Who knew dogs could have allergies? If you're picturing a dog sneezing right now, you may think 'aw that's cute' but in reality, allergies in dogs are quite serious and should be attended to as soon as possible.
If a mild allergy escalates, it makes it that much harder to treat and cure; not to mention, the worse the condition becomes, the more suffering your dog endures. So, if you think your dog might be suffering from allergies but you don't know where to start, you've come to the right place!
If you have ever undergone allergy testing, then you know that diagnosing allergies is often complicated. The first thing your veterinarian may choose to do is rule out any other condition that could be causing your dog’s symptoms. If your veterinarian feels that an allergy is a likely cause, he or she may propose allergy testing to try and determine the cause of the allergen that is causing the reaction.
However, keep in mind it may not always be possible to determine the cause of an allergy with testing and that's where it gets frustrating! How are you suppose to treat something if you don't know what it is? Well, there are a few ways you can self-diagnose and naturally treat allergies in dogs from home. And that's what we're going to go over in this article.
How Can I Tell if my Dog's Symptoms are Allergies?
First, it's important to recognize the signs of an allergic reaction. General allergy symptoms include:
Frequent licking, chewing, biting or scratching
Excessive rolling, rubbing or scooting
Recurring ear problems
Rash, redness, greasy skin or scabs
My Dog Has One (or more) of These Symptoms... Now What?
Once you've identified that your pooch is having an allergic reaction, you need to narrow it down to the cause. There are 3 main types of allergies in dogs:
Allergic Dermatitis (similar to eczema)
Dermatitis is the medical term for skin inflammation (irritation). Contact dermatitis is an allergic or irritant reaction that causes a painful or itchy skin rash. As the name suggests, you get contact dermatitis from coming into contact with an allergen (like poison ivy) or an irritant (like a chemical).
In humans, eczema is a commonly used term for itchy, red, and inflamed skin. In dogs, the condition is best described as allergic dermatitis.
The most common allergy dermatitis in dogs is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). In an allergic reaction, the body’s immune system overreacts to a substance called an antigen that is normally harmless. Adult fleas must bite a dog and obtain a blood meal in order to reproduce.
Fleas typically do not remain on the dog except for the minutes to hours when they are feeding. This is why pet parents often don't see live fleas on their dog unless there is a severe flea infestation in their immediate environment.
When fleas feed, they inject a small amount of saliva into the skin. It is the antigens and proteins in the saliva that cause an intensely itchy response to sensitive dogs.
Most Common Symptoms of Allergic Dermatitis include:
Inflamed, Itchy Skin.
The hind end, tail base, and thighs are most commonly affected but lesions can develop anywhere on the body.
How Do You Treat Allergic Dermatitis?
Since the injection of flea saliva causes the allergic response, prevention is the best form of treatment. This is especially important for dogs with sensitive skin or compromised immune systems as they are at a much higher risk of contracting an allergic reaction.
Most flea infestations occur in the warmer weather, but can occur year round. So best to avoid hiking in the warmer months and especially avoid areas with long overgrown grass where fleas especially like to live.
Administering oral and/or topical flea preventives is another good choice, however use caution when selecting one of these medications as many of them are quite toxic and can do more harm then good. Even if you haven't seen fleas on your dog, it is important to continue rigorous flea treatment and maintain environmental control.
At Fylo, we like Capstar as an oral flea preventative and treatment. It's fast-acting, effective and safer than other oral treatments on the market.
For topical flea treatments, we like Advantage II. It's fast, effective and stays on your pets fur making it safer and ensuring that fleas don't have to bite your pet to die.
Natural flea preventatives exist as well. For example, Omega Alpha Herbacoat contains a soothing blend of neem, citronella and lavender oils - all natural ingredients that are known to repel fleas.
Another natural method for removing fleas from your pets is to use a flea comb. For best results, comb from the top of your pet's head to the underside of their tail, neck, underbelly and legs. Make sure you do this multiple times as it's unlikely that all fleas will be removed in one session.
The most common food allergies in dogs are proteins, especially chicken, beef, dairy, soy and wheat gluten.
Common signs of a food allergy include:
Itching often involves the face, armpits, belly, and feet
Skin infections as well as irritation and infection of the ears
Gas, increased bowel movements, or loose stools
How do you Treat Food Allergies?
The best way to treat a food allergy is to narrow down the food allergy using the process of elimination. This means, feeding a single protein meal with little to no added ingredients. This is difficult to find in dry food as, even the single protein recipes will always have additional ingredients. It will be especially difficult to pinpoint if your dog has multiple allergies!
That's why we recommend going raw! Not only does raw food have no added ingredients so you can easily eliminate which protein your dog is reacting to, but it also has many other health benefits!
Check out our selection of high quality raw food!
Additionally, healthy omega fats play a large role in supporting healthy skin and a soft coat as well as providing anti-inflammatory benefits, perfect for dogs with allergies or inflammatory skin diseases. Many recipes lack omega fats, including some raw diets so you need to be careful looking for a complete balanced and nutritious food.
Ingredients that provide essential omega-3 fatty acids can include salmon, chia seeds and flax seeds. If your dog is suffering from a food allergy, they may also be deficient in omega-3. In which case, we recommend supplementing their raw diet with salmon oil.
Omega Alpha Shiny Coat and Grizzly Salmon Oil are two great omega oil supplements that we recommend.
If your dog hasn't had raw meat before, you'll want to introduce it slowly by adding little bits to their current food until you've weaned them off their old food completely. Once you've made the switch to raw, you usually won't need to do this again when changing between proteins. However, changing foods often can still upset some sensitive stomachs so to maintain a strong gut and consistent stools, we recommend adding a probiotic supplement such as Omega Alpha Probiotic 8 Plus.
Environmental allergies occur when a dog's body is allergic (or overly reactive or sensitive) to pollens, dust mites, or mold spores.
Most common symptoms of environmental allergies include:
Itching, redness, and hair loss of the face, undersides, and feet
Skin and ear infections
Ear rubbing or head shaking
How do you Treat Environmental Allergies?
A vet will administer certain diagnostics, such as intradermal skin tests, to determine the allergens your dog is sensitive to, then perhaps use a series of customized injections prescribed from these results with the hope to desensitize your dog to them over time.
Unfortunately, this isn't a cure for your dog's seasonal allergies, and any human who suffers in the same way understands that no amount of medication eliminates them for good.
The best treatment for environmental allergies is avoidance and management.
If possible, avoid walking your dog in the early morning or late afternoon, when pollen levels are typically highest. Steer clear of fields and parks where offending plants are common, and consider indoor exercises over going outdoors during the offending months.
Manage by wiping your dog’s body and paws with a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free grooming wipe after every outing.
Pay special attention to the paws, as the sensitive skin here is often affected by allergens. Some pet parents soak their dog’s paws in apple cider vinegar to remove pollen and other substances. If using this method, mix 2 parts water with 1 part apple cider vinegar.
Another solution is to put boots on your dog’s paws to prevent them from stepping in irritants and then tracking them into your house.
Inside your home, regularly change air filters to cut down on airborne allergens that enter through open doors and windows. Running an air conditioner or a dehumidifier will help remove moisture from interior air, making it harder for mold to grow in your home.
Minimize the amount of time your dog spends in damp environments, such as basements, bathrooms, or laundry rooms, as these places are more susceptible to mold growth. Vacuum at least once a week, and remember to clean curtains and rugs that may have picked up dust and pollen.
If symptoms persists, you may want to try a supplement like Bee Pollen.
Bee Pollen helps reduce seasonal allergy symptoms and allergic reactions. It has a variety of essential fatty acids; the most predominant of these (approximately 70%) are Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 (about 5%). Bee pollen also contains Quercetin, a natural antihistamine. Taking regularly may help reduce allergy symptoms and allergic reactions and may support a healthy immune system.
Check out this article from Dogs Naturally Magazine for further tips and natural treatments for allergies.
Dealing with Allergies That Have Progressed Too Far
If you were unable to catch your dog's allergy early and his condition has progressed too far, you may discover he's developed an infection or hot spots. Don't worry! These can also be treated!
The most common reactions to an allergy that has progressed include:
Bacterial infections can come from many things such as poor diet, aging, lack of exercise, stress and other illnesses but also from allergies. So be sure to check with your vet to rule everything else out first. For allergies, it occurs when a dog’s skin is inflamed and irritated due to scratching from allergic skin disease.
Symptoms of bacterial infections include:
How do you Treat Bacterial Infections?
Typically you'll be prescribed antibiotics from your vet but often this only temporarily resolves your dog’s problem. Antibiotics destroy your dog’s intestinal flora. Recent research shows that much of the beneficial bacteria in the gut is destroyed forever even if you give your dog probiotics after antibiotic use. Whenever you use an “anti-” drug, you’re suppressing your dog’s symptoms. But suppression can drive the disease deeper. And it often comes back later, sometimes in a worse form.
So it’s best to save antibiotics for serious, even life-threatening illnesses. You may want to avoid using them frivolously for things like diarrhea, skin or ear infections or minor wounds. However, we always recommend that you consult your vet before making any treatment decisions.
Fortunately, there are many natural alternatives to antibiotics. To learn more about the natural alternatives to antibiotics check out Dog Naturally Magazine's article on the subject.
Of course like most things, the best way to avoid bacterial infections is prevention! This can be done by maintaining a strong immune system and healthy gut.
Besides feeding a healthy diet and meeting your dog's physical and mental needs, you can try adding immune-boosting supplements like Probiotic 8 Plus, Nutrify and Healthy Pet to your dog's diet.
Each of these supplements target different needs for your dog, so be sure to read up on them and ask questions to find the right fit for your dog.
Yeast is a type of fungal infection often seen in dogs with itchy skin disease. It affects folded areas of the skin, such as face and lip folds, ears, under the neck, between the toes on paws, and under the tail.
Common symptoms of yeast infections include:
Greasy, red, thickened skin
Itchyness & scratching
How do you Treat Yeast Infections?
Fortunately, you can manage many cases of yeast at home. An effective dog yeast infection home remedy just requires a change of diet and some lifestyle changes.
First thing we recommend is removing carbs and sugars from your dog's diet so you can starve the yeast. This is most easily done by feeding a raw diet as it doesn't have the large amount of carbohydrates that dry food has. Even grain-free foods are usually full of potatoes, sweet potatoes or tapioca and have just as much starch as other kibbles.
Next, reduce the number of heavy metals (yeast loves heavy metals!). Heavy metals can get into your dog in several ways:
Poor quality water
Some pet foods
Finally, you can strengthen your dog's gut by adding a digestive enzyme/probiotic/prebiotic supplement to his meal. Such as our Omega Alpha Probiotic 8 Plus supplement that includes antioxidants, prebiotics, relieving G.I factors, digestive enzymes, probiotics, phytonutrients, trace minerals and essential fatty acids.
For a more detailed step by step process of naturally eliminating your dog's yeast infection, visit Dogs Naturally Magazine.
Most often, anything that causes itchiness of the skin can lead to the development of hot spots on dogs. Some common triggers are environmental allergies, food allergies, fleas, mites, insect bites and skin wounds.
Regardless of the cause, it is the cycle of constant licking and scratching that causes self-trauma to the skin.
Hot spots are typically well-defined areas of redness, swelling, and hair loss. They can occur anywhere, but are most commonly seen on the head, limbs, and hips. The affected area is moist and may discharge pus or fluid, which can lead to crusting and matting of the surrounding hair.
Natural treatments for hot spots include:
Trim and clean the affected area.
Bathe using a specialized hotspot shampoo.
Apply specialized hot spot relief spray.
Use an Elizabethan Collar, Inflatable Cloud Collar, or Recovery Vest/Onesie to prevent further licking and agitation of the affected area.
Treat Allergy Symptoms Right Away
All allergies are preventable and treatable! Not to say they can be instantly cured – it takes time and patience to get results!
Some cases may require immediate medical attention which should therefore be brought to your vet for immediate treatment but even these cases may take time to treat. If you're unsure of your dog's condition and uncomfortable self-diagnosing and treating, always consult your vet.
Never leave an allergy untreated. However whether you decide to use pharmaceutical treatment or natural treatment is ultimately up to you.
Feel free to reach out with any comments or questions!