Pet insurance policies are underwritten by Markel American Insurance Company.
Follow Us
Sad dog laying on floor

Dog allergies can cause recurrent ear infections

Q: Lucas, our 5-year-old Labrador retriever, has seen his veterinarian many times over the past two years for gradually worsening ear infections. Why do they keep coming back?

A: The most common cause of recurrent ear infections is an underlying allergy, an inherited condition common in retrievers.

Two types of allergies can be responsible: atopy (or atopic dermatitis) and food allergy. Both manifest the same way, as itchiness, redness or infection of the ears, face, armpits, belly, groin, feet or anus. Some dogs manifest their allergies only as recurrent ear infections.

Atopy is an allergy to substances in the environment, like pollen, mold or grass. Food allergy is hypersensitivity to one or more food ingredients, usually proteins. Atopy often develops around the age when Lucas started experiencing his ear infections. Food allergy can begin any time, but often it strikes dogs either under one year of age or over six.

Atopy starts seasonally and then often becomes a year-round problem, while food allergy begins year-round if the dog eats the same food every day. To complicate matters, a dog like Lucas may have both atopy and food allergy. If standard allergy medications don’t help, ask your veterinarian to refer you to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist.

Alternatively, your veterinarian can explain how you can conduct a food trial at home to determine whether Lucas has a food allergy. For a couple of months, you’ll feed him a home-cooked diet containing only one protein and one carbohydrate that Lucas has never before eaten.

Commercial over-the-counter foods have been proven to contain ingredients not listed on the label, so they can’t be used for a valid food trial. Furthermore, veterinary dermatologists agree that blood testing cannot accurately diagnose food allergy.

So, consulting a veterinary dermatologist is the fastest way to determine the cause of Lucas’ recurrent ear infections and find an effective treatment.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com

Q: My friend recommends...

What You Need To Know About Heartworm In Pets | Figo Pet Insurance

We all care about the health and...

Veterinarian Tips For Choosing Dog Food | Figo Pet Insurance

Q: What brand of food...

More From Figo Blog
Scarf’d: Mother Cluckin’ Good Chicken And Waffles For Pets

Mother’s Day is for the moms (fur, human,...

Dog Breed Profile: Getting To Know The Beagle | Figo Pet Insurance

Playful. Energetic. Family friendly. Ears as...

Cats On Glass: Flipping Your Feline Perspective Upside Down | Figo Pet Insurance

Cats on glass objects like tables and shelves...

Five Ways Owning A Cat Is Good For You | Figo Pet Insurance

There are almost as many ways to describe cats...

Woman with dog looking for pet friendly activities on mobile phone

There’s an app for everything these days—from...

Person holding a dog's paw

Donating to a pet-related charity is something...

High-maintenance cat breeds require grooming

Generally, cats have the reputation of being...

Owner using tick puller to remove tick from dog's neck

Q: My dog Jasper gets lots of...

HELP