Common Golden Retriever Allergies: Causes & Treatments

Dog allergies come in many different types. Finding the cause and deciding on the right treatment can be difficult. We are here to help. In this article we will help you identify the problem and decide on the best treatments to make your Golden Retriever comfortable.

Types of Dog Allergies

Allergies. Oh, those pesky allergies. Even though Golden Retrievers are predisposed to various health conditions, allergies are probably one of the most frustrating to have to deal with. Dogs can develop allergies at any stage in their life. They can develop one or multiple of the following types of allergies:

  • Environmental/seasonal allergy
  • Food allergy
  • Flea allergy

Allergies in dogs usually cause incessant itching. However, depending on the cause of your dog’s allergy, the symptoms can vary. In the article below, we’ll discuss the different causes of allergies. We’ll also discuss what symptoms you may see if your dog is suffering from seasonal verses food verses flea allergy, along with available treatments for each.

It’s important to note that there is not a cure for allergies. All of the treatments available are aimed at decreasing the intensity of the allergy and managing it. But nothing developed, as of yet, will truly cure it.

Environmental Allergies

Anything and everything from inside the home to outside the home can cause environmental allergies. The following things inside the home can cause allergies in your Golden Retriever.


  • dust mites
  • air fresheners
  • candles
  • shampoo you may bathe them with
  • laundry detergent you may wash their bedding in
  • cigarette smoke
  • mold

Things outside of the home that can cause allergies include:

  • pollen (all kinds and any kind!)
  • grass
  • trees
  • hay/straw

Some Goldens can suffer from environmental allergies all year long. Others have particular seasons that are worse for them. It’s actually not uncommon for a dog to even have worse allergies in the winter months.

Symptoms of dogs with seasonal allergies:

  • Itching all over the body
  • Licking in between the toes
  • Itching only during certain seasons or times of year
  • Runny nose
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Itchy ears


If you suspect your Golden Retriever is suffering from seasonal allergies and their itching or other symptoms are not resolving on their own, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your vet.


If you are not able to get in to your vet’s office right away, you can try giving them some Benadryl (generic version is fine). Make sure it’s regular Benadryl and nothing with a decongestant in it.  Don’t ever give your dog Benadryl-D or any anti-histamine with a decongestant in it, as these are very toxic to dogs. Here is the dosing:

Weight of DogBenadryl to give every 8-12 hours
25 lbs25mg (1 standard tablet)
50 lbs50mg (2 standard tablets)
75 lbs75mg (3 standard tablets)
100 lbs100mg (4 standard tablets)

Once you are able to take your Golden to the vet, the following are some things they may recommend.

Itch-Relieving Medications

For some dogs, anti-histamines, such as Benadryl, just don’t cut it to relieve their itch. Stronger prescription medications are needed. These medications can come in either injection or pill form. Based off of your pet’s exam and their medical history, your vet will prescribe which one may best suit their needs. Here is a list of some of the medications that are available:

  • Apoquel (safe to use long-term as needed)
  • Prednisone/prednisolone (a steroid, so usually just used for short-term relief)
  • Temaril-P
  • Cytopoint
  • Atopica

If your dog is experiencing dandruff, be sure to check out our article on dog dandruff. We cover the treatments for dandruff in that article.


If your itchy Golden has scratched so much that they are starting to lose fur and their skin looks really red, they may have a secondary bacterial infection. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics for this.

When your dog has allergies that cause itchiness in their skin, there is a break down in the normal skin barrier.  This allows your dog’s normal skin bacteria to over-produce and invade the skin barrier, contributing to the itchiness. These bacteria are not contagious to other dogs.


Anti-fungals are used to treat secondary yeast infections. Many dogs with allergies have an overgrowth of yeast on their skin (or in their ears). These happy yeast organisms over-produce for the same reasons mentioned above about bacteria. They just like to take advantage of the havoc going on within your poor dog’s skin.

Allergy Testing

If your dog has been suffering from allergies all year long, or if their itching is intense and not controlled well with the above medications, your vet may recommend allergy testing. This will let you know exactly what the culprit allergen is that is causing all your dog’s problems. Your vet can obtain a blood sample and send out to an allergy lab. You will get a full report back with everything your dog is allergic to.

The purpose of allergy testing is to develop specific allergy shots for your dog. Based off of the allergy test results, the lab can prepare the right mixture of all the things your dog is allergic to. They prepare them in small enough amounts to desensitize your dog to the allergens. It’s sort of like a vaccine, actually!

Just understand that allergy shots will not completely get rid of your dog’s allergies. They will simply decrease the intensity of the symptoms your dog has during their peak allergy season. They will also decrease the amount of other medications your dog needs to relieve their symptoms.

Food Allergies

Ingredients in food; usually the protein source, such as chicken, pork, or beef can cause food allergies. Other ingredients that could cause food allergies are the carbohydrate source (potato, rice, or corn), or even a food coloring/dye.


It can be extremely difficult to identify the exact cause of your dog’s food allergy. Observation and testing will be key at this point.

Symptoms of dogs with food allergies:

  • Itchy ears
  • Hives
  • Anal gland problems (abscess, impactions, fistulas)
  • Itching all year long (no seasonality to it)


If you suspect your dog may have a food allergy, first look at the bag of food they have been regularly eating and determine what is the main protein source.

Try Different Food

Try to find a comparable dog food that contains a different protein source (one your dog hasn’t been exposed to before), such as salmon or lamb. Slowly transition your dog to the new food over the course of 1-2 weeks. Gradually increase the amount of the new food and decrease the amount of the old food mixed together to prevent causing any digestive issues.

It’s imperative that you feed your dog the new food for at least 6-8 weeks to know if the new food helps with their itchy skin. It’s also very important to not feed your dog anything else during this process- no treats, no table scraps, and no flavored bones or chew toys.

If your dog’s skin starts to be less inflamed and less itchy, at the end of the food trial, reintroduce the old food into your dog’s diet and see if they start itching again. If they do, then we can be fairly certain of what your dog is allergic to.

Many people choose not to reintroduce the old food to avoid their dog getting itchy again, which is fine as well. It’s completely understandable to not want your dog to go through that again.

Prescription Food

Your vet may also recommend starting your dog on a prescription food for your dog’s food allergies. Prescription foods are usually better because they are made in very specific facilities to not allow cross-over between foods, preventing contamination with other ingredients.

They also break down the proteins in the food into very small pieces, so your dog’s body can’t even recognize them, which prevents the itchiness from happening.

Flea Allergies

Even though fleas can cause most dogs to itch some, dogs with flea allergy itch much more severely than those without flea allergy. They will itch with a fury and find it hard to focus on other things


Allergens within the flea’s saliva can cause a dog to have an allergic reaction. Avoiding fleas is important in all dogs, especially those with allergies.

Symptoms of dogs with flea allergy:

  • Intense itching
  • Itching mostly near the rump and tail base
  • Itching along the back legs
  • Hair loss at the rump and tail base
  • Hair loss along the back legs
  • Very reddened skin
  • Small black specks on your dog’s skin or left behind in their bedding (this is flea poop!)


Dogs with flea allergy need to stay on flea prevention all year long, even throughout the winter months. If your dog brings fleas on them inside the home, you will need to vacuum daily and wash their bedding weekly.

Fleas reproduce very quickly and they lay eggs within the home environment. The flea eggs can hatch weeks later and get back on your dog.

If you are not able to get your dog’s flea allergy under control with flea prevention alone, schedule an appointment with your vet. Your dog may need a course of antibiotics. Your vet may also be able to get you prescription flea prevention that works better against some fleas.


Oftentimes, we never get down to the root cause of the allergy and usually just treat the symptoms, including the itch and any secondary skin infections that develop. Do your best using the methods above and be sure to visit your vet for further assistance.

Having a happy, healthy Golden Retriever is what we all want. I’m sure your dog will thank you for helping them through this! Be sure to check out Common Health Issues with Golden Retrievers to learn more!

Dr. Leslie Brooks

Dr. Leslie Brooks graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. She has been working in small animal clinical medicine ever since. She spends much of her free time volunteering in the community, from Meals on Wheels to working with pets of the homeless and vulnerable.

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