According to Diane Morgan, author of the book “Complete Guide to Dog Care”, about 15% of all dogs experience allergies at some point in their lives (p. 197).
Those allergies can be caused both by external factors such as pollen, interior ones such as dust mites & mold spores, as well as by internal ones (low immune system due to poor diet).
Besides being extremely uncomfortable for the poor dogs, they’ll also make it impossible for us humans to get a good night’s sleep. After all, you’ll keep waking up from all that repeated scratching and licking!
Symptoms of an allergic dog include licking, chewing, and scratching at his skin, belly, ears, and paws.
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What causes allergies in dogs?
Different factors are responsible for causing dog allergies:
1) Environmental parameters affecting the skin (singular incident, seasonal or throughout the entire year)
2) Poor commercial diet affecting the immune system
3) Food sensitivity, also causing skin conditions
Side note: A chewing or licking dog could also try to rid himself of external parasites such as ticks, or could try to alleviate the itching sensation caused by fleas or lice.
1) Environmental Allergies
a) Singular Incident
My girl Missy once developed a bad case of hives covering her entire body, to include her face. This happened after a walk, during which she had rolled around on a patch of grass.
The condition first manifested itself in an urge to scratch at her skin repetitively soon after coming home from the walk. A few hours later, the hives formed.
Of course this happened on a Saturday afternoon. I forced myself to stay calm and began my research on the various search engines online. I found out fairly quickly that Benadryl is an excellent antihistamine which is safe to administer to dogs.
Benadryl should be administered as follows: 1 mg of Benadryl per 1 lb of dog weight.
One pill usually contains 25 mgs, and Missy weighs around 50 lbs, so I gave her two 25 mg pills of Benadryl. I just shoved the initial 2 pills down her throat, because I was so anxious for her to get better asap.
I wrapped the following ones in a piece of cheese to make the experience a little more enjoyable for my little girl. It’s safe to give Bendaryl three times per day, which I did for 2 days. It cured Missy of her case of hives 100%!
I am not sure at all what may have caused her allergic reaction ~ the grass she rolled around on may have been treated with a pesticide, or she may have been stung by an insect.
Either way, I learned my lesson not to let our dogs roll around on any grass, unless it is on a lawn I KNOW has not been treated with any chemicals.
Ever since this case of hives, I also have Benadryl readily available in our doggie first aid kit at home as well as in my car.
b) Seasonal Allergies
My pups Missy & Buzz’s predominant Boxer genes make them particularly prone to developing allergies (Boxers are among the high-risk breeds).
They both reacted to pollen within their first year of living with me. It made them sneeze whenever we were outside during the spring months, and they’d even wake up with discharge in and around their eyes, especially my boy Buzz.
I’d make it a habit of brewing up a cup of chamomile tea (click to read my post about inexpensive natural remedies), soaking some up with a clean dish towel, and then gently wiping out their eyes. It would get rid of the gunk while soothing the area around their eyes.
Other breeds prone to developing allergies are Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Dalmatians, Bichon Frisés, and Chinese Shar-Peis, but obviously any dog regardless of breed can develop allergies.
c) Year-Around Allergies
Dogs can develop intolerances of dust mites & mold spores just as we can. Keeping a dog’s home dust and mold free is the simple, easy solution to this problem.
It’s best to avoid carpets and invest in hardwood (like) flooring, or laminate products. Where carpets can not be avoided, regular, daily vacuuming is necessary, as well as regular dusting of all surfaces. I also wash my dog beds weekly on the hot cycle of the washing machine.
P.S. Inflammatory, chronic skin diseases are known as atopic conditions.
Investing in a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter for your Air Conditioning System is another option. Those filters remove 99.97 % of all airborne particles like dust, pollens, tobacco smoke, and pet dander. They are used in medical facilities as well as in aircraft to prevent the spread of diseases, by the way.
If your home isn’t equipped with air conditioning, you can still get relief by investing in a portable air purifier featuring a HEPA filter.
You can also invest in a “True-HEPA” filter vacuum cleaner (avoid those with “Like-HEPA” filters).
P.S. The use of HEPA filters will also benefit any human suffering from allergies, to include pet dander!
2) Poor Diet Causing Low Immune System
While the boxer genes most likely contributed to Missy’s & Buzz’s allergic reaction to the pollen, I am also convinced that their highly processed, dry dog food made things worse.
I was feeding Hill’s Science Diet (below average dog food containing a high percentage of grains and lots of fillers, as well as by-products) and then Blue Buffalo (much better choice than Science Diet: Grain-free, but using artificial food coloring) during the pups’ first year with me.
I then made the switch to healthier dog food lines after having consulted dog nutrition experts ~ I’ve fed the grain-free kibbles Great Life and Annamaet, as well as the air-dried, raw dog food ZiwiPeak from New Zealand.
The pups are no longer bothered by the extent of their initial allergies. They still sneeze occasionally and develop some eye discharge, but it is nowhere as bad as it was when feeding low-quality dog food.
Once I started feeding raw dog food, their allergies even completely stopped. I’m so happy to have invested the time & energy into researching potential causes of allergies instead of just accepting the fact that genetic predispositions were the sole culprit.
A healthy diet creates a strong immune system, which in turn will allow your dog’s body to get rid of harmful substances.
Investing a bit more into the right kind of food will not only keep your dog healthy, it will also minimize trips to your vet’s office, and keep your wallet fuller!
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3) Food Sensitivity
True allergies to specific ingredients of a dog’s diet are not very common, and only occur in about 10 % of dogs.
If you suspect that your pooch does suffer from food allergies, you can take matters in your own hands by eliminating certain foods one by one from your dog’s diet (e.g. chicken, wheat, corn, etc.).
My new dog Wally, a 38 lb Feist mix, tried the Glacier Peak Holistics test. See the results of his test here – it was worth taking it!
Chronic ear infections may also be the symptoms of a food allergy. As a result of being intolerant to certain meats, a dog can also be allergic to rawhide chews!
Side note: There is a difference between true food allergies and food intolerance.
If your pup has diarrhea or vomits after having eaten a specific ingredient, it is likely for his digestive system to be intolerant of the food in question.
Fast Relief For Itchiness With These Products
While implementing the options mentioned above, there are several options for soothing and relieving the itchy doggie skin (and getting a good night’s sleep for yourself!):
- Anicura has a wonderful line of paraben-free, natural skincare products for pets.
- Wondercide Skin Tonic Oil offers localized relief of hot spots and sores. Also helps with insect bites and cuts.
- Dr. Harvey’s Organic Healing Cream. It’s an all-purpose healing first aid ointment.
- Richard’s Organics Incredible Skin Spray. It soothes irritations and speeds healing.
Missy getting a bath with Anicura's Dog Shampoo
How do you deal with your dog’s and/or your own allergies? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!
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