Allergies are a nightmare to deal with, most of us know that. Did you know though that dogs can have allergies too? It’s true. Dog allergies can include environmental as well as food. From bumps on their skin to itching/scratching to inflammation, dogs suffer many of the same symptoms that we do.
Just like with humans, there are thankfully things we can do to help ease the symptoms your dog suffers from due to these allergies. Read below to learn more about common dog allergies and the best tips for dealing with them to help your pup be more comfortable.
Table of Contents
- 1 Types of dog allergies
- 2 How to treat allergy symptoms in dogs
Types of dog allergies
How do allergies differ in dogs?
When people suffer from allergies, we sneeze and cough and whine (some of us more than others). We know what is happening. When dogs suffer from allergies, they can’t tell us. We have to learn to read their symptoms.
The signs and symptoms of food and environmental allergies are often the same, so it may not be apparent what your dog is reacting to. If you find that you are dealing with such symptoms, it is imperative that you speak with your dog’s veterinarian in order to get the correct diagnosis.
Dog allergies: Environmental
Dogs can suffer from environmental allergies (otherwise known as atopic allergies) when exposed to particular allergens whether indoor or outdoor. Some dogs and some dog breeds can be more prone to allergies than others. This is often due to the fact that their skin barrier function is not working as it should be, allowing allergens to reach through the outer layer of skin.
Environmental allergies typically cause one or more of the following symptoms in dogs:
- Skin rash
- Skin discoloration
- Excessively licking/chewing their feet
- Ear infections
Environmental allergies that are common in dogs include:
- Dust mites
- Bugs (for example, fleas, bees)
The best way to avoid dealing with environmental allergies is to try and avoid having your dog around these allergens. For example, if your dog is allergic to dander, try and keep them in a local area with fewer allergen sources.
We want to make a special mention of flea allergies as Rainey has a severe allergy to fleas and this allergy is horrible and hard to relieve. Flea allergy dermatitis occurs when your dog has an allergic reaction to flea bites. It’s next to impossible to keep all fleas off your dog. And one bite can cause a reaction that could last weeks.
This post contains some really great tips on how to avoid fleas and how to deal with fleas if it happens. There are also some great products that you can use on your pets to help avoid them naturally, such as this flea repellent dog shampoo that uses essential oils that are known to help repel fleas.
But in the end, your best course of action to really help your dog would be to consistently treat all the pets in your home with flea preventative. You should speak with your veterinarian as to the best options.
Dog allergies: Food
While there are many foods out there that are actually poisonous to dogs, you’ll find that there are also a number of foods which can cause allergic reactions in dogs too. It should be noted though that a true food allergy isn’t very common in dogs. It is more common for a dog to have a food intolerance. While this list isn’t exclusive, be sure and keep an eye on your dog if they start to develop symptoms after eating any of the following foods:
Food allergies often present with the same symptoms as with environmental allergies, so be on the lookout for the same list of symptoms with both. Usually food allergies will also involve intestinal issues like soft stools.
According to our veterinarian, allergy testing for food allergies is not really all that reliable or effective. The only real course of action would be to do an elimination diet which can be costly and take a very long time.
How to treat allergy symptoms in dogs
If you find that your dog is dealing with allergy symptoms, the first thing you should do is relax. Take a deep breath and do not panic. Chances are, everything is going to be just fine.
Excessive itching and scratching is the most common allergic reaction that your dog will experience. The constant scratching will only make it more severe so it’s important to put a stop to the scratching before it becomes worse—potentially leading to a skin infection).
If you see severe redness or inflammation in your dog and you are concerned that it is due to an allergic reaction, it’s best to immediately call your veterinarian. Most of the time they may recommend that you simply give your dog an antihistamine, but inflammation is a “better safe than sorry” symptom and it’s best to reach out to the experts.
There are medical options for your dog in terms of both short- and long-term shots as well as oral medications, but it’s best to speak with your veterinarian about these options as well as side effects. Here are a couple of options—although this is not exhaustive and not intended as medical advice.
- Canine Atopic Dermatitis Immunotherapeutic (CADI): this interrupts the cycle of itch and inflammation in dogs with atopic dermatitis. It starts to work within a couple of days but only lasts up to two months. It is a biological therapy and therefore is broken down and recycled by the body naturally. According to our vet, this may help to assess if the allergy is environmental vs food. If this shot doesn’t give your dog relief, it’s probably a food allergy.
- Oclacitinib (example brand: Apoquel): this helps to relieve itching associated with allergies in dogs, particularly canine atopic dermatitis. It has less side effects than some other treatments. But it may worsen tumors and should not be used in dogs with a history of cancer.
- Steroids: these are very effective for environmental allergies (not necessarily food allergies) but due to their side effects, long-term use is questionable.
- Immunotherapy: allergy shots can be a great for dogs with environmental allergies because they specifically target the problematic allergens and have a low risk of side effects. However, it may take six to 12 months to reach full efficacy and doesn’t work in all cases.
Excessive itching and scratching is the most common allergic reaction that your dog will experience. The constant scratching will only make it more severe so it’s important to put a stop to the scratching before it becomes worse. There are several things that you can do to help your dog.
Cool water soak
If your dog is a fan of water, a cool water soak is a great way to calm an itch in your dog. If climbing in the water is out of the question, a cool, wet rag will also do the trick. Your dog could also benefit from skin-soothing shampoos.
Rainey, suffers from allergies mainly in the summer. So, we give her weekly shampoos outside using the garden hose. She loves it. Even just a rinse on a hot summer day works wonders. You just don’t want to be bathing your dog outside when the weather is cold (and so is the water).
A foot bath or wash is also a great way to try and remove the allergens that your dog may pick up outside. And washing your dog’s feet before entering the house, can help to limit the spread within your home. You can either rinse your dogs feet under the hose or have a dedicated basin set up near the door.
Have you taken an oatmeal bath to deal with poison ivy or other rash? An oatmeal bath is just as relieving to an itchy dog as it is to a person. Grind up some oats in your blender or food processor until it becomes a flour-like consistency. Add this to a bathtub of water and put your dog in for a soak. For more help, you can rub the mixture straight onto your dog’s skin, making sure to leave it on for at least 10 minutes before you rinse it off.
Please note though, if you suspect your dog has a food allergy to grains, it’s best to avoid.
If a cool water soak and oatmeal bath aren’t helping, you might consider giving your dog an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (example brand: Benadryl). Benadryl can easily be purchased at a pharmacy or big box store near you and they are perfectly safe to give to your pet. You should know though, that these types of medications will likely make your pet sleepy, so don’t panic if they become calmer than normal after taking it.
Ask your veterinarian to confirm dosage but the standard dosage for a dog is 1 milligram (mg) per pound. Most tablets are 25mg, so one tablet is sufficient for a 25-pound dog. You can give this to your dog two to three times a day (8-12 hours apart). If your dog is smaller, look for children’s tablets as these are usually in dosages of 12.5 mg.
Consider supplements for dog allergies
Supplements such as CBD and Omega 3s can help your dog’s immune system. Fish (for example mackerel, salmon, sardines, krill) are the most common source of Omega 3. Plant-based sources include flaxseed oil, hemp oil, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.
Rainey has been showing signs of allergy relief by the addition of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) extract to her food. It is considered to be nature’s antihistamine. You should consult a holistic veterinarian if you are curious about using this for your dog.
Unfortunately, there are no true cures for dog allergies, however, when you follow the tips posted above, plus you help your dog live a healthy lifestyle with a proper diet and sufficient exercise you can make their allergy symptoms less severe. A healthy, active dog will have a better immune system which will be better prepared to deal with allergens.