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canine health problems

How to treat (and what to feed) your pit bull with allergies

Pit bulls are prone to skin allergies. Here’s what you need to know to treat your dog’s allergies and avoid reactions to certain dog foods.

Updated March 9, 2021

Created By

Kaitlyn Arford,
pit bull scratching

Pit bulls are courageous, compassionate, and known as loyal companions. But these bullish breeds — including Staffordshire Bull terriers and American pit bull terriers — are also allergy prone and susceptible to skin conditions.

Why pit bulls are prone to skin problems and food allergies

There are many reasons why your pit bull has allergies. A few of the different causes of your pit bull’s allergies include:

Environment. Since pit bulls have a sleek undercoat, they don’t have thick fur to protect them from environmental irritants like other dog breeds. Grasses, pollen, and other environmental irritants that your dog comes into contact with on a walk could trigger an allergic reaction.

Underlying medical concerns. Fungal infections and yeast infections that develop in moist areas like your dog’s ears, paws, and groin could be what’s causing your dog’s skin conditions.

Internal and external parasites. Fleas, ticks, and mites can result in skin symptoms like itching, excessive scratching, and hair loss. Some dogs can also have a flea allergy, which causes their skin to over-react to the bite of even a single flea.

Grooming and cleaning products. Shampoo, detergent, and perfume could irritate your pit bull’s sensitive skin.

Food. Some pitbulls can suffer from food allergies. If a dog has food allergies, it is typically because they are sensitive to the more commonly used type of protein source within dog foods, like beef, chicken, or pork.

Seasonal allergies. Pit bulls are susceptible to seasonal allergies just like humans. Seasonal allergens, like certain types of pollen, may irritate your pit bull.

Medication. Just like food, dogs can be allergic to certain types of medications, too.

👉 Your veterinarian can diagnose your pit bull’s allergies and help you treat them.

Pit bulls can experience these types of allergies

  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Flea allergies

Common allergens for pit bulls:

  • Various types of pollen
  • Various types of grass
  • Dust mites
  • Certain types of perfumes
  • Food proteins (beef, chicken, pork)
  • Certain types of cleaning products (shampoo)
  • Latex

Common symptoms of allergies in pit bulls

The specific symptoms of allergies seen in dog breeds vary depending on the cause. These symptoms are the most common signs of dog allergies:

  • Chronic ear infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Dandruff
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Hair loss
  • Hot spots
  • Hives
  • Excessive scratching, biting, and licking
  • Nasal discharge
  • Paw chewing
  • Scabs or sores
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

Diagnosing allergies in pit bulls

The first step to solving dog allergies is consulting a veterinarian to diagnose what’s plaguing your precious pit bull. Veterinarians will often begin by ruling out certain conditions and foods that could be causing your pit bull’s problems.

Your veterinarian may recommend allergy testing, which may be a blood test to find out what environmental or seasonal things your dog may be allergic to. They can also refer you to a veterinary dermatologist for more specific allergy testing. Food allergies in dogs are typically diagnosed with an elimination diet, which simply means that you feed your dog a new food they haven’t eaten before for at least 6-8 weeks to see if the allergy symptoms resolve and don’t come back.

Veterinarians can also look for any fleas or bugs that could be causing the problem.

They may even prescribe an allergy relief medication to ease the symptoms of allergies. For severe allergies, they may also prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal medication, if there is evidence of a secondary infection brewing.

So talk to your vet about what course of action to take. Your vet will know what’s best for your pit bull’s overall health.

👉  If your dog has a severe allergic reaction, you need to seek professional veterinary care immediately.

hand feeds dog biscuit to a hungry pit bull

How pit bull owners can help treat pit bull allergies

Try to prevent health problems by avoiding the allergen if at all possible. Treatment depends on what’s causing your dog’s allergy.

Check indoor and outdoor spaces. If your pit bull is experiencing a skin allergy, examine your outdoor and indoor environments for any potential causes. Make sure any cleaning products you’re using are dog-safe. Wipe down your pit bull with hypoallergenic wipes after a walk.

Inspect them for any ticks, mosquito bites, or fleas. If you find any ticks, remove them immediately. If you find fleas, you may need veterinary-grade products or veterinary prescriptions to fix the infestation. Always keep your pit bull updated on their flea and tick medications.

Monitor their time in the sun. Since pit bulls have such short hair, they can burn more easily than some other breeds. Burns will irritate their skin and can make skin allergies worse.

Use moisturizer. If your pit bull has dry skin, you can try using a natural moisturizer. Rubbing coconut oil into your dog’s dry skin can effectively treat your dog’s itchy hot spots. If your dog is prone to allergies, antifungal shampoos can also help decrease additional yeast in their skin that could over-reproduce and cause a problem.

Add omega-3 or fish oil to their diet. Adding omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease the severity of your pit bull’s allergies. These fatty acids help reduce inflammation, promote a healthy skin, coat, and immune system, and supports heart, cardiovascular, and joint health. But your dog can’t produce these crucial omega fatty acids on their own. Adding fish oil (which naturally has omega-3) is the easiest way to add omega-3 into their diet. You can typically hide fish oil capsules in soft food or pour the liquid on their kibble.

Try a probiotic supplement. Probiotic supplements promote a healthy coat and skin in pit bulls. Vitamins like zinc can also help with chronic itching, dandruff, and dermatitis.

How proper nutrition can help pit bull allergies

A healthy diet is key to keeping your beloved canine companion around for years to come — and provides comfort and treatment for your pit bull’s skin allergies. But always speak to your veterinarian to create a nutrition plan before switching up your dog’s diet. Sudden changes to your dog’s food can cause gastrointestinal issues like a decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Since it’s possible that the ingredients in their dog food are causing the allergies, work with your veterinarian to explore the ingredient label on your dog’s bag of dog food. Knowing what is in their food will help you make a better decision when determining what food to switch them to. The key is to get them on a different food with a new protein source that they haven’t been exposed to yet.

Always check the label and see if your dog’s food includes any protein sources or ingredients that could be to blame. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) notes that all food manufacturers must meet regulations for manufacturing and labeling pet food. Food labels must list ingredients in order of highest to lowest quantity per the weight of each ingredient. Four nutritional guarantees are required including: a minimum percentage of crude protein and fat and a maximum percentage of crude fiber and moisture. It’s also important to note that all dog food should have a balance of mostly protein, and also include some fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins.

Limited ingredient dog foods are one way to narrow down the cause of the allergy. The recipes for limited ingredient dog foods vary, but they include fewer ingredients. Some may include only one protein, or just one fat or carbohydrate source.

Hypoallergenic dog foods are another option. These dog foods include ingredients that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Hypoallergenic dog foods may include less popular proteins, like venison. There are also hypoallergenic dog foods in which the protein source is broken down so small that your dog’s body can’t react negatively to it. These are usually more expensive and require a veterinary prescription — but they are often the only foods that truly work for dogs with food allergies.

You can try grain-free diets — but only if your veterinarian recommends them. Grain-free diets can actually be a danger to your dog as there is some evidence that these diets can cause heart disease.

👉 The best dog food for pit bulls depends on their allergies and it’s always best to ask your veterinarian for suggestions.