Ever had the chicken pox, poison ivy, or some equally torturous skin condition? You’re never supposed to scratch it, even though every fiber of your being screams to. Now imagine being an animal feeling like that, and not comprehending that scratching would be detrimental. A never-ending scratch and lick fest ensues. This is why the cone of shame exists, to save pets from themselves. Unfortunately, that’s a short term fix. You can’t leave them in that thing all the time! However, your dog’s unending licking and scratching might be caused by allergies, as dogs can be allergic to things, just like humans. In fact, dogs can even be allergic to humans. Just ask my ridiculous dog, who can count that in her long list of offending allergens. Some allergens you might be able to avoid once you know about them, but others will need treatment to keep your puppy from scratching his or her face off. Some remedies aren’t costly, but prepare yourself for a long and potentially expensive road to managing your dog’s allergies, but increasing its quality of life…and by extension, your quality of life.
If your dog has these behaviors, he might have allergies:
- Obsessive licking or chewing of feet or other areas of skin.
- Unstoppable scratching.
- Diarrhea and vomiting, in the case of food allergies.
- Sneezing in some dogs, although not as common as other symptoms.
- Recurrent ear infections are common in allergy-prone dogs.
Best Remedies for Allergies in Dogs
Find out your dog’s allergies to avoid them. This doesn’t work for all allergens, as it’s hard to avoid grass, for example, but some—say cotton or chicken—you can easily avoid. So discovering the allergy can help you make your dog comfortable again, but figuring that out is not usually an easy task. Maybe the allergies only appear in the summer, indicating an outdoor allergy. If you have no hints, your veterinarian can perform a blood or skin prick allergy test. Costs vary in different areas, but expect to drop at least a couple hundred bucks for this service.
Prevent and treat your dog’s allergy symptoms at home. Hopefully you can just remove the known allergen. This might mean changing their diet to a specially formulated food, or finding a brand that doesn’t include rice, or whatever. You can also soothe your dog’s skin with an oatmeal or a medicated shampoo bath—you can get the medicated stuff from your vet. I find that just wiping my dog down with baby wipes after encountering outdoor allergies helps. Some over-the-counter creams—like calamine lotion—might help calm your dog’s skin, but there is the risk of them licking it off and ingesting it. Be careful.
Treat your pet’s allergies as they pop up. If your dog only has the occasional episode, you can treat them with short-term fixes. Benadryl, in pill form (which you can order from Amazon), is easy to slip into food and is effective for most dogs. General guideline: 25 mg per 30 pounds of dog, a couple times a day, but check with your vet for specifics. If side effects like vomiting result, stop use and call the vet. For a more potent solution, your vet can prescribe meds like corticosteroids, for itch relief, and antibiotics, for the infection that Scruffy probably has from open scratch wounds.
Immunosuppressant drugs are a long-term option for controlling allergies. If the quick fixes listed so far just don’t cut it, or if your dog’s allergies are a constant problem, your vet will probably recommend one of two paths. The first is immunosuppressants. When you have allergies, your immune system is freaking out over what is usually an innocuous substance. Taking immunosuppressant drugs basically tells your immune system to chill the eff out, which reduces the reaction to the allergen. The downside? This would be a life-long medication, which really drives up your veterinary bills.
More commonly known as “allergy shots,” immunotherapy is the second path your vet will probably suggest. If immunosuppressants tell your immune system to calm down, immunotherapy tricks it into thinking everything is fine again. A vial of custom-made anti-allergy goodness is created and then injected into your pet. Shots start out daily or weekly and then lessen in frequency, and slowly, your pet’s tolerance of the allergen will increase. Also an expensive undertaking, but less so than the previous option, because it doesn’t go on forever. Drawbacks: may take several months for it to work, and has about a 60% success rate…not to mention the time it takes to shuttle your dog back and forth.
Managing Your Dog’s Allergies
As you may have noticed, figuring out your dog’s allergies is very much a trial and error kind of thing. A potentially expensive trial and error—the worst kind. But it’s either that or train your dog to never scratch or lick again, which I have found to be an impossible undertaking. The only way to actually rid your dog of his allergies is the allergy shots, and that doesn’t exactly have an inspiring success rate. So really, you have to learn what works best for your dog’s particular skin or digestive problems. If they’re as extensive as my dog’s allergies, pat yourself on the back for being the caretaker of a special needs animal, or consider finding a home for him that will provide that kind of care. No living thing deserves to be miserable every day. Hopefully some of the tips that I have found to be helpful will work for you, but your veterinarian is always going to be your best source of information for your animal’s health concerns.
Best Natural Remedies
Oatmeal Bath. There are brands of dog shampoos out there that contain oatmeal or other soothing ingredients that will moisturize and calm the skin, or you can make your own. Blend up some uncooked, plain oatmeal until it’s powdery. Fill up the tub with warm water and add the oatmeal, stirring it up. Let your dog soak in there for ten minutes or so—if possible—and don’t rinse it off before letting her out. Luckily, Oatmeal is super inexpensive at Amazon.
Clean house. In the case of indoor allergies like dust or mold, keep your house as clean as possible for indoor dogs. Vacuum, dust, sweep, mop, and wash your pet’s bedding frequently. Consider using a mild laundry detergent, and wash collars or other apparel your pet might wear.
Plain, unflavored yogurt. Dogs can get yeast infections in their ears and some studies have shown that eating yogurt can help humans, so why not dogs? But it must be the plain kind without sweeteners for your dog; add just enough to his food to coat the kibbles. Start slow when introducing new food, as diarrhea and vomiting may result if your dog can’t handle it.