Your Itchy Dog: Controlling and Treating Pet Allergies

dog with fleas

An itchy dog is a miserable sight. He may scratch constantly, resulting in bald spots, hot spots, and dry, irritated skin. Pet owners are frequently frustrated when their dogs keep them up all night itching, scratching, and licking. But you and your dog don’t have to suffer forever. A quick visit to your vet may help clear up the allergies, and there are several steps you can take at home to reduce your dog’s suffering.

Pet Allergy Causes and Symptoms

Allergies are caused by an inappropriate immune system reaction. The dog’s body mistakenly believes that a harmless substance is a dangerous pathogen, and reacts by overproducing white blood cells and creating a massive immune system reaction. Common symptoms of allergies include:

  • Constant itching, licking, and scratching
  • Sudden onset of symptoms after a change in your dog’s environment or diet
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Bald spots
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Greasy, smelly skin
  • Frequent sneezing, runny nose, and other respiratory problems

Dogs typically develop allergic reactions in their skin, even if the allergen isn’t something that came into direct contact with their skin. Thus it can be hard to determine what’s causing the allergy based solely on your dog’s reaction. Red skin doesn’t necessarily mean, for example, that your dog touched something that caused an allergic reaction; he may have eaten or inhaled something instead.

Food allergies are the single biggest source of allergic reactions in dogs. Fillers in dog food and sudden changes in diet can both be contributed to an allergic reaction. Dogs can also develop allergies to dust mites and other commonly inhaled substances. Flea bite dermatitis is another common problem. Even after a dog’s fleas have been eliminated by a treatment such as Frontline flea and tick treatment, the dog’s immune system may continue producing an allergic reaction to flea bites.

Veterinary Treatment for Pets with Fleas

If your dog shows signs of allergies, don’t try to treat them at home. Your vet can examine your pet and take a detailed history to uncover the cause of the allergies. They may recommend lifestyle changes to reduce allergic reactions or prescribe allergy medication. A cortisone injection can help temporarily alleviate symptoms, and is especially helpful when dogs are suffering from allergic reactions to fleas. Your veterinarian may also recommend dietary changes. Foods with fillers such as grain and corn are particularly likely to cause allergic reactions. Your vet may advise you to feed your dog a homemade diet or to switch to a premium, filler- and preservative-free dog food.

Some dogs develop yeast infections as a result of their allergies. Your veterinarian may test your dog for yeast and prescribe anti-fungal medications or anti-fungal shampoos. Follow your vet’s advice carefully, and give medication according to the dosing schedule prescribed.

Home Treatment for Pet Allergies

If you’re waiting for an appointment with your vet or waiting for allergy medication to kick in, there are several things you can do at home to give your dog temporary relief. An oatmeal bath will help soothe dry, itchy skin and can reduce hot spots and skin irritation. You can make your own oatmeal bath by combining one cup of oatmeal with one gallon of water, or you can purchase a soothing oatmeal bath at your local pet store.

An antihistamine such as Benadryl will give your dog several hours of relief. You can give your dog 1mg of Benadryl for every pound of weight. For example, a 35-pound dog would get 35mg of Benadryl. Most Benadryl capsules are 25mg.

Photo by jjgwarren/Flickr

10 thoughts on “Your Itchy Dog: Controlling and Treating Pet Allergies”

  1. My parents have 2 dogs and they have to be bathed every time they go into the house (seriously) due to my mom’s health (severe asthma). But I don’t know if the dogs themselves suffer from any allergies—- will have to ask!

  2. My dog suffers horribly. This summer he has had allergies and an ear infection. I have been doing oatmeal baths, vinegar rinse for his ears, and Benadryl.

  3. Great tips! Our mastiff luckily doesn’t suffer from allergies, but for a bit I was worried because she was itchy, but it was a bug bite (probably a mosquito), so it didn’t last! Those are definitely the things I was looking out for, though! Thanks for sharing!

  4. My parents have 2 dogs and they have to be bathed every time they go into the house (seriously) due to my mom’s health (severe asthma). But I don’t know if the dogs themselves suffer from any allergies—- will have to ask!

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