Attention New Puppy Pawrents! How To Spot Allergies Early

Attention New Puppy Pawrents! How To Spot Allergies Early

Adjusting to having a new pup at home is no easy feat. There’s a reason people say it’s similar to bringing home your first baby. Between eating, making lots of noise, and constant pooping, you can see where the idea comes from. 

With a puppy, you’ve got a lot to think about in those first few weeks and months: finding food, toilet training, playing with them, stopping them from chewing anything they can get their paws on, getting them into a routine. It never ends!

But the greatest priority of all is making sure your pup stays as happy and healthy as possible. And to do that, you might have to think about any allergies or intolerances they might have. And since they (sadly) can’t just tell you what’s wrong - especially as you’re just getting to know each other - these problems can be hard to figure out.

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So we thought we’d put together some of the major warning signs you can look out for, as well as your best course of action after spotting something out of the ordinary.

Cute little puppy casts a big shadow - How To Spot Allergies Early

What are allergies and intolerances?

Before we really get into it, it’s worth breaking down the difference between allergies and intolerances.

Allergies are an immune response where the immune system sees something totally innocent as a threat and hits the big red panic button. It then goes into overdrive trying to lock down the allergen and flush it out. Take hay fever as an example. When your nose runs and your eyes get all watery, this is your body doing what it can to keep the pollen out of your system.

Intolerances are slightly less severe. They’re a digestive response, which is why your body tends to react at one end or the other. Lactose intolerance is probably the most famous example. Your body has a hard time digesting whatever the culprit is, affecting how it makes its way out of your system.

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Neither is very nice to experience, and your pup will likely feel the same way too. The difference between humans and dogs is how allergies mainly affect us. As humans, our allergy organ is our respiratory system, which is why it might end up in an anaphylactic shock.

But in dogs, it's their skin. So you’re more likely to see them break out in something after having something that doesn’t agree with them.

What to look out for

Our little floofs have more in common with us than you might think. Just like us, they can be allergic to pretty much anything. They can even have hay fever, the poor sods. But because their allergy organ is their skin, that’s where you should look first. Here are a few signs you have a chance of picking up on:

    •    Rashes

    •    Heat spots or hives

    •    Sudden bald patches

    •    Dodgy poo

    •    Excessive licking of the paws

    •    Scratching 

    •    Dry spots

    •    Excessive head shaking

    •    Aggressively pink/red skin (more noticeable in dogs with white fur)

But while these are common signs of an allergy or intolerance, it isn't always so simple. Itching could also be a sign of fleas. Continuous, out-of-the-ordinary scratching, however, could be an issue. It gives you somewhere to look. Skin reactions and dodgy poos are easy enough to spot, so keep your eye on these.

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Some breeds are more likely to have skin conditions, such as Bulldogs - most notably French Bulldogs. They have one of the highest genetic and environmental predispositions to canine atopic dermatitis (CAD) - more commonly known as skin allergies. Most often, these reactions can be found on their toe beans, belly, skin folds, and ears

Identify the root cause quickly

Any allergy or intolerance your pup is suffering from could be topical (from their environment and surroundings) or from their food.

You’ll likely want to figure out what’s happening to your poor pooch. Elimination diets are a possibility to discover a food allergy, but they’re slow and not always effective. You can also go to the vet, but they will likely prescribe steroids, lotions, or potions, which don’t actually get to the root of the problem. So you find yourself in an endless cycle of treating symptoms while they keep getting worse. 

The fastest way to uncover what’s going on is to simply take an allergy or intolerance test. It takes a few minutes to apply for a personal home test kit, and you can have your results in as soon as 48 hours.

While you wait, be aware of common allergens such as beef, chicken, eggs, dairy, and soy. They make their way into a lot of dog food. You might be tempted to grab the first hypoallergenic brand you see, but it isn’t an allergy-free guarantee. They can be packed with dodgy ingredients such as derivatives and additives, which can set your doggo’s allergies off. The problem here is that the labels are often confusing. Who knows what’s in “meat derivatives”? It could be literally any meat. So it’s very possible there are ingredients in there that don’t sit right with your pup.

By uncovering the direct root cause of any issues your pooch is having, you can begin to go through any ingredient lists with a fine-toothed comb to ensure no allergens are slipping through the cracks.


When to seek outside guidance

Your tests might come back clear, at which point, it’s a good idea to consult your vet. Not all scratches or heat spots are equal. Some could be caused by various conditions and infections that won’t show on an allergy test, even though a lot of the symptoms can be the same. It’s complicated, we know.

As an example, there are staphylococcal (staph) infections, an inflammatory bacterial skin condition. While dogs always have staphylococcus living on their skin, if the skin is damaged, or your pup has an underlying condition, it can turn into an infection which could prove fatal if untreated.

Nothing will dampen the excitement of bringing home a new fur baby quite like a tired and sad puppy who’s uncomfortable or in pain. Sad puppy, sad pawrent, right? By looking out for the warning signs, you can get your pup back to its usual happy self in no time at all.


If you’re after tasty, nutritious dog food that makes it simple to avoid certain allergies or intolerances, look no further than Swagwags. Available in a range of delicious flavours, and with varying options for different sensitivity levels, our kibble contains high-quality, responsibly sourced protein in every single bag. 


Alia Coster, the founder of hypoallergenic dog food brand Swagwags, is passionate about all things doggo nutrition and health. Thanks to her Shapei-Rottweiller cross, George, being allergic to life, she understands the daily nuances of a pawrent of a dog with allergies. You'll find more of her articles on her website

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DogFest 2022