Is there anything worse than a dog who incessantly licks/bites/scratches themselves? It is believed that there are millions of you who have a dog with allergies. The only thing worse is the dog who ends up with hot spots, skin infections, and/or living a life of either complete misery from scratching or sleeping a lot due to the side effects of antihistamines serving as a Band-Aid to an undiagnosed allergic culprit.
Fidose of Reality’s PR (Puppy Relations) Manager, Dexter, has welcomed the autumn season with a severe case of the itches, scratches, and biting behaviors. In an effort to stop the aforementioned, here are 7 things dog parents can do right now to keep their dog allergies from rearing their ugly, scratchy heads:
1 Seek Medical Attention
First and foremost, take your dog to the veterinarian. Despite the bounty of information available online about dog allergies, a veterinarian needs to see the dog to rule out any major problems. Did you know dogs can be allergic to fleas? Simply one flea bite can spawn the immune system into itch-scratch mode, even long after the fleas are gone. Let your vet know when symptoms started, anything new that Rover is eating, and if the dog has visited any new climates. A change in weather is what precipitated my dog’s allergies last year, so we are cognizant of not repeating the same pattern this year.
One of the meds that seems to have helped my dog is Atarax: It is an antihistamine that is relatively inexpensive and available from the vet by prescription.
2 Determine If the Allergy is Nutritional or Airborne
There are food allergies and there are food intolerances. There are dogs who are sensitive to certain food ingredients and there are dogs who have allergic reactions to things in the environment. There is a subspecialty of veterinary medicine that involves dermatology. Seek a specialist if symptoms are ongoing. Do you seek the help of a specialist in times of need? The same should hold true for your dog.
Fidose found out about NutriScan, a test that based on saliva alone, tests for twenty of the most commonly ingested foods of dogs. You purchase this kit, you can do it at home or in your veterinarian’s office, and in two weeks, the results are sent to you. From that point, you can put your dog on the right diet.
Airborne allergies are trickier, but there are a host of tests to try and determine what is making your dog itch. From skin scrapings to blood tests, talk to your dog’s vet or specialist about allergic testing and potentially starting desensitization shots.
Figuring out what a dog is allergic to is not an easy nor fast process. It may takes months and trial and error to discover the culprits, but you must be persistent.
3 Use Coconut Oil
Thanks to pet blogger buddy, Caren Gittleman of Dakota’s Den, I decided to add Coconut Oil to my dog’s diet. I also watched this very helpful video from Dr. Karen Becker, who explains the benefits of coconut oil and how it can help by adding it to a dog’s diet.
Coconut oil is one of those hidden secrets not often talked about, but it is slowly making its way into mainstream articles and veterinary offices. According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, coconut oil, when used regularly, can help dogs who suffer from eczema, flea allergies, contact dermatitis, and itchy skin. Since adding a dollop of coconut oil to my dog’s food once a day, I’ve noticed a decrease in his itchiness. Bonus: People can use it for a variety of things from softer hair to improved skin texture to butter substitute in recipes (think :zero cholesterol).
We decided to purchase the Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, put a teaspoon of it in Dexter’s food daily (melting it), and then feeding as usual. He adjusted well and it smells really great, too!
4 Watch the Shampoo You Use
I was of the ilk that bathing my dog would reduce the itchiness; that was me a few years ago. Since then, I’ve learned that over shampoo can actually dry the skin, lead to more itchiness, and oatmeal can be a culprit of itching. There are many oatmeal-based shampoos available, but proceed with caution and pay attention to your dog’s itch level post bath.
Massage shampoo into your dog’s skin and coat instead of scrubbing it, so as to prevent irritation and itching. Massaging the shampoo into your dog’s coat can help stimulate skin cells. Bath water should not be too hot, as warmer water tends to irritate the skin, as does a hot dryer after a bath. My dog tends to get a chill if not bathed dry, so we’ve started using a comfy bath robe and changing it twice, as the water is absorbed by the material.
I’ve found success with the Virbac Animal Health line and their:
- Epi-Soothe shampoo which acts as an antipruritic (anti-itching) shampoo designed to sooth and restore
- ResiCORT leave-on lotion containing hydrocortisone, and designed to stop an itch
I purchased both of the above online, but the ResiCORT required a prescription, which my dog’s veterinarian was happy to supply.
5 Try the NutriScan Test
How many of us have suffered with a dog with allergies and tried switching foods, eliminating foods, and nearly pulling our hair out when nothing seems to help? NutriScan is conveniently split into two test panels, so you can order one or both. We tested this product on our own dog, and the results were helpful. You’ll need to retest yearly with this, as allergies can ebb, flow, and change, but you will only need to test for foods already in your dog’s system. Here’s our NutriScan review and results.
6 Cortisone and Topical Treatments
Our friends at DERMagic have a highly targeted system of products for dogs. We’ve been successfully using their products for five years now and know of many others who do as well, with great success. You can determine what type of allergy you suspect your dog has with their breakdown of symptoms, but here is what we’ve had success using:
DERMagic skin lotion. This 8-ounce bottle lasts us an entire fall season and then some and is designed to provide immediate relief to hot spots, skin allergies, and dry skin issues. It contains things like whole-leaf aloe vera gel and rosemary essential oil, the latter of which disinfects and stimulates hair follicles.
Of course, the first thing my dog does when I apply any lotion or topical to his feet or paws is lick it off. According to the folks at DERMagic, there is nothing harmful or toxic in the ingredients, so you can reapply as needed. Of course, we’ve learned how to stop licking behavior, so keep reading.
Our other favorite product from the DERMagic line is their flea dust. Besides the cute name, this is a much safer alternative to flea and tick prevention than any chemicals, sprays, or drops. Made with USDA Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth, I sprinkle this on Dexter and I feel good knowing there are no toxins involved. Read our complete Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth review here.
7 Stop the Licking and Itching in Its Tracks
If you do any of the above treatments on your dog and need the product to work effectively, the dog needs to stop licking or chewing/scratching, right? It saddens me when I read about dogs who are forced to wear a cone. Is there anything more pitiful or uncomfortable than seeing a dog wearing a pseudo-lampshade on its head?
Granted, some dogs will figure out how to get through garments and bandages, so I wanted something easy to use, safe for my dog, and that would not dampen his spirits. Enter the onesie from Tulane’s Closet. Oh and folks who guffaw at a dog who wears clothes or who turn their nose up at the idea of dogs in couture, get this: My dog is totally okay with a onesie because, after all, it’s just clothes to him.
Does your dog suffer from allergies? What have you done to help him or her out? Bark at us below in the comments….