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13 Common Allergies for German Shepherds: Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

red german shepherd

German Shepherds are not typically prone to food allergies. However, they can occur in any dog. The only way to manage allergies is through medication and avoidance of the allergen itself.

Allergies fall into two main categories: environmental and food. Environmental allergies are found in the environment, such as pollen from a particular plant. On the other hand, food allergies are things in a dog’s food.

German Shepherds can technically become allergic to anything. However, they are usually prone to a few specific allergies. It isn’t that these things are more likely to cause allergies. They are just the most common in a dog’s typical food and environment, so more dogs happen to be allergic to them.

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The 13 Common Allergies for German Shepherds

1. Chicken

raw chicken breast meat
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Chicken is one of the most common allergens in dogs. First, it’s a protein, and most dogs are specifically allergic to proteins. Second, it is common in dog food. Nearly all dog foods have chicken in them, even when it isn’t technically the flavor of the dog food.

For instance, dog food that is labeled as “salmon” can contain chicken as well. This is why it’s important to check the ingredient list. What’s on the front of the bag isn’t necessarily the whole story.

About 15% of dogs with allergies are allergic to chicken.

There is no reason that you shouldn’t feed your dog chicken if they aren’t allergic to it, however. Chicken is only more likely to cause allergies because it is extremely common in dog food. If your dog eats nothing but duck instead, they are equally as likely to develop an allergy to duck.

2. Beef

raw beef meat
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Beef is a common allergen. In fact, beef is slightly more common than chicken as an allergen, at 34% of dogs with allergies.

Beef is a common ingredient in nearly all dog foods. It’s a popular flavor and supplement. Even if it isn’t listed on the front of the bag, there is a good chance that it’s in the ingredients.

Beef is perfectly safe for dogs to eat if they don’t have an allergy to it, which is why it is commonly used in so many different dog foods.

3. Wheat

wheat crops
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Wheat is a bit of a controversial subject in the dog food world. Many pet owners assume that grain-free food is automatically healthier for their canines, but this is not typically the case.

Dogs have evolved to eat grains throughout thousands of years living next to people. They have different digestive systems than wolves to help them accomplish this. When you’re a dog living around people, being able to eat wheat is a boon.

Grain-free diets have been associated with certain health issues, though. For instance, the FDA is currently investigating a link between peas and certain canine heart conditions.

That said, some dogs are sensitive to wheat. Around 13% of dogs with food allergies are allergic to wheat, specifically.

4. Dairy

dairy products
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Dairy is found in some dog foods, though it’s not nearly as common as chicken and beef. According to studies, about 17% of dogs with food allergies were allergic to dairy.

When dogs are allergic to dairy, that doesn’t mean that they can’t eat dairy at all. Cheese and yogurt may not cause an allergic reaction in dogs sensitive to lactose. The lactose in goat’s milk and cheese does not have the same makeup as the lactose in cow’s milk, so it doesn’t always cause the same reactions.

5. Flea Bites

removing mite and flea from dog paw
Image Credit: Naurora, Shutterstock

Fleas are common environmental allergens for dogs. Typically, the dog has a reaction to the flea’s saliva, which gets transferred to their skin when they are bitten.

Luckily, this allergen is easy to avoid with a flea prevention medication. We recommend choosing one that kills fleas on contact, not one that requires the flea to bite your dog in order to work. If the flea has to bite your dog, then they can still experience an allergic reaction.

Therefore, choosing a topical flea preventative that kills before the fleas bite is essential for dogs with allergies.

6. Cleaning Products

person spraying on the carpet
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Many dogs are allergic to certain cleaning products. They spend more time on the floor than we do, so they are often closer to whatever we use to clean the floor with. If you use harsh products on your floor, your dog may have an allergic reaction to them.

However, even if you use a “natural” product, there is a chance that your canine will still be allergic to one of the ingredients. Usually, switching to a different cleaning solution can be helpful. However, it’s important to look at the ingredient list, as many cleaning products on the market contain the same or similar ingredients.

7. Pollen

plant pollen
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

Just like people, dogs can be allergic to pollen. Often, these allergies flare up around the same time that certain grasses and trees bloom. However, dogs can become allergic to a wide range of pollen, in which case, their allergies will last longer and occur more frequently.

8. Mold

brick wall with molds
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Many dogs are allergic to mold, just like humans. If there is mold in your home, they will often have chronic allergies. However, if the mold is simply at a place that they frequent, they may only have a reaction when they are in that location.

Mold allergies usually occur after the dog has been exposed repeatedly. They aren’t something that the dog is born with. Repeat exposure is necessary for them to become allergic. If your dog becomes allergic to mold, it is likely that the mold has been there for a while.

9. Medications

dog medications
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Dogs can develop an allergy to a range of medications. These allergies can form quickly, often after one dosage of medication. However, they can also occur after the dog has been taking a medicine for a while.

Dogs may be perfectly fine on medication and then develop a serious allergy to it.

Reactions to medications can be quite serious, so it is important to seek veterinary attention right away. The dog will need to be put on a different medicine, and the reaction needs to be treated.

10. Cigarette Smoke

cigarette smoke
Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

Some dogs are sensitive to cigarette smoke, especially if they have been exposed to it for much of their life. If you commonly smoke around your dog, they may eventually develop an allergy to it.

Cigarette smoke allergies are often difficult to diagnose. There are often many factors in the dog’s environment that they could become allergic to, and the last thing most people think about is cigarette smoke.

11. Feathers

ostrich feather
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It may seem strange, but some dogs are allergic to feathers. They usually develop a reaction after eating or sticking the feather in their mouth. However, some are so sensitive that they only need to touch a feather.

Usually, all feathers cause problems, not just certain ones.

This is one of the more difficult allergies for pet parents to control. The dog can easily find feathers outside and touch them before their owner can stop them! Dogs are often naturally drawn to feathers because they are connected with prey animals.

12. Perfumes

different perfumes on a table
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Many dogs are sensitive to perfumes. Usually, it is a specific kind of perfume. However, it is possible for dogs to become allergic to most perfumes. In this case, it is best to avoid wearing perfume around the dog.

Often, the perfume in the air is enough to set off a reaction. Dogs don’t necessarily have to physically touch the perfume.

13. Dust Mites

dust mites 3d rendered
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Dogs can become allergic to dust mites. These small creatures are hard to get rid of, so controlling this allergy can be difficult. However, to prevent further reactions, getting rid of the mites is essential.

Dogs need repeated exposure to dust mites before they develop an allergy to them. Therefore, if your dog is allergic to dust mites, the mites have been around them for a while.

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German Shepherds aren’t more prone to allergies than other breeds. However, any dog can develop them, including your German Shepherd.

If your dog develops an allergy, medication may be an option. This is usually the case with environmental allergies that are difficult to avoid, like pollen. Your dog can’t exactly avoid pollen, so many dogs need to be put on allergy medication.

However, the easiest way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid the allergen altogether! This can be easy to do for dog food once you know what your dog’s allergen is. Fleas and dust mites can be a bit more difficult to avoid, though.

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Featured Image Credit: Callipso, Shutterstock

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