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Have a Dog with Allergies? Here’s How To Stop the Scratch!

Aaaahhh, spring!

Or should I say aaaaa-choooo spring??

Dog itching and biting

Many of us suffer from seasonal allergies. It’s part of the price we pay for glorious temperatures, colorful blossoms, and the promise of summer.

But, oh, the symptoms.

🤧The scratching, sneezing, and hives. 

😩The runny eyes, itchy ears, the red, inflamed skin.

You might recognize these same symptoms in yourself, but today, we’re talking about allergies in dogs.

Dogs have many of the same symptoms we do with seasonal and environmental allergies, and a few we can all be thankful we don’t have:

➤Itching and Scratching: One of the most noticeable signs is an increase in scratching. Dogs may scratch relentlessly, and this can be focused on specific areas like the face, paws, underarms, groin, and around the ears.

➤Red, Inflamed Skin: The affected areas may appear red and inflamed due to constant scratching and irritation. This can lead to hot spots, which are areas of particularly inflamed, infected skin.

➤Ear Infections: Dogs with environmental allergies often suffer from recurrent ear infections. You might notice your dog shaking its head more than usual or pawing at its ears. The ears may also emit a foul odor or discharge.

➤Chewing or Licking Paws: Dogs may obsessively lick or chew at their paws. This can lead to discoloration of the fur in these areas, often turning it a rusty-red color due to the saliva.

➤Hair Loss: Persistent scratching and licking can lead to areas of hair loss.

➤Skin Infections: The damaged skin can become more susceptible to yeast and bacterial infections, manifesting as scaly skin, crusts, or an unpleasant odor.

➤Sneezing and Watery Eyes: Just like humans, dogs can exhibit respiratory symptoms in response to airborne allergens, though these symptoms are less common compared to skin-related issues.

➤Secondary Skin Lesions: As a result of the constant scratching and biting, dogs may develop secondary skin lesions, including papules (small, raised bumps), pustules (pus-filled lesions), and erosions or ulcers. 

A word of caution: Some of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions, so a trip to the vet is in order. They’ll be able to run tests to determine if environmental allergens are the cause.

Hot spots, also called acute moist dermatitis, can also erupt, although the most common cause of hot spots are food allergies. We’ll tackle that subject next time.

What causes these symptoms in dogs with allergies?

Just like in humans, some unlucky dogs are genetically predisposed to react badly to certain allergens like pollen, mold spores, and dust mites.

When these misery-causing allergens enter your dog’s system, their immune systems kick into high gear, perceiving the allergens as threats. 

Most pups’ bodies are unfazed by these attacks, but your allergy dog’s body launches into Defcon One, causing the aforementioned symptoms.

How can you calm the symptoms in dogs with allergies?

Your vet may prescribe antihistamines, corticosteroids, and possibly immunotherapy.

These may be necessary in some cases, but treatments like these do come with risks and downsides that you should be aware of. Here are just a few:

  • Limited efficacy in some dogs –  antihistamines are less effective in dogs than in people, and immunotherapy’s success rates vary quite a bit.

  • Side effects –  There is no free ride with any medication. Some dogs may experience side effects from antihistamines, such as drowsiness or, less commonly, hyperactivity, dry mouth, urinary retention, or gastrointestinal upset. Corticosteroids can cause significant side effects, especially with long-term use. 

  • Drug interactions

  • Not appropriate for dogs with certain pre existing conditions

Your vet will go over these risks with you and help you make an informed decision. 

But in the meantime…

Why not try natural remedies for your allergy dog first?

At The Healthy Animal Healing Center, we always advocate trying natural methods with little to no side effects to either replace when possible or enhance other traditional methods.

🔺Remember, these products aren’t a “cure” for allergies, but they may manage the symptoms well enough that more invasive treatments might not be necessary.

Fortunately, there are several natural products that can provide great relief for your itchy-scratchy dog with allergies.

🧽Hypoallergenic, Natural Shampoos

Natural shampoos help soothe irritated skin, reducing inflammation, and providing relief from itching. When looking for natural shampoos for dogs with allergies, consider the following types and ingredients:

Oatmeal Shampoo: Oatmeal is known for its soothing properties and is excellent for calming irritated and itchy skin. An oatmeal-based shampoo can help moisturize the skin, relieve itching, and reduce redness. Colloidal oatmeal is especially effective as it is finely ground and better able to coat the skin and soothe irritations.

Aloe Vera Shampoo: Aloe vera is another natural ingredient with anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, making it ideal for dogs with sensitive or irritated skin. Aloe vera can help soothe the skin, reduce itchiness, and promote healing.

Tea Tree Oil Shampoo: Tea tree oil has natural antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, which can help treat and prevent skin infections that often accompany allergic reactions. However, it's important to use a shampoo with a very diluted concentration of tea tree oil, as it can be toxic to dogs in higher concentrations.

Chamomile and Herbal Shampoos: Chamomile has natural soothing properties and can help calm inflamed skin. Shampoos containing chamomile or other soothing herbs like calendula or lavender can help reduce skin irritation and provide a calming effect on your dog.

Hypoallergenic Shampoos: Hypoallergenic shampoos are specifically formulated for sensitive skin and are typically free from harsh chemicals, dyes, and fragrances that can exacerbate allergies. These shampoos use mild ingredients that are less likely to trigger allergic reactions.

Omega Fatty Acid Shampoos: Shampoos enriched with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can help improve the skin's barrier function, reduce skin inflammation, and promote a healthy, shiny coat.

💗At The Healthy Animal Healing Center, we recommend 4-Legger shampoos and conditioners because they are manufactured with real plants and no detergents or synthetics. They are cruelty free certified and concentrated so you can use less. 

🧴Skin Protectants

Skin protectants help with:

Moisture Retention: by forming a barrier on the skin. Well-hydrated skin is less prone to cracking and irritation.

Barrier Against Allergens: Skin protectants can help shield the skin from environmental allergens, pollutants, and irritants that can exacerbate allergic reactions and lead to increased itching and discomfort.

Soothing Effect: Many skin protectants contain ingredients that have soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce redness, itching, and discomfort associated with skin irritation. *Look at the labels and avoid those using petroleum.

Promotes Healing: By protecting the skin and keeping it moisturized, these products can help promote the natural healing process, allowing for the repair of damaged skin.

💗We recommend Sustenance Herbs Canine Healing Salve, Sustenance Herbs Protect-A-Paw, Sustenance Herbs Canine Skin Therapy Anti-Itch, and Project Sudz Hot Spot Relief Balm.

🌿Herbs, Oils, and Digestive Enzymes

Specific herbs, fish oils, and digestive enzymes can play supportive roles in alleviating allergy symptoms in dogs by addressing inflammation, improving skin health, and aiding in digestion. Here's how each of these components can help:

➤Many herbs possess natural anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, and skin-soothing properties, making them beneficial for dogs with allergies:

Quercetin: Often referred to as "nature's Benadryl," quercetin is a flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables. It has antioxidant, antihistamine, and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to suppress allergic reactions and itching.

Nettle (Urtica dioica): Nettle can act as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agent, potentially reducing the severity of allergic reactions.

Licorice Root: Licorice root has glycyrrhizin, which mimics corticosteroids' anti-inflammatory effects, helping to soothe allergic reactions without the side effects of synthetic steroids.

Chamomile: Known for its soothing properties, chamomile can help calm irritated skin and reduce inflammation.

💗We recommend Animal Essentials Seasonal Allergy Herbal Remedy and Sustenance Herbs CWB Once Daily

Fish oils, rich in omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), offer several benefits for dogs with allergies:

Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Omega-3 fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the skin inflammation associated with allergies.

Skin Barrier Improvement: Omega-3s can improve the skin's barrier function, reducing the risk of allergens penetrating the skin and causing reactions.

Immune System Modulation: These fatty acids can help modulate the immune system, potentially reducing overactive responses to allergens.

💗 We recommend Animal Essentials Ocean Supreme Fish Oil

Digestive Enzymes can aid in the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, which may indirectly help alleviate allergy symptoms:

Improving gut health aids in the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, digestive enzymes can contribute to a healthier gut environment, which is crucial for a well-functioning immune system.

Reduced Inflammatory Response: A healthy gut can help prevent the overactivation of the immune system and reduce systemic inflammation, potentially mitigating allergic reactions.

Allergen Breakdown: Some theories suggest that digestive enzymes can help break down potential allergens in food before they trigger an allergic response, although more research is needed in this area.

💗 We recommend Adored Beast Healthy Gut 

What can I do to prevent my dog from suffering with allergies?

While you can’t do anything about your dog’s predisposition to being allergic, there are things you can do daily that will help.

1. Soak and rinse: Use your grain-free and Ph balanced shampoos to rinse your dog down if they’ve been outside in contact with grass, dust, and dirt. Daily foot soaks, followed by a skin protectant like Sustenance Herbs Protect-A-Paw will create a barrier to future contact. Rinse around the eye area. DON’T use human eye drops. 

2. Feed a natural, species specific, fresh food diet: Getting the proper nutrition is essential for keeping your dog’s immune system able to fight off the effects of allergens. Add in fish oil from responsibly sourced ocean animals and the herbs mentioned above.

3. Reduce indoor allergen exposure: Use fragrance-free, natural and non-toxic cleaners to clean bedding and surfaces. Vacuum and dust regularly and keep windows closed during high pollen times. Remove anything perfumed, like air fresheners, candles, and pet odor sprays.

Allergies are NO FUN for anyone, your dog who suffers, or you, the dog parent, who suffers because your dog is miserable!

Always check with your vet to make sure allergies really are the culprit, and remember that you are the decision maker for your dog’s protocol. Arm yourself – with information from trusted sources – so you can make an informed decision.

And in the meantime, try some of the natural products mentioned here. You can find the finest quality products at The Healthy Animal Healing Center, along with individualized support.

Here’s to a beautiful, itch-free spring for you and your animal companion!

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