What Happens if Dog Allergies Go Untreated?

What Happens if Dog Allergies Go Untreated?

Dogs, like humans, can suffer from a variety of allergies. These allergic reactions can cause discomfort and, if left untreated, can lead to more serious health issues. This article explores the consequences of leaving a dog's allergies untreated, the types of allergies dogs commonly experience, and the importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Understanding Dog Allergies

Before delving into the consequences of untreated allergies, it's crucial to understand what allergies are and how they affect our canine companions.

What are Allergies in Dogs?

Allergies in dogs occur when their immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance, known as an allergen. When a dog is exposed to an allergen, their immune system produces antibodies, which then cause certain cells to release chemicals (such as histamine) into the bloodstream. These chemicals are responsible for the various allergy symptoms dogs experience.

Common Types of Allergies in Dogs

Dogs can suffer from several types of allergies, including:

  1. Food Allergies: Reactions to specific ingredients in their diet.
  2. Environmental Allergies (Atopy): Reactions to inhaled allergens like pollen, dust, or mould.
  3. Flea Allergy Dermatitis: An allergic reaction to flea saliva.
  4. Contact Allergies: Reactions to substances that come into direct contact with the skin.

Common Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

Allergy symptoms in dogs can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Itching and scratching
  • Redness of the skin
  • Ear infections
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes
  • Gastrointestinal issues (in the case of food allergies)
  • Paw licking or chewing
  • Hair loss
  • Skin infections



The Dangers of Untreated Dog Allergies

When a dog's allergies go untreated, it can lead to a cascade of health issues, ranging from uncomfortable to potentially life-threatening. Let's explore the potential consequences in detail.

1. Chronic Discomfort and Reduced Quality of Life

The most immediate consequence of untreated allergies is ongoing discomfort for the dog. Constant itching, scratching, and irritation can significantly impact a dog's quality of life. This persistent discomfort can lead to:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy or decreased activity levels
  • Behavioural changes, including irritability or aggression

Over time, this chronic discomfort can take a toll on the dog's overall well-being and happiness.

2. Skin Damage and Secondary Infections

Constant scratching and licking can damage the skin's protective barrier, leading to a host of secondary issues:

  • Hot Spots: Also known as acute moist dermatitis, these are red, moist, hot, and irritated lesions that can develop quickly when a dog's scratching breaks the skin.
  • Bacterial Infections: The damaged skin becomes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, leading to painful skin infections (pyoderma).
  • Yeast Infections: Similarly, yeast can overgrow on damaged skin, particularly in warm, moist areas like between the toes or in skin folds.
  • Chronic Ear Infections: Allergies often affect the ears, leading to recurrent ear infections that can become chronic if left untreated.

3. Systemic Health Issues

If allergies are left untreated for an extended period, they can lead to more systemic health problems:

  • Weakened Immune System: The constant state of inflammation can weaken the dog's immune system, making them more susceptible to other illnesses.
  • Chronic Inflammation: Ongoing allergic reactions can lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body, potentially affecting various organ systems.
  • Malnutrition: In cases of severe food allergies, a dog may not be absorbing nutrients properly, leading to malnutrition.

4. Respiratory Issues

For dogs with environmental allergies, untreated symptoms can progress to more serious respiratory problems:

  • Chronic Bronchitis: Long-term inflammation of the airways can lead to chronic bronchitis.
  • Asthma-like Symptoms: Some dogs may develop difficulty breathing or wheezing, similar to asthma in humans.

5. Behavioural Changes

The constant discomfort from allergies can lead to significant behavioural changes in dogs:

  • Increased Aggression: Dogs may become more irritable or aggressive due to their constant discomfort.
  • Anxiety: The persistent itching and discomfort can lead to increased anxiety in some dogs.
  • Depression: Chronic discomfort can lead to a depressed state in dogs, characterised by decreased activity and interest in usual activities.

6. Reduced Effectiveness of Future Treatments

When allergies are left untreated for a long time, they can become more challenging to manage in the future:

  • Increased Sensitivity: Prolonged exposure to allergens without treatment can lead to increased sensitivity over time.
  • Development of Additional Allergies: Some dogs may develop allergies to additional substances if their initial allergies are not properly managed.
  • Reduced Response to Treatment: In some cases, dogs may not respond as well to treatments when they are finally administered after a long period of no treatment.

The Progression of Untreated Allergies

To better understand how untreated allergies can escalate, let's look at a typical progression:

  1. Initial Symptoms: Mild itching, perhaps some redness of the skin.
  2. Increased Scratching: The dog scratches more frequently and intensely.
  3. Skin Damage: Constant scratching leads to breaks in the skin.
  4. Secondary Infections: Bacteria or yeast infect the damaged skin.
  5. Chronic Inflammation: The skin becomes chronically inflamed and thickened.
  6. Systemic Effects: The dog's overall health begins to decline due to chronic stress and inflammation.
  7. Behavioural Changes: The dog becomes irritable, anxious, or depressed.
  8. Potential Organ Damage: In severe, long-term cases, chronic inflammation may affect internal organs.

Treated vs Untreated Allergies

To illustrate the importance of treating dog allergies, let's compare the outcomes of treated versus untreated allergies:


Treated Allergies

Untreated Allergies


Improved comfort, reduced itching

Chronic discomfort, constant itching

Skin Health

Maintained or improved skin condition

Skin damage, secondary infections

Overall Health

Maintained or improved

Potential systemic health issues


Normal or improved

Potential aggression, anxiety, or depression

Quality of Life

Maintained or improved

Significantly reduced

Long-term Prognosis

Generally good with ongoing management

Poor, with increasing health complications

The Importance of Early Diagnosis and Treatment

Given the potential consequences of untreated allergies, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial. Here's why:

1. Prevents Escalation of Symptoms

Early intervention can prevent mild symptoms from progressing to more severe ones. For example, treating a mild skin irritation can prevent it from developing into a painful hot spot or skin infection.

2. Improves Quality of Life

Prompt treatment can quickly alleviate a dog's discomfort, significantly improving their quality of life. A comfortable dog is a happy dog, more likely to engage in normal activities and behaviours.

3. Reduces the Risk of Complications

By addressing allergies early, you can reduce the risk of secondary infections and other complications that can arise from untreated allergies.

4. More Effective Treatment

Generally, allergies are easier to manage when caught and treated early. This can lead to better control of symptoms with potentially less intensive treatments.

5. Cost-Effective in the Long Run

While allergy treatments can be costly, they are often less expensive than treating the complications that can arise from untreated allergies.

Steps to Take if You Suspect Your Dog Has Allergies

If you notice any signs of allergies in your dog, here are the steps you should take:

  1. Get a Diagnosis: A diagnosis is crucial. Your vet can perform tests to identify the type and cause of the allergy, or you can try an at home test to identify possible sensitivities.
  2. Follow the Treatment Plan: This may include medications, special diets, or environmental changes. Stick to the plan even if symptoms improve.
  3. Monitor Your Dog: Keep an eye on your dog's symptoms and report any changes to your vet.
  4. Regular Check-ups: Even with successful treatment, regular veterinary check-ups are important to monitor the allergy and adjust treatment as needed.
  5. Be Patient: Allergy management often requires some trial and error to find the most effective approach for your individual dog.




Untreated allergies in dogs can lead to a host of serious health issues, significantly impacting their quality of life and potentially leading to more severe medical conditions. From chronic discomfort and skin damage to systemic health problems and behavioural changes, the consequences of neglecting a dog's allergies can be far-reaching and severe.

It's crucial for dog owners to be vigilant about potential allergy symptoms and seek veterinary care promptly if they suspect their dog may be suffering from allergies. Early diagnosis and treatment not only alleviate the dog's immediate discomfort but also prevent the escalation of symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term health complications.

Remember, every dog is unique, and allergy management often requires a personalised approach. Working closely with a veterinarian to develop and maintain an effective treatment plan is the best way to ensure your furry friend stays healthy, comfortable, and happy despite their allergies.