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German Shepherd Allergies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

german shepherd allergies

Allergies are a problem that can affect German Shepherds and many other dogs. However, not all breeds are affected equally, some are more prone to developing allergies than others.

So are German Shepherds prone to allergies? Unfortunately, the German Shepherd is listed among the most allergy-prone dog breeds. These are the four main types of German Shepherd allergies:

  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies
  • Flea allergies
  • Contact allergies

I will share with you the symptoms and treatments of the four types of allergies and include some helpful prevention tips.

What is allergy in dogs?

First of all, let’s see what exactly a dog allergy is, and I’m not talking about the type of allergy we can have to dogs or other pets.

The immune system is a network of cells that defends itself against infection. An allergy in dogs is an excessive response or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a normally harmless substance that comes into contact with the dog. Some examples of these substances (which are known as allergens) include food, pollen, dust, mold, chemicals, and medications, to name just a few.

Anything can be an allergen if it causes an adverse reaction to your dog’s immune system. Humans can also suffer the same fate, in fact last year to my surprise, I suddenly developed asthma during the summer due to an unusually high pollen count. This is what is known as a seasonal allergy, as it does not occur throughout the year.

Your German Shepherd may have the same experience that an allergy can strike at any time, however dogs usually develop allergies between the ages of 2 and 5.

So what exactly happens? If your dog becomes allergic to a substance, his immune system reacts to that substance as if it is being attacked by a foreign, harmful invader, and attempts to destroy it with antibodies. The immune system sees the substance (eg food, pollen) as a threat, even if it is not!

These antibodies adhere to mast cells found in various tissues of the dog, including the skin, the lining of the stomach and intestine, and other sites. When the allergen comes into contact with the antibodies, the mast cells respond by releasing histamine and other substances.

The histamine release results in inflammation (redness, swelling, and itching) that is irritating and uncomfortable for your German Shepherd, or you and me. If you suffer from any type of allergy, you know that it can be an unpleasant experience. The constant itchy watery eyes, sneezing and a runny nose is no fun at all.

An allergic reaction is not usually immediate, as the immune system gradually develops a sensitivity to the allergen before overreacting. This process is called sensitization and can last from just a few days to even years. In many cases, the sensitization process is not completely complete and your dog will experience some symptoms but not a full allergy.

Are allergies to dogs hereditary?

The causes of allergies come from several factors, however, dogs (and humans) have to have a genetic predisposition to develop them. This means that your German Shepherd has a higher chance of developing an allergy based on his genetic makeup.

They are conducting a lot of research to determine what, in the first stage of life of the puppy, causes the immune system more likely to express that trait.

Usually the predisposition is due to one or more genetic mutations that are passed down through the dog’s parents.

Having one or more parents who have developed allergies increases the chances that your dog will also have an allergic reaction.

The atopic dermatitis (atopy) can be caused by an allergy to something in the environment (such as pollen, mold, grass or dust mites):

Dogs are believed to be genetically predisposed to being sensitized to allergens in the environment.

Although this may have a hereditary component, contact with the allergen or irritant must occur first before the hypersensitivity reaction develops.

The German Shepherd breed is known to be prone to food allergies, a sensitive stomach, and bloating .

Due to the hereditary nature of dog allergies, owners of an allergic dog are discouraged from raising their dog to prevent allergies from being passed on to their puppies.

Unfortunately, due to poor breeding practices and puppy farms, the number of dogs diagnosed with allergies each year continues to grow. Always buy a dog from a reputable breeder, as this gives you a better chance of having an allergy-free dog.

What are severe allergic reactions?

Although the topic of this article is chronic allergy to German Shepherd dogs, I thought it would be helpful to mention serious allergic reactions here, including causes and symptoms to be aware of.

Most chronic dog allergies are mild to moderate and not life threatening. However, sometimes dogs (such as humans) can have a severe and immediate allergic reaction to an allergen. Most of these can also be successfully treated by your vet, however, sometimes a severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening and must be treated as an emergency.

Here are some examples of substances that can cause deadly allergic reactions in dogs, also known as anaphylaxis :

  • Insect bites, bee or wasp stings
  • Medications, for example vaccines, antibiotics, or flea treatments
  • Chemicals, for example air fresheners and cleaners or sprays
  • Plants, for example nettles

When to contact your vet

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can start suddenly and without warning. If you think about a peanut allergy in humans and the severity and speed with which the reaction can occur, you will quickly realize how serious it can be!

German Shepherd symptoms will depend on how they have been exposed to the allergen (eg, mouth, skin, injection), the amount of antigen they have been exposed to, and your dog’s level of antibody response.

Here are some of the early signs of a severe allergic reaction in dogs:

  • Skin rash, swelling, or hives (bumps)
  • Swollen face or muzzle
  • Itchy skin

And here are the nasty signs of anaphylaxis that can be fatal:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Excessive salivation or drooling
  • Cold ears, legs and feet
  • A throbbing heartbeat
  • Vomiting and / or diarrhea
  • Cyanosis (blue tongue and gums)
  • Collapse
  • Coma

Treatment depends on the severity of the reaction. If your German Shepherd only suffers from a mild allergic reaction, he will be treated with antihistamine medications to reduce swelling and help relieve his symptoms.

However, if your dog has a more severe reaction (anaphylaxis), this can affect major organ systems, such as the gastrointestinal tract, circulatory system, and lungs. Your German Shepherd may need to be admitted to the veterinary hospital for intensive treatment and this could include a drip to administer fluids and medications and help with breathing.

So now that we’ve covered that nasty topic, let’s get back to the topic of chronic dog allergies and dig deeper …

What are German Shepherds allergic to?

There are many different allergies German Shepherds can suffer from, however these are the four main types:

  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies (for example, to pollen or dust)
  • Allergies caused by fleas and parasites
  • Contact allergy (for example, shampoo, fabrics, lawn pesticides)

According to Vet Info , it is estimated that up to 50% of all American dogs can be affected by allergies and three types of allergens cause the most problems.

Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of dog allergies are caused by fleas, not food.

Environmental allergies are the second most common, followed by food allergies. As can be seen from the table below, contact allergy is rare.

How can you tell if your dog is allergic?

Diagnosing dog allergy can be a difficult and time-consuming process, as many symptoms will be similar or identical. In addition to this, some dog allergies, for example seasonal allergies to pollen, can temporarily disappear.

Some of these symptoms can also be a sign of a completely different condition, so you should always check with your vet, however, here is a general list of symptoms that may indicate that your German Shepherd is suffering from an allergic reaction:

  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Urticaria
  • Scratching, biting, or licking excessively
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Hot spots (sore, infected skin patches)
  • Bald patches (alopecia)
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids
  • Ear infections
  • Itchy ears
  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Yeast infections of the skin
  • Thick and dark skin
  • Red, watery eyes that itch
  • Pink nose
  • Sneezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

The first step in treating your dog’s allergy is getting the correct diagnosis. Although some allergies can linger throughout the year, your dog can live a healthy and happy life once the allergen is kept under control with proper treatment.

So now let’s take a closer look at some examples of the different types of allergies in German Shepherds:

Food allergies

Like you and me, dogs can be allergic to a specific food, although the overall percentage of dogs that have food allergies is low, around 10%, as confirmed by Pets Web MD .

You and I have learned that German Shepherds are known to have sensitive stomachs and are one of the breeds prone to food allergies.

So what is the most common food allergy in dogs? The most common food allergens in dogs are chicken, meat, wheat, eggs, and dairy products. There is nothing unusual about these foods, other than that they have been the most common ingredients in dog food for years and years, which is why dogs have been repeatedly exposed to them.

These are common foods that can become an allergen for your dog:

  • Proteins: chicken, beef, pork, venison, rabbit, lamb, fish, eggs …
  • Cereals: rice, corn, wheat, oats, barley
  • Dairy: milk, cream, ice cream, yogurt, cheese …
  • Root vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots
  • Legumes: soy, peanuts, lentils, peas, beans …

Most dogs are allergic to protein, however, they not only think that meat and fish are the only source of protein, as there is also protein in grains and vegetables.

Symptoms of food allergies in dogs

If your German Shepherd suffers from a food allergy, it may show signs such as itching, digestive disorders, and breathing problems. These are some of the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Itchy skin (pruritus)
  • Scratching, licking, or biting excessively
  • Skin rash
  • Skin infections (due to excessive itching)
  • Ear infections
  • Yeast infection
  • Hair loss
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Red and watery eyes

Some of the preservatives and additives found in commercial dog food brands can also cause allergies or intolerances. To prevent this, always make sure to feed your dog high-quality food. I think this is super important for your dog’s overall health and longevity.

How to Treat Food Allergies in Dogs

Food allergies can be diagnosed and treated by what is known as an elimination diet or food test which involves feeding your German Shepherd a different source of protein (meat) and a different source of carbohydrates (grains) that your dog has never Dyed. This is a long process and will need to be done for a maximum of 12 weeks.

Once the allergy-causing food is identified, treatment consists of eliminating it from the diet.

During this time, you will need to be very strict about your dog’s food, as no extra treats or snacks are allowed. Patience will be required as identifying the allergen can take up to 12 months, but it will surely pay off in the end.

Common new protein sources may include kangaroo, duck, or venison, and other new carbohydrate sources may be sweet potato or oatmeal.

Feeding new foods will prevent the overresponse from continuing.

Once your German Shepherd has the allergy under control, you can choose to continue feeding the same protein and carbohydrate source or gradually introduce another food ingredient at the same time, for example, chicken, beef, egg, wheat, etc. to test and see if the allergy returns.

Fortunately my German Shepherd has not suffered from any type of food allergy or any other allergies. You would certainly have to look for alternative food sources to the “common novels” mentioned above, as your cold-pressed dog food already contains sweet potatoes and no one takes away your sausage treats!

How to prevent food allergies in dogs

One of the toughest questions in canine nutrition is how we can prevent food allergy in our dogs. Although scientists do not yet know how to prevent it completely, there are some steps that can be taken.

First of all, feed your German Shepherd a high-quality, complete and nutritious diet. Second, feed your dog a food that only has one or two sources of protein, as this can help you have more options later, in case your dog develops an allergy.

What is food intolerance?

Many people confuse food allergy with food intolerance and they are not the same. We have learned that an allergy, for example to a certain food, is a response of the body’s immune system to defend itself against a threat. For example, a milk allergy is caused by an allergic reaction to the protein in milk.

In contrast, food intolerance or food sensitivity encompasses a large category of adverse food reactions that do not affect the immune system and can affect the digestive system. The food may have too much or too little fiber, too much fat, or have other ingredients that do not match the dog but are not due to an allergy.

If your German Shepherd is experiencing a food intolerance he will not be able to digest or absorb a particular food. Adverse reactions to a particular diet or food are often due to unknown causes, but may be related to a particular ingredient or food additive.

A classic example of food intolerance in German Shepherds is lactose intolerance . This is when they have insufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase that is needed to break down the sugar (lactose) found in milk and dairy foods. This can lead to a number of stomach problems, including excessive gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

There are other types of adverse food reactions that can occur in your dog. Among them is food poisoning, for example by eating toxic foods such as chocolate or grapes . A reaction to the toxic effects of a bacterial disease, for example Salmonella, is also possible.

Veterinarians find that food intolerances in dogs are also difficult to diagnose due to their wide range of symptoms and similarities not only to food allergies but also to other health problems or illnesses.

It can be challenging for the vet to differentiate between the two, as they also share common causes, diagnostic techniques, and further treatments.

Environmental Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment

Most cases of environmental allergies in German Shepherds are seasonal, which means that your dog can only be affected at certain times of the year, however, the exceptions to this are mold, mildew, and mite allergies. from house dust, as these can occur throughout the year. Here are the common environmental allergies in dogs:

  • Tree pollens (oak, ash, cedar, etc.)
  • Grass pollens
  • Weed pollens (ambrosia)
  • House dust mites
  • Mold spores
  • Other dander from pets (for example, cat) or even human skin

Environmental allergy is also known as inhalant allergy. Atopy or atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that can be caused by an allergy to something that is breathed from the environment.

If you and I suffered from these allergens, we would suffer from hay fever (itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing). Although your dog may have similar symptoms, he suffers primarily from itchy skin (pruritus), especially around the face, paws, belly, and armpits.

Your German Shepherd may constantly scratch, lick, or bite at your skin, making it red, sore, and prone to infection. You can also try rubbing yourself on furniture or the floor to help ease your symptoms.

If you were wondering why your German Shepherd bites you so much, this might be the answer, however, food and flea allergies can present with similar or nearly identical symptoms as atopic dermatitis. I always advise you take your dog to the vet for a full diagnosis so that you can get the best treatment.

Here are some other symptoms of environmental allergies in dogs:

  • Ear infections
  • Skin rashes (face, legs, stomach)
  • Dark and thick skin
  • Saliva stains (red / brown spots on hair)
  • Skin loss
  • Crying eyes
  • Digging into her anus …
  • Bacterial or yeast infections of the skin

Due to the hereditary nature of atopy, several other dog breeds appear to be at higher risk as well. These include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Western Highland White Terriers, and Bulldogs.

How to Treat Environmental Allergies in Dogs

German Shepherd Allergies – German Shepherd Puppy With First Aid Kit
The treatment for environmental allergies in dogs is to control the symptoms. This may include a special diet, medications, and skin supplements, among others. Since your German Shepherd will need lifelong treatment, it is wise to think about insuring them while they are puppies, as treatment can be very expensive throughout your dog’s life.

For environmental and contact allergies (see below), you should remove the offending allergen whenever possible and then treat the symptoms. Treatments will depend on the type of allergy, your dog’s symptoms, and your dog’s age.

Medications to stop itching and relieve its symptoms include antihistamines and corticosteroids (anti-inflammatories). Antibiotics may also be prescribed for secondary skin infections.

Some dog owners have been known to give their dog Benadryl, however this will not help their German Shepherd if they have developed a secondary skin infection! It is always a good idea to speak with your vet first before giving your dog any over-the-counter medications.

Your German Shepherd might also try skin supplements, for example omega-3 fatty acid supplements like fish oil, which have anti-inflammatory properties and have been effective in reducing skin irritations.

Some dog owners swear by holistic medicines or natural treatments, for example essential oils like chamomile oil or aloe vera, although these are not scientifically proven. However, there is a caveat, as some essential oils are dangerous for dogs, for example cinnamon or peppermint oil, so you will have to do your homework first and consult a veterinarian familiar with their use if you want to go for this path!

You can also switch your German Shepherd to a hypoallergenic diet as described above. Make sure it is recommended by your vet or better yet, a pet nutritionist. I found that the American College of Veterinary Nutrition has a directory of certified nutritionists to help you with this.

Your dog can also try immunotherapy (also known as hyposensitization). This is where a series of weekly injections (allergy shots) are given to your German Shepherd to introduce the allergen to them in an attempt to desensitize them to the allergen, for example pollen.

You should also eliminate environmental allergens as much as possible by making simple lifestyle changes to prevent your dog from coming into contact with known irritants. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Keeping the house free of dust mites
  • Avoid walking your dog in the early morning or late afternoon when pollen is high.
  • Clean your dog’s legs and body after his walk to help remove pollen and other allergens.
  • Using a medicated or hypoallergenic shampoo
  • Using an air filter or air purifier
  • Using a dehumidifier or air conditioner to help prevent mold

Flea Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment

Flea allergy (also known as flea allergy dermatitis) in dogs is an allergic reaction to flea bites or even flea saliva. This will make your dog very itchy, and he will react to a single bite with a severe local itch, often at the base of the tail. Your German Shepherd’s skin can become red, inflamed, and painful, and it may scab over.

Flea allergy dermatitis (and other skin allergies) can also cause a secondary infection due to excessive scratching, biting, and licking of the skin. These secondary infections, whether bacterial or yeast, will also require treatment.

This type of allergy is by far the easiest to diagnose, as you and I can even detect nasty fleas. Once you have identified fleas on your dog, you can apply a flea treatment to immediately get rid of the nasty insects. It can be extremely troublesome as a single flea can cause the reaction!

Other nasty bugs and parasites include:

  • German Shepherd Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. Group of ticks
  • Group of ticks
  • Black flies
  • Doe butterflies
  • Tabanas
  • Mosquitos
  • House dust mites
  • Spiders
  • Ants
  • Bees
  • Hornets
  • Wasps

We have already learned that some of these bites or stings can cause a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction, however don’t worry as it is rare.

If your German Shepherd suffers from severe itching due to a flea allergy, your vet may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids (anti-inflammatories) to block the allergic reaction and help relieve symptoms. Antibiotics can also be given for any secondary bacterial infection.

Make sure to regularly vacuum your carpets. I make mine daily and can’t go wrong with this Dyson Ball animal. It has great suction, is light and easy to maneuver. It also comes at a great price from Amazon.

Another tip is to make sure your dog is regularly groomed. German Shepherds have two coats and require a lot of grooming as they fight all year round. To make this job easier I use this Furminator disposal tool from Amazon which does a great job. You can also use a dog flea comb if you prefer.

It is also advisable to wash your dog’s bedding at least once a week with hypoallergenic and non-toxic detergents.

Prevention is always the best cure and I always make sure my German Shepherd flea treatment is up to date, which for her is every three months, however please check with your vet to see what is suitable for your dog.


I hope my comprehensive guide to German Shepherd allergies was helpful to you.

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have a dog that suffers from an allergy, however allergies in dogs are very common and usually not serious, so don’t worry. Your German Shepherd can still live a long, healthy and happy life with proper treatment to control symptoms.

Make sure to feed your dog the best dog food you can buy, as this is imperative for their overall health and well-being. I also recommend that you buy a good dog insurance plan, as this will protect both your dog and your wallet, as lifetime allergy treatments for your German Shepherd can be very expensive and quickly turn into the thousands. of dollars.

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I love the animals. Reading and writing about them, their customs, their peculiarities or the attention they require is exciting, and I also believe that it makes us better people. I share articles that solve the questions that dog caregivers face on a daily basis.

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