7 Ways To Help a Dog With Allergies


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.

Until now.

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.

cocker spaniel

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….


  1. My Cocker Guinness has allergies. I had her tested by Greer Labs in NC with my vet’s help. She is allergic to food and environmental elements. I give her a Benadryl fwice a day in addition to giving her allergy shots. She was doing really well until about a month ago when she started itching again so I started her on Benedryl. I am going to try adding coconut oil to her food and maybe I will be able to stop the Benadryl or at least cut down to one a day. Keeping her clean is one of the musts to her comfort! She also gets dry eye as part of her allergies and I give her eye drops twice a day. These are only required in the change of season! I never had a Cocker with allergies before and am wondering if it is all the additives in commercial dog foods that is causing this or the flea/heart worm preventive meds that are prescribed? I bred and showed Cockers from the 1960s until the early 1990s and never had problems like this and Guinness is from the same lines!

    • Did you try elimination diet, Mimi? Allergies can be so difficult to determine. Guinness is in great hands with you.

  2. Great post and such an important topic! This is definitely something we’re seeing in our practice a lot this time of year. Its awesome that you brought up flea allergies, they’re definitely something people don’t always think about.

    The clues you recommended people look for were excellent, like when the symptoms started, if they were in a different area, how the weather might have changed. Those things are super helpful, especially if pet owners know about them ahead of time (perhaps by reading your blog) and know to look for patterns.

    A triple thank you for recommending folks see their vet. Many pet parents come to us having spent hundreds of dollars on allergy treatments for their pets that did not work. Some of these pets don’t even have allergies but some other kind of skin disease altogether. I had one very sad case where the pet had been treated for years for “allergies” when the pet really had a rare form of skin cancer. We definitely wish she had gotten a through workup earlier.

    Just a couple other quick notes from the vet perspective:

    We are pretty bummed that no food allergy blood or saliva test has had peer reviewed scientific validation *yet*. Unfortunately these things have a lot of false positives and negatives. Just like with your experience, we still anecdotally hear good things from some clients who find success. However, if it doesn’t work for them, some of our clients are frustrated to find out these test haven’t yet stood up to scientific scrutiny. The only definitive way to test for food allergies is with a veterinary guided diet trial, even then it’s tricky. The more folks skip around to foods with unusual ingredients, the harder it is later to do a proper food trial in the future.

    Another common misconception that pet parent’s don’t always know is that products with steroid that are sold over the counter are not completely safe. Some folks pick up stuff at the pet store and don’t know to use excellent product like Resi-Cort working with their vet. Unfortunately, even topical steroids will affect the whole steroid system in the body (called the pituitary-adrenal axis).

    They can be more harmful to pets on certain other medications (especially NSAIDs like Rimadyl, dermaxx, Previcox etc.) predisposing them to stomach ulcers and kidney and liver problems. Plus, Just like oral steroids (though the risks are somewhat lower, especially with hydrocortisone which is the least potent steroid) these products can still lead to some of the scary side effects including:

    1) Fragile skin syndrome (the one I see most with long term use of topical steroids) where the skin becomes so fragile it breaks and tears even with gentle petting or your pet’s normal movement. These can be hard to heal and are heartbreaking to treat.
    2) Glandular disorders like Diabetes and Cushing’s disease
    3) GI upset and kidney and liver problems.

    I definitely feel my clients frustration when they have an allergic pet. Allergies can be so tricky to treat and are impossible to cure. Plus, there’s so much information out there it can be hard to process it all.

    Thank you for helping break down some of the most important topics for folks and helping furry critters out there feel less itchy this fall!

    • Thanks so much for weighing in with your expertise. For many years, my last Cocker Spaniel suffered with food allergies and intolerances. Eventually succumbing to IBD, we went through a battery of things with her

      We worked closely with her vet and holistic means to treat her. You are correct that pet parents need to work with their vet. I have had success with nutriscan.

      We also follow Dr Dodds’ protocol in vaccines after my dog had a mast cell reaction at the site of yearly vaccines.

      Now that I know better, I do better for my dog and my readers.

      Thanks for joining in!

  3. We are very familiar about allergies. We are very lucky to have such a great vet that helped us ways and provided us options. Yes to Coconut Oil. Mmm To avoid environmental stuffs on the gorund, I wear PAWZ as protection. You may want to add that on your list. It’s been remarkable helpful and no more paw licking and especially raw paw skin. Great informational post that every dog owner must know. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

    • Thanks, Golden. I love that you wear the PAWZ. Dexter is a complete no go on those. No matter how many times we try, he is a no-go. We wash feet often in this household after his walks and romps outside to keep the spread of his trigger at bay. Many wuffs for chiming in!

  4. Did you ever consider or try shots? We went that route the first time after Dolly’s test came back with allergies, off the chart, of 32 out of 40 tested for. We never got far enough to see if they helped when she was diagnosed with food allergies, now that those are under control we are just doing OTC Benadryl and she has prescription ear drops. Thanks for the great info, a few things to think about as far as medication. Sandra and Dolly

    • Our last Cocker Spaniel was allergic to everything but well, air, and we researched a lot about the allergy testing for her. We opted against it after we realized it was a food allergy that we were able to pinpoint. However, did you know that some dogs can be really allergic to something, get allergy tests, start desensitization shots, and then get allergic to something else? Just a note of caution. However, I would not rule out the allergy testing, but it is definitely something to consider. Many wuffs for chiming in, Dolly!

  5. Paws crossed as I type this…none of us have allergy issues and we don’t get car sick either. Since we are more rare breeds, we think that may have something to do with it, but we are very thankful that we don’t have that problem. Mom has allergies and that is enough to deal with!

  6. Every Golden we’ve had has had allergies! We just adopted Ike and are going through the process of trying to figure out what he is allergic to and what helps. Argggg! Thanks for some tips!

  7. I’m hearing great things about Healthy Goo a homeopathic treatment for allergies. Has anyone ever tried it?

  8. I love coconut oil. My daughter’s shih tzu has allergies to everything. if it’s not one thing, its another. her recent allergy was to flea bites. she is allergic to their saliva. her skin was in bad shape, loosing her hair. i tried everything. then tried coconut oil. i put it on her at first, then started putting it in her food. this stuff really works! her skin has improved. after just one dose, i could tell she was getting relief. her hair is growing back. i will always use coconut oil for her. organic oil.

  9. These are some great resources! Jada has had allergies all her life and it was hard to pinpoint what the allergens were. The ImmuneIQ test was super helpful and after eliminating the food allergens, she has been a lot better. Every spring she gets irritated by all the pollen though.

  10. My partner and I have a 12 soon to be 13 year old Black Coker Spaniel named Cody Jasper. For the past 3 months Cody has been coughing and coughing day and night. We have had him in to our Veterinarian probably 8 times in those 3 months. He is a few pounds overweight and they determined that his heart is a tiny bit enlarged, but not enough to create pressure or irritation on his lungs and diaphragm to make him cough. His coughing sounds like a child with the croup and the only time he doesn’t cough is when he is lying quietly or sleeping.
    This is a list of the things we have tried or are trying and that haven’t worked: we have tried oral prednisone, a bronchial dialator (pill form), a water pill to remove fluid that may be built up in his lungs, a pill to stop his coughing (hasn’t worked), a pill for his heart called Vetmedin, we have been giving him 1 and a half teaspoons of liquid Benadryl by syringe every 8 hours which used to stop his coughing because it knocked his butt out for a few hours, but now the Benadryl doesn’t phase him. 4 days ago we changed his food from Nutro’s Chicken and Brown Rice for Seniors, to Nutro’s Lamb and Brown Rice, thinking that he may have a chicken allergy.
    And finally, yesterday our veterinarian anesthetized Cody and did a Bronchial Scope to look to see if he had something stuck in his throat. They also filled his lungs with fluid and then sucked out the fluid and sent it off for pathology testing bacteria, fungus, etc… They are supposed to call us later today with the results.
    We are at our wits end. We cry every time we here the dog coughing non-stop for hours. He has to be exhausted and his throat and his ribcage have to hurt because of his continual coughing.
    If ANYONE out there has been through a similar experience, please share your story and your solutions or suggestions. Like I said before, we are at our wits end and we are trying to find any ray of hope that doesn’t lead us to euthanasia. We love,love,love Cody and we are desperate to save him.
    Thank you so much!
    Lisa Moles

    • Lisa – If I were in your position I would first wait to see what these results say and then I would go to a university hospital. Whenever my Cockers had big issues, I went to a university for assistance. We have been to both Cornell and a University Hospital for pets in Philadelphia, PA. That is terrible and you know, I wonder if it is an allergy – has he had extensive allergy testing? It could be something in the home, too. Or something in the environment.

      Can you let us know and keep us posted? Paw prayers and hugs.

  11. I have a chocolate lab that has terrible environmental allergies. Went through all the allergy testing and had her on the allergy shots for 2 months. She got much worse on the shots so stopped those. Now I’m just trying to keep her comfortable with Benadryl. – 4 tablets twice a day. I’m going to start her on the coconut oil and get the shampoo and skin lotion. As a result of the allergies she does get hot spots and then gets yeast and bacterial infections. I’m at my wits end.
    I also read an article that states for indoor house plants that haven’t been transplanted in a while can have mold. So I have to report all my houseplants and hope that helps. I had all my carpet pulled up and replaced with wood look porcelain tiles trying to get rid of anything that would flourish in the carpets.
    Thanks for all the advice here!! Good luck to all of you out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *