergency vet so they can rule out other more harmful causes of this condition, such as an eye injury or tear duct problems.

Contact an Emergency Vet for Your Dog’s Allergy Problems

Some causes and symptoms of dog allergies are mild and can wait until your pet can see a general vet, while others are seen as more harmful and require your pet to need emergency care. If you notice your dog is having these problems, it’s better to get them to see by a vet as soon as possible.

In many instances, time is truly of the essence for your pet to be able to make a full recovery, so going to see an emergency vet may be the best option.

A veterinarian will be able to get to the root of your dog’s allergy problems and can work with you on developing the best treatment plan going forward. Never wait to seek veterinary care for your pet if you feel they are uncomfortable. That way you both can go back to enjoying your time together as soon as possible!