Pit Bull Allergies - Common Skin and Food Allergies You Should Know About

Sometimes there’s nothing cuter than watching your Pit bull reach up to give itself a good scratch.

However, noticing a serious skin problem, such as a rash or hives, on your beloved pet’s skin and coat can be very distressing. Especially when you don't know why it's happening.

Pit bulls, like people, are sometimes prone to food and environmental allergies.

Dermatitis can be especially noticeable due to their short coats. Pit bulls also tend to be quite active and may become hungry and go scrounging around in food they should not be eating.

Once you’ve eliminated some of the obvious culprits, such as skin infections, fleas, and parasites, it can be quite daunting to figure out what the problem is. So what could be causing your Pit bull this discomfort, and what can you do about it?

Symptoms of Allergies

 A young caramel-and-white coloured pitbull lies under a table and looks at the camera.


The symptoms of dog allergies can be very similar to those we see in humans. This can typically include.

  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Excessive scratching
  • Itchy skin
  • Excessive licking
  • Inflamed dry skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing/wheezing
  • Hair loss
  • Wet, runny eyes
  • Repeat Ear infections
  • Inflammation - especially in the belly and joints
  • Swelling around the eyes, ears, lips, and other facial features.

Many of these symptoms can also be signs of other diseases or conditions, so if in doubt, it's normally best to get a vet’s opinion. Vomiting or diarrhea can also be an indication of a  food sensitivity.

Remember, if you suspect your Pit bull is having a severe allergic reaction, you should take them to a vet immediately! 

Outdoor Environmental Allergies

A happy gray pitbull basks in the sun on a grassy hill.


Pit bulls need quite a lot of exercise and fresh air to be healthy, happy dogs. Letting them run in a big yard, in a park, or on a trail can be a wonderful means of bonding with your Pit bull and giving them some stress relief and stimulation.

However, these are hot spots for encountering an environmental allergy. All dogs are susceptible to bites from fleas, mosquito bites, and ticks. If you start to notice that a bite has become unusually inflamed or has resulted in a rash, then it could be that your dog is sensitive to proteins in that insect’s saliva.

This is normally easily remedied by keeping your Pit bull's anti-flea and tick medications up to date and checking them regularly for ticks. If you are really worried, then you might be able to ask your vet for a dog-friendly insect repellent.

Other outdoor allergens can include dust mites, pollen, mold, and spores which can lead to fungal infections. It might be a good idea to keep hypoallergenic wipes on hand in case of a contact allergy.

Read More: Common Summer Allergies for dogs

Indoor Environmental Allergies

pit bull lying on a bed


Harsh soaps, essential oils, and even some types of detergents and furniture polish might cause a contact allergy or aggravate an existing skin allergy.

For starters, always make sure that you’re using a trusted dog-safe shampoo. Any shampoo or lotion containing scents, colorants or any exfoliant is normally bad news for a dog. Even dog-specific shampoos might contain ingredients that your pittie might have a bad reaction to.

Remember, like humans, every dog is unique. This also includes skin allergies. A product that you might have used safely on one dog, even another Pit bull, may cause a skin allergy on another dog.

If in doubt, sometimes it is best to try a hypo-allergenic or glycoprotein-based shampoo. You can also perform a spot test on your dog by rubbing a tiny bit of the shampoo or cream on a patch of healthy skin. If a reaction forms, then you know you have the culprit. [1]

If you suspect that a specific product has caused skin allergies, make sure that you rinse the area thoroughly with cool water or a damp towel to prevent any further contamination.

Be careful when applying topical creams. Always make sure they are dog-friendly. Sometimes a dog might lick a topical cream applied to a rash or lesion, which may cause stomach upsets.

Common Food Allergies

A big bowl of dog biscuits shaped like bones.


However, not all allergic reactions on the skin are necessarily due to the environment. Sometimes it can be a dietary issue that causes a dog’s skin allergies. Though usually, they will include some kind of gastrointestinal symptom as well.

Most Pit bulls tend to have a healthy appetite and It can be difficult to ensure you're giving them the best dog food they need. Especially if they have some food sensitivities.

Most dog owners are aware of the dangers of foods like chocolate, raisins and raw egg,, but allergies are not the same as poisonous food types. Allergies are sometimes normal parts of a recommended diet, and are an overactive immune response to a substance, normally a protein.[2]

Read More: Best Dog Food for Pit bulls

Almost all dog food contains animal proteins. Pit bull allergies are normally a response by your dog’s immune system, mistaking a type of protein for an issue. Your Pit bull can be allergic to almost any protein in their foods.


Beef ranks highest in the most common doggy food allergy. The longer a dog is exposed to one kind of food, the increase in the likelihood of them developing an allergy or intolerance. Beef is the most commonly used meat in all types of dog food, making it the most likely food allergy in pit bulls. 


Wheat is a common bulking agent and caloric ingredient in dog foods. While your Pit bull is less likely to be allergic to a grain instead of a meat, they can still be at risk. 

Some dogs may also have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten. A compound normally found in wheat, which makes wheat more likely to cause an issue over other grain types such as barley.


Almost every dog breed is lactose intolerant. This means that your Pit bull is very likely to have a tummy upset if they eat or drink anything with too much dairy in it. Normally this can be remedied by keeping dairy products to a minimum, or sticking to ‘safer’ dairy options such as yogurt, instead of milk and cream.

However, if your dog is suffering from more than just a tummy upset, or if the symptoms include a rash or hair loss, then it's very likely that your dog might have a dairy allergy.

Read more: A more dog safe ice-cream treat you can make at home 

a lady holding an ice cream cone


Plant based milks, such as almond, coconut, or soy, might be safely used, in moderation, as an occasional treat. Though these tend to be high in sugar, calories, and fats, and therefore might cause some problems of their own.


Soy is a very controversial topic in dog food already. As it has been linked to a number of dog health issues, such as reproductive issues and liver disease. Luckily, it is normally easy to spot on an ingredient list and avoid.


A surprisingly common human allergy that can be just as common in dogs. Egg yolks contain a bunch of special proteins that are common allergens. Once again, eggs are not that common of an ingredient, and are easy to spot on the ingredient list.


While not as popular as beef, chicken is still a widely used meat. Some pet owners with sensitive pets like to cook their dogs chicken as part of a meal, but since it is a protein, there is still a chance that this could be what's causing the issue.


Pretty much the same story as the beef and chicken. While lamb is not normally as big of an allergy risk as beef or chicken, it could still be an allergen. Pork could also fall under this bracket - though pork is the least likely major meat group to cause allergies according to research.


While fish is a great source of omega-3 and other fish oil (normally something that would improve your Pit bulls skin) it can still be a culprit. 


Fruit might seem like a very strange thing to give a dog. However, a little bit of fruit, such as apples (without their cores), strawberries, blueberries, and bananas, as a treat, can make up part of a healthy Pit bull diet.

Fruit can cause some intolerances though, especially if the fruit has gone a bit soft. Eating too much fruit is likely to cause a gastrointestinal upset. Allergies to certain fruit can also occur.

So is Any Protein Safe?

Normally an allergy will be restricted to one or two forms of protein, so normally just eliminating that particular allergen might solve the problem.However, if your Pit bull has many allergies, or if you’re concerned that they are not getting enough nutrition on an allergy-restricted diet - then you may want to consider hydrolyzed-protein dog food.

Hydrolyzed protein is just regular protein that has been put through a process of hydrolysis, breaking the protein down into its basic components. Which means that your Pit bull will still get all of the minerals and amino-acids of meat, but without the large protein molecules that can trigger an allergy. (3)

You could also try making your own dog food at home. This is the best way to make sure that no foreign or triggering ingredients are making it into your Pit bull's diet.

Diagnosing an Allergy in your Pit Bull

A gray pit bull sits happily.


Sometimes the issue may be obvious. You can see an immediate onset of symptoms after he/she is exposed to a type of food or environment.If it's not so obvious, there are a number of allergen tests available. However, the effectiveness of these kinds of tests is still dubious.

Normally the most effective way of isolating an allergen is with an elimination diet. This should be done under the supervision of a vet, to ensure that your Pit bull is still receiving the nutrition it needs. 

This involves cutting out all potential allergens and slowly reintroducing them into your Pit bull’s diet and observing them for a reaction. Remember, this includes all foods, including treats, table scraps, and potential snacks left within reach. Occasionally, seasonal allergies might be diagnosed via a skin test or a blood test.


a lady wearing a matching hoodie as her pit bull

Finding, and coping with an allergy in your Pit bull can sometimes be a difficult task. It takes a watchful eye to see when the symptoms of an allergy are occuring.

However, keeping an eye on what your Pit bull is eating, making sure they get the best dog food for their needs, especially the proteins they need to live up to their full potential, is very rewarding. You should notice an improvement after the pesky allergen is removed.

There’s no need to be too paranoid. Your Pit bull can live an active and fulfilling life, and get a balanced, nutritious diet despite their allergies. It may take a little more effort, but enjoying time with your healthy and comfortable pit bull will be worth all of the hassle. Remember, if you're worried about a symptom, or if you're feeling overwhelmed, it's alway good to get a professional opinion from a trusted vet.

Sources quoted:

1 - https://wagwalking.com

2 - https://www.aspca.org

3 - https://www.petmd.com