If your dog is constantly scratching itself, losing fur, or developing a rash, it may mean that your pet is suffering from an allergy. Allergies have become an increasingly frequent issue in dogs.
Be it a food allergy, skin allergy, environmental allergy, or seasonal allergy, your furry friend will be able to get rid of those troublesome allergic symptoms in no time given the right diagnosis, treatment, and care.
Causes of Allergies in Dogs
There are a number of substances that can be possible allergy triggers in dogs:
- Flea or flea treatment products
- Dust, pollen, mold, or other environmental allergens
- Dust mites
- Tobacco smoke
- Certain medications
- Certain food items
- Bird feathers
- Cleaning products
- Shampoos or hygiene products
Signs and Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs
The symptoms of allergies can be very debilitating and uncomfortable for your furry friend.
Common symptoms associated with this condition are:
- Red eyes
- Itchy skin
- Discharge coming from the eyes and nose
- Itchy paws
- Hair loss
- Red spots from scratching
- Vomiting (in some cases)
If your dog has seasonal allergies, there can be additional symptoms like:
- Sinus inflammation
- Excessive mucus
- Yeast infections
- Skin irritations like rashes
Food allergies are also common in dogs and can manifest symptoms such as:
- Itchy skin
Preventing Allergies in Dogs
Here are a few tips to reduce the occurrence of allergic reactions in dogs:
- Avoid allergy triggers as much as possible.
- Take effective measures to manage fleas.
- Plan your daily walk at a time when the pollen count is low, if possible.
- Keep your home free of environmental allergens.
- Increase the fatty acids in your pet’s diet to help boost their immune system and reduce the occurrence of allergic reactions.
- Plastic bowls used for serving food and water to pets can absorb and hold bacteria and other allergy-causing agents, despite being cleaned often. Replace plastic with stainless-steel, glass, or ceramic food bowls and keep them meticulously clean.
- Wipe the dog down with a wet towel after it comes in from outside.
When to See a Doctor
In case of severe or persistent symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention.
Consult your veterinarian regarding your pet’s diet in the event of a possible food allergy.
Seeing your dog in such discomfort can make you feel terrible. While it is recommended to take your pet to a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment for allergies, there are several home remedies that can help your dog feel better and possibly alleviate some of the symptoms.
Tips and Remedies to Prevent Allergies in Dogs
Here are 10 home remedies for allergies in dogs.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (in diluted form) is an effective remedy for the treatment of allergy symptoms in humans and pets.
It helps restore the acidic nature of your pet’s skin, which in turn reduces the itchiness, rashes, and other symptoms associated with an allergy.
Other than this, apple cider vinegar also boasts antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties, which can help with skin irritation (caused by allergens) and inflammation (caused by excessive scratching).
- Pour raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and an equal amount of water into a spray bottle. Shake well to mix the ingredients. Spray the solution all over your dog’s skin, and allow it to dry on its own. Use this remedy 1 or 2 times a day.
- Also, add raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to your dog’s food once daily for a week. Use 1 teaspoon for dogs up to 14 pounds, 2 teaspoons for dogs between 15 and 34 pounds, and 1 tablespoon for dogs between 35 and 85 pounds.
Oatmeal is one of the best remedies for dogs suffering from itchy skin caused by allergies.
An oatmeal bath is very soothing and offers moisturizing benefits as well. Moreover, it can help relieve hot spots and remove fleas, ticks, and various allergens that may be present on your dog’s skin or trapped in its coat.
- Add 1½ cups of colloidal oatmeal to a big tub filled with warm water. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil. Bathe your dog in the oatmeal bath for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse off the oatmeal with warm water. Repeat once daily until your dog shows no symptoms of allergies.
- Alternatively, you can buy colloidal oatmeal shampoo and conditioner for your pet and use it as directed.
3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil offers several benefits not just to humans but to dogs as well. It can be useful in providing quick relief from allergy symptoms.
Firstly, it contains lauric acid, which has antiviral, antibacterial, and even antifungal properties that help reduce yeast production. Secondly, coconut oil contributes to a healthy skin and reduces allergic reactions to fleas.
The high-fat content in this ingredient aids in keeping the skin moisturized and also promotes the growth of healthy skin and hair.
The fats present in coconut oil are considered “healthy fats.” When consumed orally, it helps in increasing the energy level of your pet.
Oral consumption of coconut oil also helps boost your dog’s immune system.
- To apply topically, thoroughly mix ½ cup of extra-virgin coconut oil and 2 or 3 drops of oregano oil. Rub the mixture on your dog’s itchy spots and rashes. Rinse it off after 1 hour. Do this twice daily.
- For internal use, start by giving ¼ teaspoon of extra-virgin coconut oil daily to small dogs or 1 tablespoon daily to big dogs. Gradually increase the amount to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight. Always mix the coconut oil with your dog’s regular food.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is another safe and effective way of reducing allergy symptoms in humans and pets.
According to studies, aloe vera has healing, anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, antiseptic, and several other useful properties. It also supports the immune system and has antiviral/antitumor activity. Let your dog enjoy the holistic and medicinal benefits of aloe vera without worrying about side effects.
Due to its natural antiseptic and antiparasitic nature, aloe vera can provide quick relief from symptoms like itching and scratching, which cause a lot of discomfort to your dog.
- Give your dog a nice soapy bath.
- Allow the fur to air-dry, and then apply fresh aloe vera gel on the skin.
- There is no need to rinse the gel off the skin.
- Repeat once daily and your pet will start feeling better in no time.
Caution: When using aloe vera remedy for your dog, make sure you use just the aloe gel and not the yellow or orange substance found in the rind of the aloe vera leaf. This substance contains saponins, which is a laxative that can make your dog sick.
Ingestion of aloe vera increases the intestinal mucus and water content, leading to significant diarrhea. Consult a veterinarian if your dog is showing these symptoms after ingestion or possible contact with the plant.
5. Licorice Root
Licorice root offers several benefits and is a safe herb for dogs.
Glycyrrhizin, the glycoside present in licorice root, has a chemical structure similar to those naturally occurring in corticosteroids. This gives licorice root antimicrobial, antiarthritic, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent remedy for allergy issues.
Licorice root has also shown benefits in gastrointestinal issues related to inflammation (also known as gastroenteritis), asthmatic issues involving inflammation of airways, certain liver diseases, and certain urinary infections as well.
Before using this remedy, consult your veterinarian regarding these issues to make sure they don’t involve something more serious than inflammation, like cancer.
In fact, several products designed specifically to treat allergy symptoms in dogs have licorice root as one of the main ingredients.
- Give your dog 12 to 20 drops of licorice tincture per 20 pounds of the body weight, twice daily.
- Alternatively, steep 1 teaspoon of licorice root in 1 cup water for 10 minutes, and then allow it to cool. Give ¼ to ½ teaspoons of this tea per 20 pounds of the body weight, twice daily.
Also, you can mix the herb in your dog’s food.
6. Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil contains omega-6 essential fatty acids. It comes with anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties and can be used to treat allergic reactions in dogs. It is especially beneficial in providing relief from dry or itchy skin.
Evening primrose oil will also help boost your furry friend’s immunity.
- Dilute evening primrose oil with a little coconut oil. Apply it directly on your dog’s skin and massage gently. You don’t need to rinse it off. Do this once or twice daily.
- Also, you can add a few drops of evening primrose oil to your dog’s food or water.
7. Baking Soda
Another effective home remedy, baking soda is very helpful in calming itchy, reddened, or inflamed skin in pets.
It comes with anti-inflammatory properties and has a soothing effect on the skin. Moreover, it acts as a natural acid neutralizer that helps relieve itching and prevent your pet from scratching the skin too often.
- Prepare a thick paste using a 50/50 mix of baking soda and water. Apply it on the affected areas of your dog’s skin. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes, and then rinse it off using cool water. Repeat once daily.
- Alternatively, add 1 cup of baking soda to your dog’s bathwater. Bathe your pet in this water for 10 minutes. Then, rinse with clean water. Do this once daily.
8. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can be useful in treating allergies. It helps keep the affected area moisturized, which in turn aids the healing process. Vitamin E oil also promotes the growth of new skin and hair in the affected areas.
It also offers protection against ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, which is especially beneficial if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors.
- Break open a few vitamin E capsules and extract the oil. Rub the oil directly on your dog’s skin so that it gets fully absorbed into the skin. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day until the allergy symptoms disappear completely.
- Vitamin E can be given orally, too. However, it is recommended to check with your vet regarding the dosage for your specific dog breed.
Fruits and vegetables get their colorful pigments from a flavonoid known as quercetin. This compound is packed with antihistamine, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
It can be effective in reducing itching owing to its ability to fight cellular activity associated with inflammation. Because it reduces inflammation, quercetin can also be used for the treatment of asthma and other respiratory issues.
According to research, quercetin is effective in preventing the immune cells from releasing histamines (chemicals that lead to allergic reactions). Thus, it can help in alleviating symptoms of allergy.
A study found in Inflammation Research (2007) found that quercetin and isoquercitrin are effective eosinophilic inflammation suppressors, suggesting a potential for treating allergies.
Feeding your dog foods like green tea, apples, and broccoli that contain quercetin can help in treating allergy symptoms. However, it is recommended to give your pet quercetin supplements for best results.
Supplements come in pill and capsule form. To calculate the right dosage in milligrams, take the weight of your dog, multiply by 1000 mg, and then divide by 125.
10. Indian Lilac
Indian lilac, also known as neem, offers various dermatological benefits for pets suffering from skin allergies.
Being a natural antiseptic, it can help fight the cause of the allergy and reduce itchiness. Indian lilac is also a natural insecticide, which can help with allergies or itching stemming from fleas, ticks, lice, etc.
It also soothes the skin. It prevents your pet from scratching the affected area, which can aggravate the symptoms and delay the healing process.
- Boil a few neem leaves in a pan of water for about 10 minutes. Allow the water to cool. Strain and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Spray the neem-infused water onto your dog’s fur and leave it on (no need to rinse it out). Repeat once daily.
- Alternatively, get an over-the-counter neem shampoo and bathe your dog with it every week.
- You can also use bovine colostrum, as it provides your dog with antibodies to common allergens.
- Brush your dog’s coat every day to control and eliminate itchy and irritated skin.
- Use little white marshmallows as treats for dogs with food allergy.
- If your dog gets ear infections due to allergies, try cleaning its ear with diluted white vinegar.
- Apply organic witch hazel on rashes or itchy areas a few times a day.
- Start feeding your dog yogurt, but make sure it is plain yogurt with no sugar or additives. Yogurt acts as a probiotic, which can also be helpful for your dog’s digestive health both generally as well as when on antibiotics.
- Take your dog for a walk to help divert its attention from the itchy skin.
- In case of incessant chewing to the point of self-injury, consider using an E-collar to prevent your pet from chewing at the area until you are able to relieve the symptoms.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Keith Niesenbaum (DVM)
What are the most common allergic reactions a dog can have?
The most common allergy that we see in dogs is atopic dermatitis, which is an allergy to environmental allergens.
It is now understood to be secondary to a defect in the dermal barrier which allows these allergens to penetrate the skin and cause clinical disease.
The signs are itching and redness, especially in the areas of the feet, face, armpits, and underbelly.
What are the signs of food allergy in dogs?
The signs of food allergy are similar to those of atopic dermatitis. Add in the possibility of gastro-intestinal (GI) upset. Also, reoccurring ear infections and anal gland problems are often associated with food allergy.
Which foods can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs?
Almost any food can trigger an alleric reaction in dogs. The most common are animal proteins such as beef and chicken. Contrary to popular belief, grain is not a common allergen in dogs or cats. Keep in mind that food allergies in canines are relatively uncommon as compared to other allergies.
What do you feed a dog with a food allergy?
Diets for food allergic dogs depend on the specific allergy. The only accurate way to diagnose a food allergy is to feed a strict elimination diet, usually requiring a hydrolyzed diet or by feeding a protein that the dog has never been exposed to before (difficult to do sometimes).
Such a diet is fed exclusively for 4-6 weeks with no treats, snacks, flavored medications or chews. If the condition improves, then proteins can be re-introduced one at a time to see what causes a reaction.
How long do allergic reactions last in dogs?
True allergic reactions do not last for long once the offending allergen has been removed.
Are allergy shots effective for dogs?
Hypo-sensitization through allergy shots is an effective way to treat dogs with atopy. The offending allergen must be correctly identified and the corresponding allergy serum should be correctly prepared.
This kind of treatment procedure will continue life long and can take up to a year to have its full effect. 50%-80% of dogs have a good to excellent response to allergy shots, making it an effective treatment option for addressing dog allergies.
Can dog vaccinations lead to any side-effects?
Any medication, including vaccines, can cause an adverse reaction in any species. It is important to weigh the risk of reaction against the benefit of vaccination. This is a discussion that dog owners should have with their veterinarians before signing up for the process.
Please provide some additional tips to our readers about managing allergies in dogs.
Since atopy is the most common allergy and we now know that it is caused by an underlying dermal barrier defect, the most important thing is to frequently bathe your dog with a shampoo that hydrates the skin and helps restore normal barrier function.
Medication to control itch is important to avoid incessant scratching and the resultant skin damage and hair loss in dogs. Often times, rigorous scratching can lead to secondary infections which must be treated readily.
Food allergy needs to be ruled out in cases of year-round disease. Hypo sensitization is a good alternative for dogs that have atopy signs for multiple seasons.
About Dr. Keith Niesenbaum, DVM: He is the owner and medical director of Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine in 1984, he spent 4 years practicing in New Jersey while his wife Anne pursued her OB/GYN residency.
They relocated to Long Island in 1988 where he started Animal Bedside Care, a Veterinary House Call Service which is now an integral part of Crawford’s services.
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