Skip to content
Previous article
Now Reading:
5 most common causes of allergies in dogs and people

5 most common causes of allergies in dogs and people

  • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Is allergy testing useful?
      • 3. So what are allergies?
        • 4. Here are the five main factors that play a role in allergies :
        • 5. One more thing!
          • 6. A 5 step program to start for dog's with allergies
            • Raise your hand if you have not heard someone complain about allergies in the last few weeks! I would love to see if there was a single hand going up in our community, and I dare to guess if so, there were not many…

              When it comes to allergies, much of my writing has been focused on the topic of dogs who have been misdiagnosed. A large portion of these dogs scratch, chew, and itch, not due to allergies but because of back injuries, inflammation, or tightness, which are often mistakenly labelled as allergies. Dogs can’t tell us what is bothering them, all they can do is try to get our attention by scratching and chewing with the hope that we get their point. Here are more details.

              However, today I would like to focus on true allergies, the immune system’s exaggerated reaction to a harmless common substance such as protein from food, dust, plants, or pollen to name a few. Please note, a protein (the antigen) is always involved, and it is important to distinguish other non-protein related sensitivities, for example to chemicals, which from the medical point of view are not allergies.

              More than twenty years ago, I worked in a veterinary practice located in the British Columbia Coastal Mountains. The practice was busy, and my colleague, let’s call him Dr. Rob, and I used to get together once every few weeks to discuss patient cases. One time, we met at a Thai restaurant, and the server reassured us that there were no peanuts in the food my colleague ordered.

              A few minutes after the food had arrived Dr. Rob’s face turned red, and it was clear he was having a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. I could see him starting to heave and turning red, frantically looking for his EpiPen. He was very lucky to have it with him.


              Witnessing such a situation, most people would blame the peanuts as the culprit, and the allergic person or dog would be seen as the unfortunate victim who has been dealt the allergic gene. But this is not exactly true. Experts have confirmed that DNA itself is only about 20% of the puzzle and that the cumulative effect of internal and external factors such as stress, diet, health, weather, toxins and everything else, play a key role in gene expression. In other words, our genes often stay dormant even for a lifetime if the external factors are eliminated, which is great news for those of us who have a history of a certain health problem within the family.

              As to Dr. Rob’s reaction, this also made sense because whenever I saw him in the office, he had a bottle of Coke or a big box of sugar-loaded chocolate milk on his desk. Rob also loved fried food, potato chips, and other processed foods, and didn’t like to eat vegetables and fruit. By the time he was thirty, there was a toxic soup of chemicals, sugar, and preservatives circulating in his blood.


              But going back to dogs, as I said above, if they scratch and chew it doesn’t mean that all of them have allergies if their skin is red, inflamed, and bumpy. The key to a correct diagnosis is to first examine their joints, muscles, and back for injuries before we label them as being allergic.

              However some dogs are truly allergic, and they are the focus of my writing today.

              Is allergy testing useful?

              The answer is yes, and no.

              Over the years, a whole array of allergy testing options have become available, but the results often yield false positives. And even if they didn’t, all they tell us is what our dogs react to but not why.

              When helping dogs who have environmental allergies, we can’t really put them in a sealed plastic bag or a doggy space suit in order to protect them against pollen when the spring bloom arrives.

              An elimination diet for food allergies may be easier to apply, however, allergic people or dogs often end up with few options left. In dogs, hydrolyzed (denatured) protein diets have often been used, but to me such a practice is hugely flawed. Nutritionally, such food is inferior, and tricking the body into thinking that food is not food is “messed up.”


              In the early days of my practice, I found dealing with allergies frustrating but gradually I discovered why. I was taught to focus on eliminating allergens instead of focusing on what was going on with the body and the immune system.

              Elimination diets can be helpful temporarily, for example in the case of acute diarrhea, but this step usually doesn’t lead to better health or a long-term resolution of the problem.

              So what are allergies?

              Allergies are the body’s over-reaction to a common harmless protein from the environment, or food. In essence, the problem is not the allergen, but the immune system that has lost its ability to distinguish between harmful and benign substances.

              Allergies are the symptom but not the cause, the same way a house fire is not the cause but the result of an electric malfunction, for example. An allergic reaction is the result of multiple factors overwhelming the immune system and making it “malfunction.”

              Here are the five main factors that play a role in allergies:

              1. Foreign substances
              2. Digestive tract imbalance
              3. Deficiency of nutrients that the body and immune system need
              4. Excessive and unnatural immune system stimulation
              5. Stressed and overburdened body

              1. Foreign chemical substances in the body

              One does not need to have a PhD to know that we live in a very toxic and polluted environment, from which there is no escape. 37 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 (37 thousand billion billion) chemical reactions take place in the body every second and the immune system can only be as strong as the body’s metabolic and organ function.

              Toxins play an important role in most diseases, because they interfere with healthy cellular function. This means that if your dog is allergic, the first step you need to take is to detox and cleanse.

              But back to Dr. Rob’s allergic reaction to nuts. It is safe to assume that his regular junk food, Coke, and sweet chocolate milk consumption were part of his problem.

              FYI: Milk is considered hyper-allergenic due to a high content of foreign animal protein and bacterial antigens (even after pasteurization). Also, in nature, no mammals consume milk past weaning.

              When it comes to Coke, do I need to go any further? I just hope that one day, it will be labeled the same way as cigarettes. We wage war on drugs and let companies poison people with sugar and addictive substances of the “legal kind.” A wild and crazy world we live in! If you are addicted to Coke, I don’t hold it against you at all, but I would love if these lines inspire you to quit. Your dogs need you to be and stay healthy.

              2. Digestive tract imbalance

              Research has confirmed that the immune system is very closely linked with digestion. As a teenager, I had severe hay fever and noticed that when I had, for example, pizza (dough and cheese combo) or sweets, my hay fever got worse.

              About eighty percent of the immune system depends on a healthy gut, and it is difficult to have a healthy gut with processed food, sugar, or kibble. This is why a high potency dairy free probiotic should be a part of the treatment plan.

              I also suggest that you do not give any treats to your dog that contain sugar. Recently, I received dog treats as a gift for Pax, and because they were human grade and plant based, I tasted them. I was surprised to see how sweet they were.

              Pax’s regular treats are just cooked and cut pieces of meat. I usually put them in the freezer in small packages and take them out as needed for training, or as a reward.

              3. Deficiency of nutrients that the body and immune system need

              Research has confirmed that proper immune function can only be achieved when your diet is not only healthy but also complete. Intensive agriculture and nutrient depleted soils have caused a cascade reaction that affects our health and our pets too.

              Sadly, food remnants such as compost and manure almost never go back to the fields where they originated, because it is financially impossible for farmers. This is the core problem of dietary deficiencies, as depleted soils produce depleted food, including meat.

              This is why so many people see such profound changes when they put the essential supplements in their dogs’ food. From my perspective, it is the only way to ensure there is nothing missing.

              Here are the Fab4 essentials I give to my dog Pax. (GreenMinSoulFood, GutSense and FeelGood Omega.) Without the essentials, the body can’t function at its optimum level, and allergies may be one of the symptoms.

              The essential supplements for dogs

              4. Excessive and unnatural immune system stimulation

              This is probably the most controversial part of treating allergies, but it needs to be addressed.

              In the past decades, vaccination has morphed from a lifesaving proposition into a big business. For a very long time, we veterinarians had been told that dogs had to be vaccinated annually. I believed this too for some time, until I started to see dogs suffering from allergies, immune-mediated diseases such as lupus, and a rise in cancer.

              In nature, most pathogens, with the exception of rabies, malaria, and tick-borne disease, enter through the airways or the mouth. The body has time to mobilize its defences, and there is usually just one single serious pathogen entering the body at a time.

              However, when a multivalent (multiple disease) vaccine is given through an injection, the body is shocked with sometimes five or more pathogens, which can overwhelm the immune system. This leads to an allergic (exaggerated) reaction, auto-immune disease, or failure of the immune system to detect and destroy cancer cells.

              A good analogy would be an office worker who has been given an unreasonable amount of work. They will either “freak out” and overreact, or go into depression, and the immune system is no different.

              The key to healthy immunity is to ensure that your dog is protected with the absolute minimum of vaccines that will achieve a good immunity level. If your veterinarian insists that vaccines have to be done every three years, politely ask to get antibody titres done instead. Most of the time the antibodies are still present. For more info click here.

              5. Stressed and overburdened body

              Perhaps you have noticed that people get sick more often when they are stressed. The simple flu or a cold sore episode are good examples.

              One of the reasons why stress affects the immune system is that the adrenal gland response leads to a release of corticosteroids that lower immune function. A little bit of healthy stress is fine, like healthy exercise, but repeated surges of stress hormones negatively affect immune function and allergies.

              Dogs love to explore, they love to be active, and it is relatively easy to keep them happy when they go for at least two walks a day. I try to do at least two hours but every dog is different. If you have an office job and your dog has to stay alone for an extended period of time, I suggest that you connect with another like-minded dog lover with a dog, who your dog can be with.

              As an alternative, many seniors would love to have the company of a dog during the day, and your dog would enjoy the same.

              One more thing!

              I realized that I forgot to mention kibble. Similar to Dr. Rob’s less than ideal food habits, kibble and processed food in general is one of the primary causes of allergies. It is not because of the proteins they are made of, but the fact that such foods are made with unnatural processed “dead and sterilized” species inappropriate ingredients that lead to gut inflammation, immune disease, and allergies.

              No one would think of feeding a horse a steak, yet, many kibble manufacturers are doing the same when they put cellulose, wheat, rice, and corn in dog kibble.

              Also, there are no MDs who recommend processed food over a wholesome diet, and it is just about time we veterinarians do the same.

              If your dog is on kibble, I hope you will give raw or cooked food a try, and add the essentials to make it complete. With this dietary change, most dogs will stop being allergic. Just remember that you must rule out muscle and back injuries too.

              Here is a link to my free Recipe Maker for dogs.

              If your dog is allergic, here is a 5 step program to start:

              1. Check for neck, back, and muscle injuries and find a good physical therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist or a massage therapist.

              2. If your dog is obsessive about certain activities, cut them back and see if the scratching stops.

              3. Start your dog on natural raw or cooked food.

              4. Add the Fab4 essentials.

              5. Add LiverTune detox one month later.

              This is good for starters! Keep me posted on how things are going!

              About the author

              Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

              Most Popular

              • Flying with dogs
                In my article, I share the personal story of how I'm able to fly with my dog, Pax, thanks to overcoming challenges with sleepwalking and night terrors. This unique experience not only allowed me to travel with my service dog but also serves as a reminder that even difficult situations can have positive outcomes.
              • dog and pony
                Successful communication is essential for building healthier and more fulfilling relationships and happier lives. In this article, I'll share with you 8 communication hacks to help you avoid unnecessary drama, prioritize active listening and address conflicts effectively.
              • Dalmatian eating fruit
                Can dogs eat bananas, apples, strawberries and other fruit? What about grapes? Find out what fruits are safe, toxic, and healthy for dogs. Learn about the potential health benefits and risks of feeding fruit to your canine companion, and get tips on the ideal time to feed it.
              • Illustration of the anatomy of a heart
                As dog lovers, we all want our beloved pups to live long and healthy lives. Protecting your dog's heart from potential health issues is important, and in this blog Dr. Dobias shares some key points that you might not yet be aware of, read on to find out what you can do to keep your dog's heart safe. 

              Dog Health

              • Husky lying on blanket with heart toy
                Dogs have our hearts and that is why we need to protect their heart. Dog’s as they age often face muscle problems and spinal misalignment and you might be surprised to know how that can hurt their heart. Learn how to protect your dog’s spine and by extension their heart.
              • The secret ingredient for a perfect No. 2
                Dogs and humans have evolved side-by-side but they are still quite different when it comes to their digestive tracts and dietary habits. We have studied their original environments such as the soils of the African savanna and consulted with top experts in the field of probiotics and microbiology to come up with a combination that reflects healthy bacterial flora of canines.
              • Man being pointed at
                Criticism can hurt a brand, but constructive feedback can help it grow. In this blog Dr. Dobias talks about the differences between these approaches, and how to handle the power of influence and opinion with care. 
              • Broccoli with vitamins and minerals
                Are you worried that your and your dog's diet is missing something? Maybe you're worried about toxin levels in food, the environment, or flea and tick products. Let's face it; we can't remove ourselves entirely from our toxin-filled world, but we can do things to reduce our exposure to harmful substances. 

              Human health

              • Dr. Dobias with Pax
                How do you navigate the seas of life? How do you deal with disappointment? Whatever life throws at us, we can always rely on our dogs to bring joy into our days. In this blog I share my thoughts on the support our dogs provide during the difficult moments in life. 
              • Why 1 in 4 Americans suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
                Learn more about the alarming prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) affecting 1 in 4 Americans. Discover its main risk factors, diagnosis methods, and treatment options to better manage or prevent this silent yet severe condition. 
              • A new perspective on brain health, memory loss, Alzheimer's Disease, and dementia in people and dogs
                The Science of DHA and the Brain: Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily DHA, are the unsung heroes of brain health. They play crucial roles in brain physiology and biological activities, with exciting links between Omega-3 levels and cognitive function. Higher DHA levels have been shown to preserve the integrity of the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB), your brain's security system
              • Dr. Dobias and Pax
                It appears that most of the world is ready for change, but whenever I think about the solutions to any of the problems that plague our world, I can’t prevent myself from thinking that we humans are acting like little toddlers who have broken a toy and do not know how to fix it. Despite my generally optimistic attitude, I have had a hard time staying positive at times because I know how complex this all is. Read here for some tools that make me feel good about the world, which I would like to share with you.

              News, stories and good life

              • Dr. Peter Dobias with his dog Pax on his lap
                Do you have trouble staying positive during difficult times? These days we are surrounded by a lot of negative messaging, and it's easy to let that get you down. Here are some of my tips for remaining positive, and don't forget to share your tips with me!
              • Man raising fist on a mountain
                Most of us have been exposed to panic-inducing information about the virus spread, however, I have noticed the general absence of one piece of information, how to make your immune system stronger and body more resilient. (It will definitely not happen by stockpiling toilet paper!) I have always loved immunology and the current situation has prompted me to put together two simple lists on how to increase your dog’s and your own immunity.
              • Man with dog wearing a collar
                Does your dog have ear problems, nasal or oral tumors, reverse sneezing or an  itchy head or hair loss on their head? Learn how you can address some of these problems and save thousands in vet care costs.
              • Terrier eating raw food
                Now there is no need to guess if there is something missing in your dogs diet.  The HairQ Test is a highly accurate test for mineral deficiencies, toxins and heavy metals in dogs to finely tune your dog’s diet and supplement schedule.

              By clicking "Continue" or continuing to use our site, you acknowledge that you accept our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. We also use cookies to provide you with the best possible experience on our website. You can find out more about the cookies we use and learn how to manage them here. Feel free to check out our policies anytime for more information.




              Your cart is currently empty.

              Start Shopping