Just like humans, dogs and cats can be allergic to dust, plants, pollens, and molds. Allergies typically arise between the ages of 1-3 years, or after moving to a new area. Allergies can be a lifelong condition but some animals do grow out of their allergies as they age.
Allergy Symptoms in Pets
Symptoms can include: chewing and licking of paws and legs, rashes, ear infections, hot spots, generalized itchiness and hair loss, itchy, red, and runny eyes, sneezing, and skin infections.
Recommendations to help limit allergies
There are a variety of medications we can use to treat the itching and skin infections, but it is important to know that the symptoms will return unless we can alleviate the underlying allergy. For dogs with severe allergies, we recommend a visit to a dermatologist.
- Frequent bathing with oatmeal shampoos and conditioners can help wash away pollens and soothe irritated skin. There are also prescription medicated shampoos, sprays, mousse, and wipes that can be prescribed by your veterinarian to decrease itching, prevent infection, and improve skin health.
- Use a damp towel to wipe your dog’s coat and paws after a trip outdoors. This can remove pollens between bathing. Focus on areas with less hair- paws (especially between toes!), belly, groin, armpits, under the tail, and the muzzle are often more affected than the furry areas.
- Get in the habit of cleaning your dog’s ears. Ear infections can be prevented in many dogs with regular, routine ear cleaning. Always use a high-quality ear cleaner made specifically for dogs, as some solutions can cause infections and inflammation to worsen.
- Fatty acid supplementation with fish or salmon oil can decrease skin inflammation and restore health to the skin and coat. We recommend daily use of fatty acids for allergic dogs. It can take up to 6 weeks to see results from fatty acid supplements.
- Antihistamines can be very beneficial for some dogs, but NEVER use cold or decongestant medications. Most have few side effects (aside from drowsiness) and can be given daily.
- Prescription medications: Dogs with severe allergies may require periodic antibiotics or antifungals to treat skin and ear infections. Steroids are often used to treat itching and inflammation on the short term but come with significant side effects and should not be used long-term. Apoquel is a great non-steroidal medication that can be used long term to control itching with few side effects.
- Local Honey: this doesn’t work for all dogs, but can work well for some. The daily addition of a small amount (less than ½ tsp) of LOCAL honey can work similarly to allergy injections. This exposes the dog to a very small amount of local pollens daily, therefore desensitizing the immune system. Keep in mind this is a long-term treatment and is best for dogs with chronic and severe allergies.