Dogs are like humans in many ways. As with humans, they can be sensitive to their environment. A multitude of different offenders can drive your dog crazy, and result in obsessive licking, scratching, itching, and sneezing. Sometimes allergens can even drive your dog into displaying odd behaviors like scooting across the floor.
Though in most cases these allergens are harmless, some dogs can have strong reactions to them. This happens when their immune system reacts and their body tries to rid itself of the offending agent. Symptoms of allergies in dogs can manifest in responses that will make your dog utterly miserable. Of course, that means by extension you are miserable, because no one likes to stand around and watch their dog suffer.
Signs of Allergies in Dogs
Some of the signs your dog is suffering from allergies may include more obvious signals, like itching and scratching (especially when it is excessive). If your dog’s itching results in moist, red, scabbed-looking skin, there is definitely a problem.
Sometimes dogs will experience runny noses, itchy and runny eyes, as well as suffer from canine ear infections. Their ears may itch and at times ooze a foul-smelling liquid. Some dogs may itch along their back or around the base of their tail, although this is typically seen more in dogs with flea allergies.
Sometimes dogs may sneeze, vomit, and even experience diarrhea due to an allergic response. Dogs may lick constantly (even obsessively), as well as chew their paws. Sometimes dogs may even snore because of allergies that may be causing inflammation in their throat.
Also, if a dog is suffering from any sort of secondary bacterial or canine yeast infection, you may notice hair loss coupled with scabby, crusty-looking skin. Unfortunately, no dog is immune to allergies, and sensitivities can develop at any time in a dog’s life.
It is thought that some breeds may be more susceptible than others, but it really boils down to the individual dog and the current strength of their immune system.
Types of Allergens Dogs May Be Sensitive To
Another thing dogs have in common with people is they can be allergic to just about anything. However, as with people, some things seem to be more common than others.
Dogs can be allergic to things like:
- Dust mites
- Tree and weed pollens
- Cigarette smoke
- Cleaning products
- Fleas and flea saliva
- Flea medications
- Food allergies
- Prescription medications
- Even certain rubbers and plastics
Allergy Treatments for Dogs
So, what can you give a dog that is suffering from allergies? It really depends on the type of allergen, as the type of allergen will determine the type of treatment options that will be most effective. Common treatments for allergies in dogs are often medications meant to suppress the function of your dog’s immune response and keep the immune system from attacking itself.
Some drugs that your vet may prescribe for this purpose include steroids and/or anti-allergy medications like Atopica or Apoquel. Unfortunately, drugs like Atopica and Apoquel can sometimes do more harm than good.
It is recommended to be cautious with these medications and to do your research before giving them to your pet. Some of them can increase a dog’s susceptibility to more life-threatening conditions, even as they suppress your dog’s immune response to the offending allergen currently causing them grief.
It’s up to you and your vet to decide which medications may be right for your case and your dog, and up to you and your vet to decide if your dog needs any medications at all.
Occasionally your vet may recommend a special diet, or recommend prescription dog foods intended to treat allergies. While some of these special foods can be beneficial to your dog, still others can contain harmful ingredients that could make your dog worse. Foods that contain a high starch content and foods that use fillers are two examples.
Still other foods promoted as hypo-allergenic can contain MSG, which has been known to cause brain damage in dogs. When considering dietary changes, it may be wise to prepare your dog’s food yourself so that you know exactly what is going into it.
Then you can ensure they are getting healthy nutrition that is supporting their recovery, not fighting against it.
If your dog’s allergies do require medications (such as may be the case with certain airborne allergens that can’t be removed from your dog’s environment), here are a few that are typically prescribed:
Sometimes your vet may recommend allergy injections to help your pet build up an immunity to certain allergens, instead of just treating the symptoms and relieving the itching. These allergy vaccines may help reduce the number and severity of symptoms over time, making them a more attractive option than many other drug treatments.
In some cases, antihistamines may be recommended. One of the more well-known medications sometimes recommended is Benadryl. Just bear in mind that these types of antihistamine medications won’t work on all dogs. This is because histamines aren’t the only culprit when it comes to what is causing their itching, something else could also be triggering a response to itch. These drugs often must be combined with other types of medications to be effective.
Immune Modulating Drugs and Cortisone
Sometimes vets may recommend immune modulating drugs to suppress the immune system, and in very severe cases, cortisone drugs may become necessary. However, cortisone should only be used under close supervision by your vet, as they are very strong medications that can cause significant side effects.
Fatty Acid Supplements
Sometimes dogs may benefit from daily fatty acid supplements like biotin and omega-3’s. These supplements can bring quite a bit of relief to skin that is itchy, plus keep your dog’s coat and hair healthy. Coconut oil may be useful for this as well. Either way, it’s a win-win.
Special Sprays and Shampoos
Specials shampoos may be used to help relieve itching and prevent secondary infections, which is a common occurrence in dogs with allergies. If you don’t like using shampoos, you can also find sprays that offer similar benefits. If your dog has any hotspots, sulfodene sprays in particular may be beneficial for them and help reduce the redness and irritation that leads to painful itching.
Flea Prevention Medications
If your dog is suffering from a flea allergy, they may benefit from a flea prevention medication that is applied topically. Even the bite of a single flea can make a dog with a flea allergy utterly miserable, so if your dog has this type of allergy, it’s important to be proactive in their treatment to avoid any undue suffering.
Natural Alternatives to Allergy Medications for Dogs
When you want to avoid oral or topical medications, there are several natural allergy therapies you might try instead. These include:
Quercetin is sometimes used as a natural antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant supplement. It’s a flavonoid found in a group of phytonutrients that comes from fruits and veggies.
Some research suggests quercetin may reduce allergy symptoms by preventing the release of histamine in the body. This flavonoid is found naturally in foods like broccoli and apples. However, you might find quercetin more beneficial as a supplement, since the dosage is much more concentrated that way.
Another natural treatment option is bovine colostrum, which can be given in powder or pill form. This supplement is believed to help suppress the immune response, and is also thought to be an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. It is thought to work by helping to build up your dog’s natural antibodies that help them to combat common allergens.
Gut bacteria is a very important component in treating allergies successfully. Prebiotics and probiotics are essential, and giving your dog sprouted seeds can be an excellent way to provide these things, as well as give your dog important gut-supporting vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. It is possible this is why dogs seek to consume grass when they have a tummy upset.
For a topical relief measure, you can try applying brewed and cooled green tea to itchy skin. Green tea contains polyphenols which offers anti-inflammatory and antihistamine-type effects that can be soothing for your canine.
Fresh aloe from an aloe plant is healing and can reduce inflammation in dogs because of enzymes contained in the gel. However, the gel must be from a fresh aloe plant. The bottled stuff in stores does not usually have the necessary enzymes to provide significant relief.
Baking soda is another inexpensive and well-known natural remedy used for calming inflammation. It can be used as a paste, or you can dilute a tablespoon or two in a spray bottle full of water. Simply spray the solution on your dog’s skin (after a good bath, of course).
Witch hazel is sometimes used as a natural treatment option for allergies. It can be applied to itchy, rash-covered skin several times a day. It can also be used in your dog’s ears, and as a dip for their feet when their pawls are itchy. Witch hazel has a high level of tannins which work to repair skin and reduce swelling, making it ideal for allergy sufferers.
What Else Can I Do for My Dog’s Allergies?
Try wiping down your dog with wet wipes after they’ve been outside or on a walk. You can find pet grooming wipes just about anywhere, and they are a quick and efficient way to clean your pet up and remove offending allergens and dander until they can be given an actual bath. Just make sure that whatever wipes you use, your dog is not sensitive to those as well!
Bathe your dog regularly. It sounds super simple, but sometimes simple is what works. You can use hypoallergenic and anti-itch shampoos specially formulated for dogs with allergies for best results. These are shampoos that contain soothing ingredients like oatmeal or evening primrose oil. Just be careful that you don’t go overboard with bathing your dog, because that can backfire and make skin conditions in dogs worse.
In between baths, you can soak your dog’s feet when they come indoors to remove any outdoor allergens they may have picked up and wind up carrying into the house.
Avoid over vaccinating and over medicating your dog. Unfortunately, too many vaccines can cause your dog’s immune system to overreact and open the door for allergic reactions. Antibiotics tend to wipe out the good bugs along with the bad bugs, which upsets the delicate gut flora that is critical for a healthy pet. When given too often, medications like these can wreak havoc with your dog’s immune response.
Keep Your Air Clean
Consider purchasing an air purifier for inside your house, to get a handle on dust mites. Use cleaning products that are nontoxic, and make your home a no smoking zone. These three things alone can have a significant impact on your dog’s indoor environment and as a result, their health.
As you can see, there are no one-size-fits-all treatment options for dogs with allergies. The type of treatment required will often depend on the type of allergy your dog may have, and sometimes that is not always easy to pin down. It can become a “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” type of scenario, which can be frustrating.
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from some sort of allergy, is wise to take them to your vet and enlist their help in narrowing down the cause of the problem. Then your vet can recommend the best treatment options available that will be geared specifically for your dog and their unique set of problems.