12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs with Allergies

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12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs With AllergiesIt’s surprising how many dog owners think that excessive licking and scratching is normal for dogs, but more often than not, allergies are the cause of all that itching and discomfort. In last week’s post, I talked about the drug Apoquel and how it’s helped Haley with her allergies, but there are also practical and natural ways to treat allergies before resorting to using a prescription drug. Find out below if your pup might be suffering from allergies, then check out the self-help section for tips for dogs with allergies.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Has Allergies?

Allergies can start at any age with the classic symptoms of itching, scratching, licking, rubbing and rolling. Does your dog have any of the symptoms below?

  • Ears– Scratching the ears, warm or red ears and recurring ear infections
  • Paws – Licking, biting or chewing the paws and red stained fur
  • Belly or Genitals – Excessive licking, hair loss and red stained skin
  • Face – Rubbing the face and chin, red eyes, discharge from eyes or nose and sneezing
  • Skin – Scratching of armpits, redness or hot spots, hair loss, red stained skin, thickened or greasy skin and unpleasant odor.
  • Tail/Rear End – Biting, licking and butt scooting
  • Digestive System – Gas, vomiting and diarrhea
*Secondary yeast or bacterial infections can also be present due to excessive scratching.

What’s Causing My Dog’s Allergic Reaction?

These are the four main types of allergies in dogs, with atopy and flea allergies being the most common.

Atopy or Inhalant Allergy – These environmental allergens are inhaled through the nose. Common allergens are pollen, trees, grass, weeds, dust, dust mites, mold, dander, feathers and household inhalants (cigarette smoke, perfume, cleaners, etc.)
Flea Allergy – Many dogs are allergic to fleas and it’s actually the flea saliva that causes the reaction.
Food Allergy – Dogs can be allergic to certain foods or proteins in food. Some vets and nutritionists believe food allergies may be caused by feeding your dog the same food for months or years.
Contact Allergy – These are allergies caused by direct contact with your dog’s skin. Common contact allergies are various drugs, cleaning or grooming products, fabrics, plastic and rubber.

It can be difficult to uncover the exact cause of a dog’s allergy, but here are a few clues that might help. Normally, if the digestive system is involved (gas, vomiting or diarrhea), look at food sources first. If your dog’s biting around his tail end, check for fleas first. If your dog only has symptoms during part of the year, it could be a type of seasonal pollen. For year-round itching and scratching, it’s probably something inside the house, like dust or dust mites. Your vet can help you narrow down the offending allergens through intradermal skin tests and other diagnostics.

For most dogs with allergies, the goal is to keep them under the threshold of scratching or licking excessively or feeling miserable. These tips may help manage your dog’s symptoms and keep him under the threshold.

12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs With Allergies

1. Control Fleas
Since fleas are a common allergen for dogs, make sure to check your dog regularly with a flea comb to make sure they’re flea free and treat any infestation quickly if you find any of the nasty critters.
2. Clean Your Dog’s Bedding
Vacuum your dog’s bedding or wash it in hot water with a natural detergent once a week to control dust and kill dust mites. Also, consider removing any stuffed toys or wash them weekly along with the bedding.
3. Keep a Clean House
Vacuum regularly and try to eliminate as much dust as possible in household furnishings. If you’re considering ripping up your dust-filled carpet and installing hardwood floors, this is a great reason to forge ahead!
4. Clear the Air
Contaminants in the air can cause allergy and respiratory problems for you and your dog. Hey, if you’re a smoker, here’s another good reason to quit. Choose HEPA or allergy-type furnace filters and be sure to change them on a regular basis. In the summer, run the air conditioner instead of opening windows on days when the pollen count is high.
5. Use Natural Cleaning Products
Ditch those harsh chemical cleaners for natural versions, like vinegar or lemon-based products.
6. Wipe Down Your Dog
You’ll want to limit the amount of time your dog’s outdoors when the pollen count is high or if the lawn has been freshly mowed. When your dog comes back inside, wipe down his coat and paws with a wet cloth to remove any allergens and to prevent them from being tracked around the house. You could also have your dog wear booties while outside.
7. Give Regular Baths
Yep, your dog’s probably not going to like this one, but weekly, cool water baths with a soothing shampoo can help ease itching and heal your pup’s skin. Natural, anti-itch sprays or gels can also be very effective in soothing skin issues. I’ve heard both positive and negative opinions about using oatmeal-based products. Oatmeal is soothing but I’ve also heard it can contribute to yeast growth on the skin. Check with your vet for a recommendation that’s best for your dog.
8. Toss the Plastic Bowls
Plastic has tiny cracks that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Even if your dog doesn’t has issues with facial hot spots or rashes, it’s better to ditch the plastic versions for glass, stainless steel or ceramic bowls. No matter what type of bowls you use, be sure to wash them regularly.
9. Try Epsom Salt Soaks
To soothe your dog’s paws, dissolve some Epsom Salt in warm water and soak his paws for 5-10 minutes. Just be sure not to let him drink the water.
10. Evaluate Your Dog’s Diet
If you think your dog may be allergic to food, talk to your vet about starting an elimination diet to try to narrow down the source of the allergy. Also, many holistic vets and nutritionists believe a raw diet or at least a diet made from fresh, human grade food is key to successfully treating allergies, so it’s worth investigating that option as well.
11. Supplement with Supplements
Talk to your vet about adding supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids, biotin or probiotics to your dog’s diet to help boost his immune system.
12. Use an Antihistamine
Most dogs get relief from an antihistamine like Benadryl or a natural antihistamine-like supplement like Quercetin. Check with your vet for a recommendation and the correct dosage.

Dog Standing on StumpI’ve tried most of these self-help strategies for Haley and they’ve worked pretty well in the past, but as some dogs get older, their allergy symptoms get worse and they may need medications or alternative treatments. That’s where we are with Haley and Apoquel right now, but I’m constantly evaluating new ways to manage her allergies.

So many people and dogs suffer with allergies. Maybe one day soon, researchers will discover the key to fixing this immune system response and allergy symptoms will be a thing of the past. Until then, if you have any tips for dogs with allergies, share them with us and leave a comment below!

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12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs With Allergies

44 Comments on “12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs with Allergies”

    • Great post! Ruby has some auto immune issues as well as allergies that we are trying to figure out. She has several of these symptoms and we are trying many things. I hadn’t heard about the epsom salts.

      • I’m sorry Ruby has some of these issues. It’s so hard to track down the source of the problem and come up with a solution that works well. Please let me know how things go with Ruby or if you discover any tips along the way.

      • I’m so glad the tips were helpful and I hope Phod’s symptoms are minor and not too bothersome. Feel free to come back and share whatever solutions work for you.

    • All good things to remember. Cocoa sometimes has red eyes and I wonder if the pollen bothers her. She does not seem to be upset by it though so that is good.

    • I feel so lucky Honey shows no signs of any allergies or sensitivities.

      Here in South Carolina, we see an excessive pollen alert every day on the weather. The water around the boat is covered with a thin sheen of pollen. And, of course, it’s all over the deck and ports.

      If Honey was suffering, I’d see no solution but to start traveling back north to the snow.

      Which, I guess, is another suggestion you could make for contact irritants.

      • I think that’s an excellent suggestion, Pamela! Someday we may sell the house and travel just like you and Mike. We’ll be sure to pick a place with very few allergy problems so Haley can be just as content as Honey.

    • Have you ever thought of acupuncture for allergies? I’m not sure how effective it is, but it really has some amazing benefits.

      Sampson has a contact allergy to something in the yard (or at least he did, we may have removed it because we never found out what it was.) Every spring he would get itchy bumps on the top of his head and one year his scratching it led to them getting infected. Now that he can’t be outside by himself, I can make sure he’s not sticking his head under any bushes.

      Great tips here!

      • It’s funny that you mentioned that, Jodi. I’ve been wondering about acupuncture, but I don’t know a lot about it. It might be helpful for our pup’s knees too. I hope Sampson is doing better and recovering well from his surgery. ?

    • A few years back Stetson had skin allergies and we tried everything on your list except #9 Epsom Salt Soaks. At the time the only two things that worked for him were Prednisone and Atopica. Two solutions that I did not want to continue long term. The good news is today Stetson is pretty much clear of his allergies. We believe the main thing that helped clear things up was moving to a new home (changed his environment) and to lesser extent changing his food.

      • I’m so glad Stetson is doing better in your new location. We happen to live in one of the top 10 worst locations in the US for allergies, so that’s probably a factor for dog allergies too.

      • Haley’s not an obsessive foot licker, but for those pups that chew on their feet a lot, I’m sure it really helps with the itching and healing.

    • very informative. my poor dog suffers so with allergies. He is on Apoquel and is better but it seems to upset his stomach.

      • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience with the drug, Carolyn. I know mild stomach issues can be a side effect, but I believe they usually go away after a dog gets accustomed to the drug. I hope the stomach issues aren’t too severe for your pup. I sure wish researchers could make some breakthroughs in treating allergies in people and pets. ?

    • Inara didn’t have allergies until we moved to Texas. She mostly messes with her paws. She’s gotten almost all the fur off to the point of creating sores and red skin. The vet gave us apoquel, but long-term drugs are something we hope to avoid. The vet thinks I’m environmental allergies. Moving isn’t an option. We do wipe her down. Suggestions on what to use are welcome. We use baby wipes right now.

      • Hi Rachel,
        Our son moved to Texas a few years ago and every time we visit with Haley, her allergies go crazy while we’re there too. I just use plain water and a microfiber cloth to wipe Haley down since I don’t want to add anything new to the mix. When she’s shedding, I sometime use these wipes since you can throw them away.
        http://earthbath.com/product/hypo-allergenic-grooming-wipes/

        Some people fill a little pan with water so you can dip their feet or have them walk through the water to rinse off any pollen or allergens. I’ve also seen foot washers that you stick their feet in, but I think a wet cloth works pretty well.

        I hate that so many pups suffer with allergies and I agree, it’s nice if you can manage the symptoms without using prescription drugs. I hope Inara gets some relief during certain times of the year there in Texas. ?

      • I wasn’t sure if you were wondering about Epsom salts or maybe raw diet recipes? If it’s the salts, I just follow the directions on the package, but if you were wondering about raw diet recipes, here’s a couple of bloggers that know a lot of raw feeding.
        Barbara at http://www.k9sovercoffee.com/
        Kimberly at http://keepthetailwagging.com/

        I’m looking into a raw diet for Haley for her allergies, but haven’t quite committed to the idea yet.

    • Just got Apoquel and will see how it works. Rocky has had allergies all his life, he’s an 8.5 year old boxer with other health problems (heart and has arthritis) He has always been my itchy boy – we did immunology when he was young, use a wheat free food, and do clean the bedding, frequent baths. It seems to be worse right now and with his arthritis in back, it seems to hurt him to try to scratch. I’m hoping Apoquel gives him relief but worried about side effects. I have used probiotics and omega-3 in the past but never noticed a difference. One thing I read somewhere a few years ago is a bath and wash with equal parts vinegar and clear anti-bacterial hand soap to relieve itching and that does seem to help. Enjoyed your blog!

      • Aw, I’m sorry Rocky’s having a hard time right now with those darn allergies. I think you’ll probably notice a big improvement with the Apoquel, but I understand your concern about the side effects. Thanks for sharing your vinegar and soap tip! Vinegar is amazing for so many things. I’ll try that for Haley if her belly rash comes back.

        I’m not sure if you checked out the Adequan article, but it’s worked wonders for Haley’s arthritis. I’m so glad we started her on it and it appears to be really safe and effective. Maybe it would work well for Rocky too.
        http://chasingdogtales.com/our-success-with-adequan-for-arthritis/

        Boxers are incredible dogs and they hold a special place in my heart. I wish you and Rocky the very best with his treatment. ?

    • It’s really good to read your informative Chasing Dog Tales. I’m from Surrey in England. One of my two dogs is Alfie who is a gorgeous Wheaten Terrier who is nearly 8 years old, he has suffered from itchy areas, feet, tummy, ears for years. My vet suggested Apoquel 16mg last year and it seemed like a miracle but I now have reservations. Having read all the down side of these tablets i’ve noticed a few things with Alfie that my Vet couldn’t answer, the main thing being that when he is on Apoquel his skin goes black all over. He has not had Apoquel for a few months now as I have tried to manage his itching with foot washes, food changes etc and all of a sudden his skin is all changing back to pink which looks really healthy but the itches appear to be getting hold of him again so I need to up my game. I’d be interested to know your view on the the skin colour change as I find it quite scary. When you mentioned Benedryl how do you work out how much to give as I think that may be worth a try and the microfibre cloth wipe sounds a great idea too. It’s so good to find a site where other people have the same problems. My other dog Treacle, is a year old Tibetan Terrier who thankfully appears not have any problems, as of yet anyway, apart from pulling out my best plants in the garden, she’s a cheeky monkey.

      • Thank you so much, Linda! Alfie sounds just beautiful! My sister just got her first Wheaten Terrier about a year ago and they sure are amazing dogs.

        Alfie’s skin discoloration issue is interesting. Haley had some black spots on her belly from licking before we started Apoquel, but now it’s cleared up. Her vet thought the black areas could be from yeast, which is common with allergies. From what I can tell, if the dark areas are from yeast, it’s commonly related to diet or food allergies. So, I’m wondering if that could be the case with Alfie and perhaps when you switched food, it helped clear up any yeast problems too.

        That’s just me wondering (just a theory). It’s so hard to diagnose allergy symptoms. I know some other causes of black skin could be related to hormones, hair loss (Alopecia X), thyroid issues, fungal infections or even Cushing’s disease but since Alfie’s skin is clearing up now, whatever you’re doing seems to be working. If you don’t change anything else and start the Apoquel again and the black areas reappear, you’ll know for sure that the drug is the cause.

        Benadryl works pretty well for Haley unless her symptoms are intense. Our vet recommends 1mg per pound of weight. Since Haley’s 50 pounds, she gets two 25mg tablets 2-3 times a day. That’s pretty much a standard way of dosing Benadryl for dogs, but a quick phone call to your vet is always a good idea, just to double check.

        I hope the info helps and I’ll let you get back to repairing the garden, haha! I’m so glad Treacle’s not having problems with those annoying allergy symptoms. They both sound like wonderful dogs! If you have any luck figuring out the skin issue with Alfie, stop back and let us know what you find out. ?

    • Thank you for the article. I have a 13-year old Miniature Schnauzer that’s a rescue, so I don’t know anything about her history. She itches and scratches 24/7. I took her to the vet today and they prescribed Apoquel 5.4 mg twice a day for 2 weeks and then once a day thereafter. I gave her the first dose at 2:30 p.m. It is now 8:30 p.m. and she hasn’t scratched once! I pray this medication is “good” for her, but like your previous article, I’m going to just keep an eye on her and adjust the medication accordingly. Thank you for the advice…I love her so ❤️?

      • Lisa, you’re wonderful for adopting your girl and giving her a loving home. The first thought that went through my mind was, how many years has she been suffering with all the itching and scratching. It must feel amazing for her to have some relief, peace and just be able to relax. I’m so glad the Apoquel’s working well and hopefully she’ll do really well on it.

        Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your joy with your new family member. Miniature Schnauzers are such sweet dogs!

    • Hi, thank you for the 12 steps. My dog has been on Apoquel just for a few weeks and I’m already weaning her off it. (gave her 2 tabs a day for a week and then to one a day and now every other day). the stuff does work amazingly but reading the side effects etc gave em the heeby jeebies…. but from your 12 steps I already do 11! the only thing I have not done is the epsom salts but my dog does not have itchy feet or paws (I have a Rotti X- and will be 3 years old on Feb 2017) so on the one hand I’m scared all her scratching will come back but on the other hand I don’t want her developing any tumors! Her diet is super clean,(no grain etc) she gets Flaxseed oil (I used to give her Coconut oil which she loved as well but it did’n’t really help) and now I’m going to put her on Orijen 6 fish, to eliminate beef or chicken.. I used to have a Huntaway X and all he got fed was biscuits from the supermarket and dog roll plus the odd bone and he never had any issues with his skin, and he lived to a ripe old age of 15! while Elsa gets the best food and she can get so itchy.. makes me wonder if I should put her on the cheaper dog food..All we want is for our dogs to be healthy and happy..should not be so hard

      • It’s so frustrating, isn’t it Wilma? I do so much for Haley too and I remember dogs we had when I was growing up that were fed cheap food and table scraps and I don’t remember them having any allergy symptoms or issues.

        Our vet told us that allergy symptoms tend to get worse with age but I sure hope he’s wrong. It sounds like things are under control for your Rotti girl right now, so that’s great news!

        By the way, I tried coconut oil for quite a while too but it didn’t really seem to help Haley very much either. You’ll have to let us know how the Orijen food works.

    • Hi I’m in England, my 7 year old standard labradoodle has problems with her botty. She a licker but never does it in front of us. Lately it’s got much worse, the vet emptied one anal gland, but she’s still licking, she has a mild infection there now, so steroid injection and A/Bs prescribed. He said Apoquel should help, waiting for the infection to clear up first. She’s now on grain free, 4 weeks in, but still licking (I know because I check her bottom a lot!). Her treats now are grain free and carrots! She also licks her back feet, not her front ones though. She’s cream so a brown botty does not look good! This site is very informative, going to try the Epsom salts on her feet.

      • Hello, Sue! I’m hoping the Apoquel works well for your girl. It’s working really well for Haley so far and she was a licker too, but only her girly parts, lol. The grain-free diet may help too, so that’s always a good idea to try.

        The Apoquel may work so well, you might not have to worry about using the Epsom’s salts but I would love to hear how it works for your doodle girl. I hope she’s feeling much better soon and getting some relief from all the itchiness.?

        • Quick update on Rosie – the infection cleared and she seems to hardly lick now. Hooray! Still on grain free diet and very little treats like carrots or sweet potato as they can add to yeast infections. So a bit boring for her but she still has a bit of cheese now and then! I started giving her Bonios again and she started to lick so I would say definitely to do with grain intolerance. No more grain for my girlie! Didn’t have to start the Apoquel. Just waiting for all the brown fur to grow out which will take a while.

          • That’s fantastic news, Sue! I’m thrilled Rosie is doing so much better and without relying on the Apoquel too. It sounds like the grain-free diet is definitely the key for her. I love it when people figure out natural and healthy remedies for these darn allergy issues.

            Thanks so much for coming back and sharing Rosie’s update. Give her a big hug from me and Haley!?

    • I need help, I have a maltese her name is Yeka, and she’s itchy her belly has loke little red spots, gets ear infections, licks her paws?, we took her to the Vet he suggest to change her food we put her in Zignature Kangaroo formula Limited Ingredient the vet also gave Yeka an anti itch shampoo but she’s still itchy, Im not sure if shes allergic to grass or food…m not sure if I want to put Yeka in apoquel I just want her to be ok…any advice will be good pleaseeeeeeeeee

      • Hi Sarah, I’m sorry to hear Yeka’s miserable with her allergy symptoms right now. The Kangaroo protein is likely a good choice since she probably hasn’t had it before. It can take a little while for the symptoms to settle down if her allergies are food related, so give it a little time and be sure not to give her any other food so you can have a good trial with the new food.

        It’s hard to tell what’s causing her allergies without being tested, but flea and atopic (pollen, dust, etc.) allergies are the most common. It also can be a combination and things she could be reacting to. Getting rid of grain in the diet seems to really make a difference for a lot of dogs.

        Some readers have had a lot of success with natural remedies, so be sure to check out their comments on this post and my post on Apoquel too. With allergies, the key is to keep the symptoms under the threshold to where they escalate and require more serious treatment. Sometimes multiple small changes to diet, environment, etc. can make a difference and keep them under that threshold of needing expensive prescription medications.

        If you try any of the natural remedies and have luck with Yeka, let us know. We all like to hear what works and what doesn’t. Hang in there and I’m sending good thoughts that Yeka’s feeling better soon and getting some relief.

    • I have a beagle name Hunter . He is 4 years old and 1 year ago he started to itch terribly , took him to the vet and was put on antibiotics and steroids did nothing. Then was told to bath once a week in anti bacterial shampoo did nothing .I then started studying and changed food to taste of the wild food . The food didn’t change much then ear infection took her to vet and was told it could be allergys . But due to the cost to test I could not do it , The sad thing is he smells so bad like yeast so the vet sold me Malasab shampoo which has helped after washing but 2 days later the smell comes back. I have to clean his ears every other day and put drops in them . His hair has grown back except under his arms is black I am just so exhausted trying to find something that works so if anyone knows what will get rid of yeast problems please let me know

      • Hi Susan,
        It seems like a lot of these yeast issues are related to allergies that are out of control. Yeast feeds on sugar, so the grain-free diet was a good idea and also try to eliminated any other sources of sugar from treats or table scraps (even things like carrots and sweet potatoes). I’ve also heard a 50/50 rinse of vinegar and water is helpful when bathing dogs with allergies or yeast.

        Also, check out Lynda’s comment on this post: http://chasingdogtales.com/is-apoquel-safe-for-dogs-with-allergies/

        A lot of people swear by a raw diet, but that does take a pretty big commitment. I’ve also heard good things about probiotics for yeast issues. In our own experience with Haley’s allergies, starting her on Apoquel resolved all of her allergy issues, including chronic yeast ear infections. We might start experimenting with a raw diet soon to see if we can take her off the Apoquel though.

        It’s so frustrating and it takes a lot of experimenting, but I’m hoping you can find a good solution for Hunter. Please let us know if you discover what works for him and we’ll keep adding any updates we come across too.?

    • Corrinna Higgins

      My dog Tink, is a Rottweiler/Pitbull mix, 3 years old. We never had issues with allergies her first two years but last summer, her allergies exploded! They didn’t even fade in the fall or winter. She got itchy and ended up with a yeast infection between her toes and a secondary infection(not sure what kid) all over her back and sides. They were bumps that were crusty. She would lick her arm pits and belly and would leave dark red and chapped places on herself. We tried apoquel as our last resort. Since then we’ve had no itchy baby! She’s bright eyed and happy! Poor girl was so miserable when she itched all the time. I’ve read a lot about apoquel but so far we’ve had no other issues with it and she’s been on it for almost a year. Although we never tried Epsom Salt. We even wiped out dogs feet every time they came in in case it was a grass allergy. But I’m so glad we found apoquel because I was so sad to see Tink so miserable.

      • Hi, Corrinna! So glad to hear Apoquel is working great for Tink. It’s worked really well for Haley too but we’re trying out Cytopoint injections right now to see if we might be able to get her off of Apoquel. We’re still early in the injection cycle so we’ll see how it goes. It’s nice to know there are options for dogs like Tink and Haley so they don’t have to suffer so much with those darn allergy symptoms.

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