Itchy Pup! Can Dog Food Relieve Skin Allergies?

If you are reading this blog post then you most likely have a pup with sensitive skin or skin allergies and you are looking for ways to provide some much needed relief for your furry friend. You are not alone as almost 10% of all dogs suffer from some sort of skin allergies. Let’s dive in and get started on finding the causes and most importantly finding the solutions to turn your itchy pup into a happy pup!

Why Is My Dog Itching So Much?

Most dogs have an itch every now and then but what happens if you notice your dog itching a lot? Itching can be a common symptom of several issues so it’s important to discover the cause of the symptoms in order to find the right solution for your furry friend.


Environmental allergens like dust mites, pollen or mold spores can cause itching during their peak seasons or even year round. If your dog is scratching, licking and rubbing or you notice hot spots or hair loss that come and go with the seasons then it’s a good chance that environmental allergens could be your culprit. 


Another very common cause of itching in dogs can be fleas or tick bites. Flea bites can cause itchy spots on your dog’s skin similarly to how mosquito bites feel for humans. Fleas can be hard to see sometimes but they usually leave “flea dirt” (a.k.a. poop) on your dog’s skin which can be discovered by using a fine-tooth flea comb and looking at your dog’s skin.

The best flea and tick prevention for dogs depends on your dog and your personal preference and should be a conversation to have with your vet. My Siberian Husky, Brody, has a very thick coat and we’ve found that an oral flea and tick for dogs preventative measure has been more effective than topical creams or the collar options.

Food Allergy

Itching can sometimes be triggered by something in your dog’s diet. Symptoms of dog allergies usually cause itchy skin on the feet, armpits, belly or face. According to Dr. Anne, Earthborn Holistic’s Director of Nutrition Services, the most common dog allergies are to beef, dairy products, and wheat, and less common allergens include chicken, eggs, and soy.

Skin Infection

Yeast or bacterial infections can cause discomfort and itching in dogs. Yeast infections can originate in the folds of the skin, ears, neck, under the tail and even between your dog’s toes. If you suspect your dog’s itching is due to an infection please contact your local vet for next steps. Your veterinarian may want to prescribe an oral or topical treatment depending on the severity of the infection.

How to Tell if My Dog Has Skin Allergies

For a dog, red skin that’s irritated can be just one of the many symptoms of dog allergies whether it’s caused by fleas, food or environmental allergens. According to the Animal Hospital of Clemmons, here are some of the most common symptoms of skin allergies:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive licking
  • Rubbing of ears or face
  • Biting or chewing the skin
  • Rubbing or scooting on surfaces
  • Red, irritated or flaky skin
  • Sores
  • Hair loss

In addition, “hot spots” or red spots on dog’s skin can form when your dog has scratched an area too much and created an open wound. It’s very important to treat these hot spots to avoid possible infection and further discomfort.

If your dog routinely has the symptoms above then it’s time to make an appointment at the vet’s office. Your vet will want to know your dog’s symptoms, how long it’s been going on and if you notice the symptoms getting better or worse at different times. Your vet may evaluate your dog’s current diet and might even suggest switching to a sensitive skin dog food in case the cause of the irritation is food related.

Can Dogs Have Seasonal Allergies?

Many humans suffer each year from seasonal allergies, but do dogs get seasonal allergies, too? Unfortunately, just like humans, dogs can also suffer from dog seasonal allergies!

Some of the most common dog seasonal allergy symptoms are caused by the same pesky environmental allergens, such as pollen from grasses, trees and weeds along with dust mites and molds.

These allergens can cause skin issues including dog itching and allergic dermatitis in dogs along with recurrent ear infections. Dogs may also have red and swollen eyes along with sneezing.

Dog Allergy Testing

If you are worried that your dog has allergies then your vet will most likely go through a process to discover the root of the cause. According to Catherine Barnette, DVM from VCA Animal Hospitals:

“The first step in working up a dog with suspected allergic skin disease is to rule out non-allergic skin disease. Your veterinarian may perform a skin scrape to rule out mange, a fungal culture to rule out ringworm, and other tests based on your dog’s clinical signs and history. If these tests are negative, and your dog’s clinical signs and history fit, your veterinarian will diagnose your dog with allergic dermatitis (allergic skin inflammation).

“Once your dog has been diagnosed with allergic dermatitis, further testing is needed to determine the cause of your dog’s allergies. Atopy is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that your veterinarian must first definitively rule out food allergy and flea allergy. Improved flea control may be used to rule out flea allergy, while a food trial must be used to rule out food allergy. If no improvement is seen with either of these treatments, your vet will diagnose your dog with atopy.”

Atopy means your dog has a genetic tendency that makes him/her more likely to develop allergic reactions or allergic diseases. Once diagnosed with atopy, your vet may recommend a couple different options for testing: intradermal skin testing or RAST testing.

Dog food sits in front of a person's feet and dogs paw's

Intradermal Skin Test

Intradermal allergy testing involves injecting a small amount of an allergen into the skin to measure how your dog’s body reacts. This test must be performed by a veterinary dermatologist and usually requires anesthesia due to the nature of the test and it being uncomfortable for the pet. 

During the test, a series of 60 allergens are injected and then monitored for a reaction. The dermatologist will observe the reaction and give it a rating on a scale of 1 – 4, with 4 being the highest. Some of the most common dog allergens that are tested are weeds, trees, molds, fleas, etc.


The RAST (Radioallergosorbent test) is a less invasive option that requires only a single blood sample and can be administered by your regular veterinarian during a routine wellness visit. The sample is sent off to a laboratory to review and interpret the results. 

“Compared to intradermal testing, there is an issue of a higher rate of false-positive test results with RAST testing. Also, there are positive RAST results that cannot be confirmed when intradermal skin testing is performed.

“However, there is still a significant improvement in skin allergy cases in dogs when treated with hyposensitization based on the results of RAST testing.” 

Hyposensitization is a form of immunotherapy for dogs. Once the allergens have been discovered then a mixture of the allergen culprits is made up and administered in small doses via a vaccine. The doses are increased gradually over time with the goal of decreasing your pet’s sensitivity to the allergens. 

At Home Testing

There are a few different home allergy tests that either use saliva or hair follicles to help determine allergens. This is the cheapest option as you can buy these kits online and they can be administered easily.

“While there are testimonials that these tests have helped some pet owners, there have been no peer-reviewed, published studies that indicate these tests are accurate or useful,” Dr. Benham said. “[And] results of these tests cannot be used to develop immunotherapy to help ‘retrain’ the immune system to truly treat allergic diseases.”

The dog allergy testing cost can vary depending on which test you decide to move forward with. The skin tests and blood tests tend to range between $200 – $300 in price. Keep in mind you might have an exam fee added in along with a fee for sedation if you move forward with a skin test. 

If you are interested in getting your dog tested with allergies please consult with your vet to determine which method works the best for your dog and for your budget. Ask your vet to give you a quote on the testing procedures and the possible treatment options after results have been received.

Choosing the Best Dog Food for Skin Allergies

Are you looking for the best dog itching remedies or dog skin allergies treatment? If so, you may want to consider changing your dog’s diet as there may be specially formulated recipes that can help or at least minimize your dog’s skin allergy symptoms.

If your pet is dealing with skin issues, some of the best dog food for dry, itchy skin often is a fish-based dog food for allergies. Fish protein naturally contains a good amount of omega fatty acids that work to help maintain your dog’s healthy skin and a shiny coat. Often, a dog food with a balanced ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and a fish protein like Meadow Feast will help clear up a lot of skin issues. Ocean Fusion is made with Pacific Whiting meal and is a tasty whole grain formula for adult dogs.

Hypoallergenic dog food, limited ingredient dog food and sensitive skin dog food provide less possible irritants in your dog’s diet and can be helpful in improving skin allergy symptoms. 

What Should I Feed My Dog With Skin Allergies?

So what is the best dog food for skin allergies? With so many hypoallergenic dog food options, prescription diets and sensitive skin dog food products on the market, finding the perfect recipe for your furry friend can be a little tricky. Every dog is different so finding the best food for a dog with allergies should be discussed with your veterinarian.

However, as mentioned earlier, finding a good fish-based dog food for allergies can be a great place to start your search! Our Meadow Feast , Unrefined Smoked Salmon and Venture Alaska Pollock Meal & Pumpkin recipes all are formulated with a fish protein source as the first ingredient and offer complete and balanced nutrition for your dog. Added vitamins & minerals like taurine in dog food helps with heart health and a healthy mix of probiotics helps with digestion and overall gut health. 

For a little extra boost of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, our EarthBites Skin and Coat treats also contain a balanced ratio of omegas from tasty whitefish meal protein. These soft treats provide a tasty reward for your pup along with some added support for your dog’s sensitive skin.

Let’s learn a little more about grain free dog food options.

Person holding a bag of dog food and dog walk with food

Grain-Free Food for Skin Allergies

Implementing a grain free diet for dogs with skin allergies is a great option. Grains can be a common irritant for dogs and removing them from your dog’s diet completely can sometimes be the solution to helping your dog’s sensitive skin.

If you’re dealing with a grain allergy in dogs, trying a grain-free food like our Meadow Feast or any of our Venture limited ingredient diets can be a great place to start!

Finding the right grain-free dog food for allergies can depend on what allergies your dog has. If your dog has a sensitivity to grains then any grain-free dog food suitable for their age, breed and size can be a good recipe to try. If your dog also has an issue with specific protein sources like chicken or egg, then choosing limited ingredient foods might be the best option. 

No grain, no gluten, no chicken, no egg, no peas, no lentils, no colorants, no fillers, no by-products or artificial preservatives are added to any of our Venture dry dog food recipes and have been a good option to many pet parents of dogs suffering from food & skin allergies!

“My German Shepherd, Runt, is allergic to almost everything you can imagine. I searched high and low for food he could eat. I finally found your Alaska Pollock and Pumpkin formula. I was skeptical that he would eat it because we have been through a lot of special foods, including prescription food, that he did not like. But as soon as the bag hit the floor he was interested. He now gets excited at feeding time, which is something I haven’t seen in years.”

Amanda C.

Is grain free food good for dogs? Yes! Food allergies in dogs are becoming a much more common occurrence as dogs develop allergies to more and more ingredients–grains being one of them. Grain and gluten allergies in dogs are one reason why grain-free dog foods and treats are important options to have.

How Else Can I Help Relieve My Dog’s Skin Allergies?

Looking for a more natural allergy relief for dogs? There can be several ways to help relieve your dog’s skin allergies or provide comfort depending on what’s causing the allergies in the first place.

Utilizing a variety of home remedies, skin allergies can improve but we highly recommend consulting with your vet first to confirm that the following methods are okay for your dog.

Dog Skin Allergies Home Remedies

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar seems to have amazing health benefits for humans, but did you know it could also be used as an antibacterial spray for itchy spots or help soothe irritated paws? Combine a mixture of 50% apple cider vinegar and 50% water in a sterilized spray bottle or in a bowl for soaking purposes. Be sure to never use the mixture on your dog’s open wounds or raw skin as it could be painful and potentially make symptoms worse.

Aloe Vera

There is some controversy on whether or not aloe vera is safe for dogs. According to the Pet Poison Hotline aloe vera can be mildly to moderately toxic to dogs if ingested, sometimes causing vomiting and diarrhea. 

However, applying aloe vera topically to itchy and raw areas can often help to soothe the itch and even help with the healing process of sores.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been known to have great topical benefits as it can help provide comfort for skin conditions like dry skin, bug bites/stings along with hot spots. Apply the coconut oil topically to the skin once a week and give it a few minutes to absorb into the skin. Once absorbed, rinse your dog off with water. If your dog has that greasy feeling on his/her fur, feel free to use a light or sensitive shampoo and rinse again. 

Baking Soda

Blend together a 50% baking soda and a 50% water mixture and apply the paste to your dog’s skin for 20 minutes before rinsing it out. Baking soda is known to relieve itchiness and can also dry out rashes on your dog’s skin.  

What’s the best antihistamine for dogs with skin allergies? According to the AKC, “Benadryl is a great medication for use in dogs with mild-to-moderate allergies. Seasonal allergies, food allergies, environmental allergies, and allergic reactions to snake and insect bites all respond to Benadryl in most cases.” 

Benadryl is commonly used to provide allergy relief for dogs. It helps treat itchiness and can also reduce many of the other symptoms of allergies, including:

  • Hives
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Redness
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Anaphylactic reaction

Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), cetirizine (Zyrtec®) and loratadine (Claritin®) are usually safe for dogs but can cause drowsiness or hyperactivity. Before administering any over-the-counter allergy medicine for dogs it’s important to consult with your veterinarian first! If approved, also ensure that the product only contains the antihistamine and doesn’t have additional medications included. 

What’s the best medicated dog shampoo for skin allergies? The best option will be determined by your dog’s particular skin conditions and your vet’s recommendations. Here are a few well-reviewed options for consideration: 

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog With Skin Allergies?

For dogs with skin allergies, bathtime can be a source of further discomfort or can be a welcomed relief. It’s important to choose the right dog shampoo for itchy skin so the ingredients don’t dry or irritate your dog’s skin even more. 

So what is the  best dog food shampoo for allergies or the best dog shampoo for itching? It can depend, but starting with an oatmeal bath for dogs or utilizing an oatmeal dog shampoo can be a great place to start!

You’ll notice that a lot of the shampoos marketed for sensitive or itchy skin contain oatmeal as an ingredient. That’s because oatmeal contains anti-inflammatory properties and can act as a natural skin protectant to soothe irritation and itchiness. Oatmeal for the win!

You may also be wondering how often to bathe dogs if they have sensitive skin. For normal dogs, it’s recommended to only bathe them once a month to keep from removing natural oils. However, it is suggested that you bathe your dog once or twice a week if he or she has sensitive skin or you are using a medicated shampoo to treat a skin infection.