Allergies are all too common in our pets these days; in fact it is estimated that up to 40% of the canine population suffers from allergies to some degree. Having a dog with allergies can be quite challenging to even the most patient of pet parents. No one likes to see their dog in pain or discomfort and many owners shy away from using drugs to control the symptoms. More and more people (especially owners of geriatric dogs) are turning to natural allergy treatments for dogs.
What causes allergies in my dog?
Simply put, allergies happen when your dog’s immune system overreacts to a substance in the environment. This substance is seen as a threat and his immune system responds by releasing a compound called histamine to defend itself against this threat. Histamine causes skin irritation and redness, hives and general itchy discomfort, and sometimes even respiratory or intestinal issues.
This is why canine allergies commonly manifest symptoms like compulsive itching and scratching, licking and chewing at paws, alopecia (hair loss), general skin inflammation and often, chronic ear infections. The environmental triggers of this over reactive histamine release are known as allergens.
There are 3 major allergens that cause most of the problem for our otherwise cuddly canine companions. They are fleas, his food, and inhaled allergens such as dust, pollen, or mold. Flea allergies affect an estimated 40% of dogs and if one of these is your dog, even one flea bite will trigger a scratching and chewing spree that will make it look as though he has an infestation, even if you are diligent about flea control.
The culprit of canine food allergies is a carbohydrate or protein in your dog’s diet that his body suddenly perceives as dangerous, and so releases histamine as a defense. Common commercial dog food allergens include dairy products, fish, and cereal grains. In addition to itchy skin irritation, you may also see your dog rubbing his face, shaking his head, or sneezing. The way to address a food allergy in your dog is, of course, a change in diet and there are many hypoallergenic dog food brands on the market today.
Atopic allergies are those that cause an allergic skin reaction on your dog through inhaled allergens and these affect about 15% of dogs. Sure, you can remove a certain food from your dog’s diet, but dust and grass, weed and tree pollens are pretty much everywhere and there’s no way you can keep your dog from inhaling these microscopic allergy triggers.
Environmental allergies are usually seasonal, that is with symptoms occurring much more in the spring and summer months, often almost disappearing during late fall and winter. But when they do appear, any loving pet owner will want to treat their faithful friend and relieve him of any suffering due to allergies. This is where an awareness of natural allergy treatments for dogs come into play.
Temporary but risky relief from conventional drugs
Before we move on to some safe, effective, natural allergy treatments for dogs, I want to say a word about the drugs many veterinarians recommend for treating canine allergy symptoms and why they are risky for your precious pet.
Your dog may get short term relief from traditional drugs such as antihistamines, antibiotics, steroids, anti-fungals, or anti-inflammatories (some vets do prescribe more than one simultaneously) but this short-lived relief comes with the potential for serious side effects.
The drugs are not eliminating or even treating the underlying condition. Instead, they are simply suppressing the problem, and your dog’s immune system. Used over time, his immune system can become damaged, leaving it open to attack from real threats. And once the drugs have run their course, the surviving cells repopulate and the symptoms return, often worse than before because the condition has been driven to a deeper level.
Best to stay away from this scary regimen.
Natural Allergy Treatments For Dogs
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can relieve the allergy itchees for your dog and help get rid of the offending allergens. It also has the added benefit of being a natural flea repellent! One of the most common effects of canine allergies is itchy feet because of the constant exposure to pollen when he is outdoors at certain times of the year.
Make him a foot bath by mixing two parts water and one part apple cider vinegar in a bucket, tub, or large bowl. Soak each of your dog’s paws for up to 5 minutes. Do not rinse, but pat his paws dry after soaking. You can even have this prepared foot bath at the door (for when he comes in from his walk) for itch therapy and allergen removal.
For irritated itchy skin, you can also use it as an all over rinse for his whole body. Mix two parts water to one part apple cider vinegar, to one part cooled green tea. After bathing your dog in a natural, moisturizing or oatmeal shampoo, pour this special apple cider vinegar rinse all over him and work it gently into his coat, down to skin level.
If your dog has flea allergies, you can make his skin and coat unattractive to fleas with an apple cider vinegar spray. In a spray bottle, pour 4 oz. warm water, 6 oz. apple cider vinegar, 1/4 tsp. Sea salt. Shake well. Spray his coat and underbelly twice weekly. Avoid his eyes and do not use on hotspots or open wounds as the vinegar will sting.
Read more about Apple Cider Vinegar As A Flea Repellent on this website.
Quercetin is a compound found naturally in fruits and vegetables that gives them their colorful pigments. It has antihistamine, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties that help fight cellular activity associated with inflammation, so it reduces your dog’s urge to itch and scratch.
Research shows that this bioflavonoid (plant derived vitamin) can actually turn off histamine production and it works so well that it has earned the nickname, “Nature’s Benedryl.”
Some fruits and vegetables containing quercetin are: Bananas, apples, garlic, parsley, and broccoli.
You can safely add these to your dog’s supper bowl in small amounts. Some dogs even consider them a special treat! Supplements come in pill and capsule form, but I prefer the ‘doggie treat’ form, (and so does my dog!) which also contains omega-3 fatty acids, tumeric, and bromelain, for an attack on all fronts of your dog’s allergy symptoms!
Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme which basically means that it breaks down protein. It comes from pineapples and it helps the body to better absorb quercetin, which is why they are often used in conjunction with each other and sold together for the best results.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are two highly unsaturated fats found in cold water fish. Research shows that these are the omega-3 fatty acids that help regulate the inflammatory response that causes allergies. Sardines and mackerel have a high content of EPA and DHA so both are a good choice to add to his supper bowl.
These fatty acids also come in supplement form but beware of using fish oil. A bottle of fish oil can go rancid with oxidation (which happens each time you open the bottle) and rancid oil will only lead to more inflammation. Try something like phytoplankton instead, which contains the omega-3’s, chlorophyll, amino-acids, carotenoids, and antioxidants.
Read my review on a great natural product called Fitapet Allergy Relief for Itchy Dogs which contains quercetin, bromolain, omega-3 fatty acids, and turmeric ( a spice proven to be a pain relieving and anti-inflammatory agent for humans and animals alike).
Bovine Colostrum (Cow’s First Milk)
Colostrum is Mama’s first milk produced by mammals, immediately following delivery of the newborn. Colostrum contains antibodies to protect the newborn from disease and helps the young ones build up their own immunity.
Extra bovine colostrum (or cow colostrum) that the calves don’t need can help with your dog’s allergies. Simply stated, the primary antibody in bovine colostrum can help boost your dog’s immunity to common allergens, since the cow that produced the colostrum already has immunity to these allergens. When you feed your dog this cow’s colostrum, he takes in the cow’s antibodies! (Cool, huh?)
There is another ingredient in colostrum called proline-rich poly peptide (PRP) that research shows also helps reduce allergy symptoms by creating special T-cells that switch off the histamine response.
Bovine colostrum for dog allergies comes in either a capsule or a powder. You can give:
- 1/3 teaspoon of powdered colostrum per 25 lbs. of body weight twice a day OR
- 1 capsule twice a day for small dogs
- 2 capsules twice a day for medium to large dogs
A bovine colostrum supplement is wonderfully useful in times of increased stress for your beloved canine companion (such as allergy season) or in periods of normal recovery from any accidental injury or health related problems.
Astragalus root is one of those wonder plants with multiple medicinal properties, both for humans and animals. It is a flowering perennial plant native to the northern and eastern regions of China. In humans, it has had a long history as a disease fighter and immune system booster. Research shows that it also contributes to cardiovascular health, can help fight off tumors, and alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy!
In your beloved comical canine companion, astragalus helps boost his immune system and relieve allergy symptoms. This therapeutic herb comes in powder and capsule form. To give it to your dog, give 100 mg. per 10 lbs. of his body weight once a day. You can give it right before or at his dinnertime for good absorption.
Another herb that must be included in our catalog of natural allergy treatments for dogs is Nettles. The high histamine content in this herb can help protect your dog from an attack of allergens. There is a simple anti-allergy recipe that you can prepare using fresh nettles and coconut oil and add to your dog’s food.
Saute fresh nettles in a pan with coconut oil until tender. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which decreases yeast production, so contributing to his healthy skin and reducing any allergic reaction to fleas.
Aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties which makes it great for treating red, irritated, and itchy skin on your allergic pet. It’s also a soothing remedy for his hotspots.
Acute moist dermatitis (aka hotspots) are infected and inflamed areas of your dog’s skin caused by allergies, fleas, or excessive scratching and licking. Often they are accompanied by moist, matted fur. You can use aloe vera as a topical remedy to soothe and heal your dog’s itchy hotspots.
First its best to carefully trim the hair away from the hotspots on your dog’s body so the aloe vera gel can do its job on the affected area. Soak a clean cloth in cool water and very gently (hotspots are painful for your dog) cleanse the inflamed spots.
Gently apply a layer of pure aloe vera gel to his hotspots (for added relief you can add a drop of essential oil of lavender to the gel.) Do this every day until the hotspots begin to dry up and heal.
Note: Never use aloe vera gel internally on your dog or allow him to ingest it.
Other things you can do…
Beyond using these natural allergy treatments for dogs, there are a few other tips for dealing with his environmental allergies.
- When you vacuum and dust, either let your dog outside, or let him hang out in another room. When you stir up allergens, it can cause his allergies to spike.
- Give him a good wipe down with a damp towel when he comes in from outside. It sounds simple, but you can remove a lot of allergens from his coat this way.
- Instead of using chemical cleaning products, replace them with natural ones. This not only protects your dog from the harmful ingredients in the cleaners, but it prevents the allergies that can develop with exposure to them.
- Change your heating and air unit filter often so there are fewer allergy triggers in the air for him to breath.
I hope you have enjoyed and learned from this article; As always, you are invited to leave a comment, question, or observation below!