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The Best Dog Allergy Treatments, According To A Veterinarian

The Dodo logo The Dodo 4/21/2022 Lauren Taylor and Sam Schwab

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If you notice your dog sneezing and itching a lot more than normal, it’s possible that your poor pup has allergies. And her symptoms are probably bothering her a lot more than they’re bothering you!

So, you’ll want to give her relief fast — and you’re probably wondering what dog allergy treatments can help.

We reached out to Dr. Lydia Harbour, a veterinary dermatology resident at Dermatology for Animals in Arizona, to find out what prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments you can give your dog for allergies. 

Over-the-counter dog allergy treatments

If you need to give your dog relief and don’t have prescription options available to you, there are definitely some OTC solutions for your dog.

Antihistamines

Dr. Harbour recommends dog-safe antihistamines, which can relieve some of your dog’s symptoms.

Try this dog-friendly antihistamine from Amazon for $4.88

Keep in mind that not all antihistamines for humans are safe for pets. Sometimes they’ll include things like decongestants and alcohol (which are dangerous for dogs), so it’s important to make sure that the product contains antihistamines only.

Benadryl is a dog-safe OTC antihistamine you can use, but only with guidance from your vet. If you give your dog Benadryl, you should only give 0.9 to 1.8 milligrams of the medication per pound of body weight once or twice a day, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.

Allergies can be treated with antihistamines, but these work best for the hay fever signs of allergy (sneezing [and] red, watery eyes), and much less so for the eczema (atopic dermatitis) aspect that most of our patients experience,” Dr. Harbour told The Dodo.

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements

Since antihistamines typically don’t address the skin issues that result from allergies, Dr. Harbour suggests using them alongside an omega-3 fatty acid supplement for dogs.

“There is evidence to support the use of antihistamines in combination with oral omega fatty acids,” Dr. Harbour said.

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that reduce inflammation. Dogs aren’t able to make their own omega-3s, so it’s important to provide them for your pup, whether it’s in her food or with a supplement. And omega-3s have tons of health benefits aside from just reducing allergy symptoms, such as helping your dog’s overall immune system, promoting brain function and supporting her joints. 

Try Zesty Paws allergy supplements with omega-3 from Amazon for $24.27

You can also try Zesty Paws’ full line of allergy support products here

Salmon oil’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, too. You can drizzle the liquid form on your dog’s food once a day, or you can try salmon oil capsules and chews.

Try Iceland Pure Unscented Pharmaceutical Grade Salmon Oil from Amazon for $23.94

Topical dog allergy medicines

There are also some medications you can use directly on your dog’s skin, like a shampoo, mousse or spray.

“Topical therapies that reduce bacterial and yeast overgrowth on the skin, support the skin barrier and moisturize the skin can be extremely helpful, and most of these are not prescription,” Dr. Harbour said. “The best shampoo/mousse/spray option should be decided with guidance from your veterinarian.”

Dr. Harbour recommends something with chlorhexidine, ceramides and sometimes climbazole, miconazole or ketoconazole. Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic that’s used to treat dermatitis and other kinds of skin conditions, and it prevents bacteria from growing on your dog’s skin. Ceramides are lipids (fats) in the outer layer of your skin that retain moisture and form the skin barrier. And climbazole, miconazole and ketoconazole are antifungals. 

Try Pet MD medicated shampoo for dogs from Amazon for $18.89

Try this medicated chlorhexidine spray from Amazon for $16.99

In addition to using a medicated shampoo, you can try bathing your dog more frequently. Some dogs with skin allergies or conditions need to be bathed more often to help get rid of dander, pollen, dust and other irritants on their fur and skin (but make sure to talk to your vet first). 


Video: Dogs Might Actually Help With Your Health (Buzz60)

Remove allergens

If you know what your dog’s allergic to, and it’s something in the environment, you can remove those allergens from your house. To do this, you may need to have your dog allergy tested so you can know what you need to get rid of. 

There are a few easy steps you can take in the meantime, though. 

You can dust your house frequently so allergens like pollen and dander aren’t sitting around.

Getting a dehumidifier can also help, since it’ll stop mold and mildew from growing and get rid of dust mites.

Try this Frigidaire dehumidifier from Amazon for $299

You can also buy an air purifier. (Plus, a dehumidifier or an air purifier can also help with your allergies.)

Try this HEPA filter air purifier from Chewy for $134.99

Dog food for allergies

If your dog has food allergies, your vet might recommend a special diet for allergies.

There are a few different kinds of hypoallergenic dog foods. They’re often prescribed by vets and contain exotic sources of protein that your dog may not have eaten before and may not be allergic or sensitive to. 

  • Hydrolyzed protein dog food contains pieces of protein that are so small that your dog’s immune system typically won’t react to them.
  • Limited-ingredient dog foods are made with fewer ingredients than typical dog food, so your pup’s less likely to run into an ingredient she’s allergic to.  

Your vet might put your dog on an elimination diet, which is when you feed your pup hypoallergenic dog food for a few weeks to try to determine what’s causing his allergies. Once you figure out what she’s allergic to, you can avoid foods that contain it. 

Some pet parents continue feeding their dogs hypoallergenic food long-term, though, because they’re super effective at reducing reactions. 

Prescription allergy medicine for dogs

Prescription allergy medications are way stronger than anything you could buy OTC, and making a vet trip to get a prescription will be totally worth it.

Cytopoint injections are one form of prescription allergy treatment for your dog. They’re shots given by your veterinarian that last for four to eight weeks, so you’ll have to keep going back to the vet clinic when another injection is needed. Cytopoint works by preventing your dog’s urge to itch herself.

“This is a monoclonal antibody that targets the itch mediator (IL-31) and prevents the signal of itch from going to the brain,” Dr. Harbour said.

An oral medication that's a pretty popular option among pet parents is Apoquel. It works by suppressing a dog’s immune system so it doesn’t react as strongly to allergens and trigger all those annoying symptoms.

“This is an immune-modulating medication given in the form of a pill that helps with both itch and inflammation,” Dr. Harbour said.

Another type of oral medication that’s especially useful for dogs who suffer from hot spots or other inflammation is cyclosporine, which can go by the brand name Atopica.

“This is also an immune-modulating medication given in the form of a capsule,” Dr. Harbour said. “This does much more for the inflammatory aspect than the other two.”

If your dog is having a really bad allergic reaction, your vet might prescribe a round of oral steroids.

“These are very potent anti-inflammatories ... used for acute and severe cases to ‘put out the fire,’” Dr. Harbour said.

Steroids aren’t good to prescribe long-term, so they’re most useful in reducing really severe allergic reactions when needed.

“Generally we try to avoid long-term steroids if possible, since there are many potential short- and long-term side effects,” Dr. Harbour said. “But sometimes, if nothing else works, or if financial limitations prevent the use of other drugs, these can be used for maintenance control.”

Allergy shots for dogs

Allergy shots — aka allergen specific immunotherapy (ASIT) — are considered to be the only true cure for pet environmental allergies, as other methods only mask the symptoms, but ASIT can stop your dog’s body from reacting altogether.

“It is the ONLY thing that can change the actual immune response,” Dr. Harbour said. “Once [other] medications are stopped, signs will return.”

Allergy shots are a series of injections that contain small amounts of the allergen, which lets the immune system become familiar with it so it’s seen as less of a threat. That way, allergy symptoms won’t be triggered when your dog comes into contact with the allergen in her daily life.

“Over time, the immune system starts to change how it responds to the allergen and develops ‘tolerance,’” Dr. Harbour said.

If your dog’s been diagnosed with environmental allergies, the next step is to get allergy testing so a serum can be developed for your dog’s allergy shots. 

“Allergies are a life-long disease, so the earlier that immunotherapy with ASIT is started, the fewer symptoms that the patient will hopefully experience over time,” Dr. Harbour said.

Keep in mind that allergy shots are not 100 percent effective, and results vary among individual dogs.

“It's about 70 to 80 percent effective, but that's along a spectrum,” Dr. Harbour said. “Some patients will completely improve, others will have less severe flares and we can potentially reduce their medications over time, and [in] others it may be hard to notice actual improvement, but it may be simply preventing progression/worsening of disease over time.”

With just one trip to the veterinarian and one (or a few!) products, you can put a stop to your dog’s itching and sneezing — and she’ll be back in good health in no time!

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