You consider your dog an essential part of your family. Therefore, you may feel worried when you hear him sneeze. Is it a cold or could he have allergies?

It's not only people who suffer from allergies. Dogs can also respond to a variety of triggers, ranging from foods to fleas to environmental factors, explains Richard S. Goldstein, DVM, who runs the Mobile Vet Squad in Westchester County, NY.

The Widespread Problem 

The problem is so widespread that as many as 20 percent of all pets have some type of allergy, according to statistics from the ASPCA. In dogs, allergies usually surface in the first few years of life, but even adult dogs can suddenly exhibit the symptoms, which can appear similar to those experienced by people. The main difference, of course, is that he can't tell you what's bothering him, so you'll have to play detective to get to the root of the problem.

Common Signs
Common signs of allergies in dogs include:
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
Your veterinarian can help you determine the source of these ailments by thoroughly examining your dog and taking the history. Blood or skin tests may  also be necessary.

Treating the Problem

Depending on what the culprit is, there are some simple changes you can make that can help your pet feel better. For instance, for suspected food allergies, you may need to eliminate certain foods from your dog's diet or use special prescription food.

For indoor and seasonal allergies, banish dust mites and mold from your home by cleaning often and filtering the air. Wash your pet often and have her groomed regularly to remove any triggers that can be trapped in her hair and skin.

Flea allergies are best prevented before they kick in, since the itchiness and irritation from a flea bite can last for several weeks. Using flea control products during the warmer months can be effective. (In warmer parts of the countries, this means all year long.)

Long-Term Control 

While some pets will respond well to these simple ways to prevent symptoms, others may need more ongoing allergy-control strategies. If your dog falls into the latter group, talk to your vet about other treatment options, such as using antihistamines or having your dog receive regular allergy injections.