Just like a human’s, a dog’s immune system can be hypersensitive to foods or environmental substances. If you’ve ever experienced the anguish of allergies yourself, then you know how exceptionally uncomfortable it could be making your pet. So what can you do to ease their suffering?
First, let’s take a look at how to spot an allergy in your pet.
How To Identify If Your Dog Has An Allergy
Dog allergies are grouped into 3 major categories:
- Atopic allergies
- Contact allergies
- Food allergies
Atopic dog allergies are basically environmental allergies – like pollens, dust mites, or fleas – and are often seasonal.
Contact dog allergies come from actual skin contact with an irritant such as a particular type of grass, fabric, or soap.
A pup can also have a food allergy, or intolerance, to foods like beef, chicken, fish, or soy. These most commonly display themselves in the form of digestive issues.
The biggest clue that your dog may be having an atopic or contact allergic reaction is itching. Your pup may lick or chew their skin or scratch themselves. This is common around the face, ears, belly, feet, or armpits. Other symptoms include sneezing or scooting across the floor a lot. Your pup will probably also display some kind of rash or “hot spot” from excessive biting and scratching.1
Now, it can be pretty frustrating to find the exact allergen that’s upsetting your pet. But it can be useful to make notes every time they seem to have an attack. This can help your vet to work with you in solving the issue. Your vet can also try to diagnose an allergy by conducting allergy tests.
How To Manage Your Dog’s Allergy
Unfortunately, allergies can’t be cured. So, it comes down to management. Once you diagnose what’s causing your dog to react, it gets a lot easier to control the situation.
Food allergies will need a specific dietary program to rule out the exact food allergen. Of course, your vet can help you with this.
The approaches for atopic or contact dog allergies can be broken into two parts – topical and oral treatments.
- Regular baths can clean skin and fur of environmental allergens.
- Anti-itch or hypoallergenic shampoos can help to soothe itchy or aggravated skin.
- Medicated sprays can help to soothe your dog’s skin.
- Epsom salt baths can soothe itchiness and help to speed up the repair of any open wounds caused by scratching.
- Prescription shampoos are specially medicated and available from your vet.
- Foot soaks and coat wipes are two great ways to prevent your dog from trekking allergens into your home sanctuary – especially as sweaty foot pads attract allergens. Set up a foot rinse at your front door and have your dog step into it before entering the house. You can also buy paw and body wipes to wipe down your pup after their daily walk.
- Omega-3 fatty acids have shown to help your pup deal with skin allergies. You can pierce the capsule and add it to your pooch’s food. It’s best to chat with your vet first as they may have a preferred brand that they feel is safest. They’ll be able to give you the correct dosage for your dog, as well.2
- Probiotics strengthen what many believe to be the trigger behind overactive immune systems – gastrointestinal health. Healthy gut bacteria won’t cure an allergy but it may help to reduce the effects and prevent further allergies. The recommended dosage is 10 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units) per day.3
- Quercetin is referred to by many vets as “Nature’s Benadryl”. It’s a natural plant-based flavonoid that has antioxidant properties. It is commonly paired with bromelain, an enzyme from pineapple. The two are believed to have “synergistic effects”.Talk to your vet for the best dosage for the specific size of your pup.4
- Antihistamines (like Benadryl) are probably the most well-known treatment for allergies (human and canine). Unfortunately, all dogs are different and antihistamines may not prove to be effective in all dogs. They may also lose their effectiveness over time. And, though your pup may not be operating a car anytime soon, they can certainly still cause drowsiness. Speak with your vet about correct dosage, and whether an antihistamine is okay to use in conjunction with any other supplements they may be taking.5
Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, your vet may prescribe a short-term topical corticosteroid – a steroid cream. These can be extremely effective but are not recommended for long-term use because of some serious side effects.6
An Itch-Free Future
If long-term solutions are needed, allergy shots could be your next best option. Known as “immunotherapy”, allergy shots introduce the allergen to your pet regularly. This helps to desensitize their overactive immune system.7
Ultimately, allergies make your pet miserable and need to be taken care of. If left, they can go on to develop serious bacterial infections.8 The kindest thing you can do for your furry friend is to work with your vet to formulate a long-term plan that will keep them itch-free and comfortable.