BY HEATHER DOWDY
Is your dog suddenly licking his feet, shaking his head or scratching his ears? The culprit could be seasonal allergies.
If your pet battles these issues year-round, he could be allergic to his food. But if the itchy onslaught seems to accompany the arrival of spring, summer or fall, your pooch pal may be allergic to his environment. Just like us, dogs can develop allergic reactions to pollen, ragweed, grass, flea bites and more.
Oftentimes, your dog's feet and ears may become red, swollen and itchy. Many dogs will lick and chew at the itchy spots to the point that they will cause a hot spot, hair loss or bleeding. Some pups even develop rashy areas around their chin, eyes or face.
Our rescued pit bull, Briley--like many other white, short-haired pups--developed seasonal allergies early on. Her sensitive skin breaks out on her belly, ears, paws and face. (You can see it on her pitiful face and paws in the photo below. Sad pup!)
Over the years, we've learned a few tricks from our veterinarians as well as through a lot of research. But just when we finally have a handle on Briley's allergies, they hit even harder.
That's because environmental allergies can become worse over time, requiring us to constantly step up our treatment plan. We are adding in new solutions all the time, and seeing what works and what doesn't. And what works for one dog may not be a great option for another.
While a visit to your dog's veterinarian is a must if your pup is experiencing painful, itchy allergies, I've rounded up some of the solutions that have assisted us along the way. Be sure to always ask your veterinarian before starting your pup on any medication, supplement or treatment plan.
I always prefer to start with natural, low-risk solutions before jumping to pharmaceuticals that may come with side effects or longterm risks. Some natural remedies that have been recommended by holistic veterinarians include:
Frequent Baths and Wipe-Downs
Our veterinarian suggested bathing Briley weekly with a gentle cleanser such as Earthbath Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo or Burt's Bees Hypoallergenic Shampoo--or, with a medicated shampoo such as Relief by Bayer, which also comes in a spray formula. This helps to wash away allergens and soothe itchy, red skin.
In between baths, we wipe Briley down with these gentle grooming wipes from Earthbath to remove allergens from her feet and coat. A foot bath by the door is another good way to rinse outdoor allergens off sensitive, allergy-prone feet.
Allergy + Immune Support Supplements
I recently began treating my own seasonal allergies with quercetin, nettle and bromelain supplements. It's been the only thing to make a significant difference for me in years, so I began researching using it to help Briley as well. Turns out, it can be just as effective for our pup pals!
Quercetin is a flavonoid with antioxidant, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. It is heralded for its ability to block histamine production and reduce inflammation and is recommended by many holistic veterinarians. Recently, I found this pet allergy supplement from Now Pets, which combines the power of quercetin with nettle leaf, bromelain, tumeric root and licorice root, all of which are thought to be helpful in reducing allergy symptoms. My verterainarian has given the go-ahead, so I just ordered our first bottle to try. I'll update this blog with results in a few weeks! A similar supplement if available from Vet's Best here.
The aloe plant can also be helpful in soothing inflamed, itchy, red skin. Aloe is available in many types of sprays and gels, but the most effective way to harness its soothing power is to slice open an aloe plant and apply the gel to itchy areas to calm and cool the skin. Aloe plants and leaves can often be found in natural grocers or nurseries. We grow our own plant indoors so we have access when needed.
Meanwhile, raw goat's milk is thought to be helpful in reducing allergies. I love Answers Raw Pet Food, available locally at many pet stores, including Licker and Whine in Murfreesboro or Happy Retales in Brentwood.
OTC and Prescription Medications
If natural remedies are not cutting it alone, an over-the-counter antihistamine such as plain Benadryl can be helpful. Your veterinarian will need to approve and suggest the correct dosing for your pet based on his weight.
And if symptoms persist, it may be time to talk to your veterinarian about steroids or a medication such as Apoquel or Atopica. These medications are recommended by many veterinarians and have shown a lot of success in treating pet allergies; however, as with all pharmaceuticals, there may be side effects and risks involved. Talk over all of your options with your veterinarian and come up with a plan that best fits your dog's needs.