HEALTH & CARE

Dog Allergy Treatment: Keep Your Dog Happy and Healthy

Happy and healthy dog
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

You have probably never considered the possibility that your dog may need allergy treatment. Just like we humans can suffer from allergies that range from mild to severe, so can your furry friend. Dogs are just as commonly affected by allergies as we are and, depending on the allergy, it can affect them in many different ways. It could be horribly itchy and dry skin, ear infections or even diarrhea and vomiting.

If your dog has shown any of the above symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian about the issue. They will be able to advise you on possible allergies your dog may be suffering from and the proper dog allergy treatment you need to follow. To get a better idea of common allergies your dog could be suffering from, we have compiled a list of types of allergies, common symptoms and possible treatments.

Just remember after reading this: if you think your dog is suffering from allergies, always contact your vet prior to starting any treatment.

Types of allergies

According to the main allergen, there are several types of allergies your dog can suffer from:

  • Airborne
  • Food
  • Flea
  • Contact

All dogs will react to different allergens differently, which can make it hard to diagnose exactly what kind of allergy your dog may have. Symptoms of dog allergies usually include intense itching (which leads to biting and chewing of the skin), often sneezing, chronic ear infections, rash, vomiting and diarrhea.

Atopic dermatitis in dogs

While these are common symptoms, there are others that may present themselves less commonly like red or watery eyes, coughing and wheezing or even swelling of the face or limbs. If your dog presents any of these symptoms you should take your dog to the vet immediately. They will help you to decide what the best course of action is to restore your furry friend to optimum health.

If you’d like an introduction on what allergies are and how they affect your dog, please read our article on how to effectively treat dog allergies.

Airborne allergies

Just like us humans, dogs can also suffer from airborne allergens such as pollen from trees, grass and weeds as well as dust mites that are common in any household – even the cleanest ones. If your dog is suffering from these types of allergies you may not even know right away. Rather than having respiratory issues like humans, most dogs are affected with intense itching of their skin (commonly on their face, feet and the under arms.)

These kinds of allergies can be difficult to control (and impossible to cure), but it is doable when approached the right way. First you will need to figure out what your dog is allergic to. This can be done in many ways, but the most common is a skin test or blood test performed by your vet.

 

Boxer with allergies

Allergy tests for dogs work very similarly to those performed on humans. A skin test is done by exposing the skin directly to certain allergens and see which the dog reacts to. A blood test can be performed as well, but will not often give as quick or accurate results as the skin test. While your dog may not be happy with the trip to the vet, they are sure to love relief from those horrible allergies!

The best way to treat airborne allergies in dogs is to avoid the allergen. If the allergy your dog suffers from is pollen related, then treatment can be as simple as keeping them inside as much as possible during seasons with high pollen count. If your dog is allergic to dust mites in your home, you may be able to aid them with the help of an air purifier.

If keeping your dog away from the allergen is not possible or just very hard to accomplish regularly, your vet may prescribe an antihistamine treatment.

Vet's Best Hypoallergenic Shampoo with Aloe Vera

Other possibilities include allergy shots (which are given regularly, usually weekly, slowly immunizing your dog to the allergen) and hypoallergenic shampoo and regular bathing.

Food allergies

Dogs with allergies to food can be a little bit trickier to diagnose, especially since food allergies are often side-by-side with other types of allergies. If your dog is allergic to something in his food, he will often suffer from itchy skin, ear infections, and vomit and diarrhea symptoms above others. Your vet will likely test for airborne, flea or contact allergies first, since those are easier to diagnose.

If your dog does not respond to the treatment for other types of allergies, or as soon as the medication is completed the symptoms return, then your vet is likely to assume a food allergy. Unfortunately, the only way to treat your dog for a food allergy is to avoid contact with that food. The hard part about this is finding the proper offender, when their dog food is likely a mix of things. (Usually beef, chicken, wheat, soy and egg – which are the most common foods for dogs to be allergic to.)

To diagnose a food allergy in your dog, your vet will have you feed them an exclusive diet of commercial hypoallergenic dog food or a homemade dog food for a minimum of 8-12 weeks. For that time period it is extremely important that your dog eats nothing but the prescribed food. If you give your dog any table scraps, medications or toys with flavoring then the test will be invalid. You absolutely have to stick to this diet for the advised time period.

Dog with food allergies

If your dogs’ symptoms clear up, you will slowly reintroduce other foods into the diet until you know which one he is allergic to. Once this is determined then it is easy to keep your dog from further allergic reactions, simply remove the offending food from your dogs’ diet. This is the only proper treatment for a food allergy in dogs and a food test is the only way to diagnose a food allergy in dogs.

Flea allergies

The most common allergy that dogs suffer from, are allergies produced by fleas. While this may seem obvious, you may not have considered how severe of a reaction your dog can have to flea bites. In some dogs the flea bites are just an annoyance, they will itch a little and it will be fine. In other dogs, the reaction can be thousands of times worse. The dog may itch as though he or she was bitten hundreds of times when really they only have two or three bites.

This is caused by a reaction to the saliva in the flea bite. Some dogs just have a more severe reaction than others that can leave them miserable and itchy. Your dog will probably be biting around the base of his or her tail a lot or just chewing constantly all over, which will lead to open wounds and hair loss. When you are trying to sooth your dog’s skin after initially being bitten you can try a bath with Epsom salt, but the only way to give your dog the most relief is to kill all the fleas.

Many commercial products are out now for treatment of fleas and this is really the only way to cure your dog of a flea allergy. Of course that rather than trying to treat the dog afterwards it is better to prevent it from happening. Products like Frontline Plus, Capstar, and K9 Advantix II are all great for not only killing the fleas already on your furry friend but also preventing them for up to a month.

K9 Advantix II

You are much better off spending your money on one of these products than to settle for shampoos or sprays. These sorts of products are only mildly effective in comparison. After all, if you could choose between killing most of the fleas and preventing all of them, wouldn’t you choose to get rid of all of them? You should also consider going out for a few hours and using a bug bomb on your house if you have had a recent infestation (or moved into a place that did).

Contact allergies

Contact dermatitis is actually the rarest of all the allergies your dog could be suffering from. This allergic reaction usually presents itself in the form of extremely irritated skin, usually with a present rash or open sores from chewing. Dogs can suffer this allergy alongside others, so if symptoms do not go away once treated or the offending allergen is removed, consider testing for other allergies.

A contact allergy can come from a type of detergent you use to wash the dogs bedding, a specific type of metal used on their collars and leashes as well as chemicals such as commercial deodorizers used on carpets and furniture. To determine what type of chemical or metal your dog is allergic to your vet will probably use a blood or skin test, as they would with airborne allergens.

Treatment for this sort of allergy in dogs can be as simple as removing the allergen from the dog’s life. Changing to a natural deodorizer for cloth materials, switching to a cloth collar instead of a metal one or changing the shampoo you bath your dog with are all examples of prevention of contact dermatitis.

Once your dog is effected by an allergic reaction you vet may prescribe a temporary relief treatment such as using an antihistamine or antibiotic to reduce swelling or itching. Once your pets’ symptoms have been reduced you can move on to prevention which is the best treatment for any allergy.

There are plenty of other diseases and infections that can lead to discomfort in your pet. Here’s our article on skin conditions in dogs so that you can determine what you’re really dealing with.

The most effective treatments

Now that we know how the four different types of allergies are put into categories and what symptoms are most likely to present, you can start thinking about allergy treatment for your dog. Your vet will likely start off assessing your dogs’ symptoms to decide if this is indeed an allergic reaction. Some illnesses may present themselves with similar symptoms but can be far more serious, which is why you should always consult your veterinarian when you are concerned about your pets well-being.

If your dog had a severe reaction to a contact or airborne allergy then your vet may prescribe them a medication to relieve the symptoms temporarily, such as an antihistamine. If your dog is taking this medication and the symptoms go away then the chances of it being something other than an allergy are very slim. This should be a relief for you, knowing that all you have to do now is learn how to prevent future allergic reactions.

Dogs taking their treatments

Though there is no way to 100% cure a dog of allergies, there are methods that can reduce the reaction to the offending allergen. Allergy shots are one of the best methods to reduce reactions. Your dog will be injected with a small amount of the allergen weekly for several months to a year. As time goes by, your dog will slowly become able to fight the allergen without help from antihistamines or any other medication.

In some cases, when your dog is suffering an ear infection, runny nose, or digestive problems as an allergic reaction, the best and most immediate course of action is antibiotics. If your dog’s symptoms return as soon as the medication is completed and you are working on prevention to an airborne, contact or flea allergy, then you may be dealing with a food allergy. Remember a true food test and then cutting out the offending food is the ONLY way to prevent an allergic reaction to food.

While there is no real cure to dog allergies, there is one way to be sure that your dog is not suffering from these allergies. The method of treatment is called prevention and it is the only 100% way to keep your dog from an allergic reaction. Prevention can be handled in several different ways depending on the type of allergy, but it is always the most effective treatment for dog allergies.

If you’d like a more detailed list on the treatment options that are available to your pet, consider reading our article on the most effective treatments for dog allergies.

Prevention is the key to a happy pet

If your dog suffers from airborne allergies, then the best method of prevention is to keep him indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are high. When you do have to go outside for bathroom breaks or walks, try to keep them as brief as possible. Bathing your dog often with a hypoallergenic shampoo is also great to help relieve symptoms of airborne allergies in dogs. This will help wash out any pollen or other allergens that may stick to his coat during his time outdoors.

No matter what sort of allergy your dog needs treatment for, the best course of action is prevention. If you can do anything for your best friend it is to make sure they are not suffering and not only feeling better with temporary relief. You should consider multiple allergies if you try the prevention treatment for one type, and symptoms do not fully subside. Sometimes the symptoms presented will be related to one allergy or illness, but another symptom may be caused by something entirely different.

If your dog suffers from multiple allergy types here is a good list of treatment options to keep your pet comfortable.

  • Feed your dog all natural and hypoallergenic food
  • Bathe your dog often with a natural shampoo product or Epsom salt to reduce itching
  • Use hypoallergenic detergents on your furniture, carpet and the dogs bedding
  • Avoid going on long walks or being outside for extended periods when pollen counts are high
  • You can give your dog a Benadryl or similar antihistamine if needed (after consulting with your vet)
  • Use commercial flea treatments that are meant to kill and prevent flea infestations
  • Use stainless steel bowls for food and water

These tips are a combination of things that will work for dogs with all types of allergies. If your dog suffers from multiple allergies then all of these things may be necessary.

Stainless Steel Flat Rim Flat Base Mixing Bowl

It is up to you to make sure you prevent your dog from contact with allergens as much as possible to keep them happy and healthy. Remember, prevention is the only real treatment for dog allergies.

Always check with your vet

This is why it is so important that you never try to diagnose your pet yourself. Your vet is trained to help your dog stay happy and healthy and they will only do what is best for them. They will test for common allergens and give your dog the proper treatment. If that treatment is only mildly effective, they will keep testing until the proper diagnosis is made. If there is any chance that something more severe than allergies is affecting your dog, your vet will be able to tell you.

Dog at the vet

After all, you wouldn’t just look up your symptoms on WebMD and make your own diagnoses about yourself or a child or spouse, would you? Of course not! So why do that for your fur-baby? While this article is here to inform you of symptoms and possible treatments to allergies in dogs, your vet is the only one you should rely on to give you a diagnosis.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Daisy Simmons

    I had to legitimately read the title twice, I believed I was mistaken at first! Dogs and allergies never come together in the same sentence for me before. That is, until today. I learned something new! Thanks to this article, I think I can be well-prepared when something untoward happens.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Some of my clients also don’t buy the idea that dogs can actually get allergies. It actually happens to them too. Every pet parent should understand that our fur babies can get it, and will not get any better unless we do something about it.

  • Jem Stark

    Our dog is relentlessly chewing on her front paws and her hind legs. I’ve heard about the drug Atopica and I really want to hear your opinion about it. Is my dog a likely candidate for this medicine? Any advice is appreciated folks and thanks!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      When a dog chews or licks their paws or hind legs, it can be allergies or heart problems especially when the dog is coming from the large dog breeds. On these cases, don’t self-medicate just to be sure that you are not making the symptoms worse.

  • LeahJacobySmith

    My problem is my pooch Popo. He is super allergic and we’ve tried everything from always vacuuming the house, switching shampoos, tests and letting him take Zyrtec. However, he seems to itch more and more. We want to try some holistic methods but don’t know where to start. Help please!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Hi, Leah,
      You should also consider switching dog food based on what the veterinarian recommends. This can be one of the problems that aggravate your dog’s allergies.

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