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Dogs and cats can be allergic to dust, plants, pollens, and molds – just like humans! Allergies in dogs most often manifest as itchy eyes, chewing or licking of the feet, rashes, full-body itchiness, head shaking, ear scratching, hot spots, and sneezing. Purebred dogs, young animals, and animals moving to a new part of the country are all at higher risk, but allergies can essentially happen to any dog, at any time of their life. There is no definitive cure for allergies in dogs or cats, but there’s a lot pet parents can do to mitigate symptoms and keep a pup comfortable through allergy season.
First thing pet parents want to do is to talk to a vet to confirm that the pet has allergies, and not something else like an infection, infestation, or internal issue. The symptoms are broad and can look like other diseases. Allergies can also be made worse by a number of underlying conditions, so let’s just cross everything else off. We also want to be sure that a pet hasn’t developed infections from all the itching and licking, or developed other allergy-related health conditions. Depending on the severity of allergies, a vet may recommend a visit to a veterinary dermatologist.
A good monthly parasite prevention is critical for managing allergies in dogs and cats. Bites from fleas, mites, and ticks can make allergic skin disease worse. Pet parents also want to be sure the pet is eating high-quality foods, and that a food allergy isn’t contributing to their symptoms. Daily use of probiotics can also help mitigate allergic conditions. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory effects and are a great addition to improve skin and coat health. These work especially well in combination with antihistamines (more on those below). Fish oil is an excellent source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. For dogs, the daily addition of a small amount (less than ½ teaspoon) of local honey (make sure it’s local!) exposes the pet to a very small amount of local pollens. The goal is to desensitize the immune system. Keep in mind this is a long-term treatment (3-6 months) and won’t work for every pet. Don’t do this if a pet is diabetic or has other metabolic diseases!
Bathing a dog 2-3 times weekly can help wash away pollens and soothe irritated skin. Colloidal oatmeal is great for calming some dogs’ itchy skin. If the pet’s skin is very irritated (or at risk of skin infection with open sores), there are medicated shampoos with antibiotic and anti-fungal properties that pet parents can get through a vet. Always remember to wipe the pet down after a trip outdoors using grooming wipes or a damp washcloth to remove pollens on the skin. Focus on the areas the pet itches the most. Usually this means the paws (between toes!), belly, groin, armpits, under the tail, and the muzzle. Keep those ears squeaky clean! Bacteria and yeast naturally live in a pets ears; when allergies flare, inflammation increases risk of infection.
The most common over-the-counter medications for allergies in dogs are antihistamines. They can provide great relief for some, but not all will pups benefit. Check with the Fuzzy Veterinary team first to be sure it won’t interfere with other medical conditions or medications. Pet parents can give their dog Benadryl (diphenhydramine) 2-3 times daily at 1mg per pound of body weight. For instance, a 12-pound dog can receive 12mg, which is equal to one children’s Benadryl or ½ an adult dose. A 50-pound dog would need 50mg, or two adult Benadryl. Benadryl may cause drowsiness. Zyrtec (cetirizine) or Claritin (loratadine) can be given once to twice daily. The adult tablets are both 10mg. Dogs under 10 pounds should get no more than 5mg, or ½ of a tablet. Those weighing 10-50 pounds should get 10mg, and heavy dogs (over 50 pounds) can take up to 20mg. There are newer medications to treat pet itchiness that are available through a veterinarian.
The most common medications for cat allergies are antihistamines. They can provide great relief for some, but not all will benefit. Check with the Fuzzy Veterinary team first to be sure it won’t interfere with other medical conditions or medications. Pet parents can give their cat Zyrtec (cetirizine) - 5mg (1/2 tablet) once daily (one full tablet of adult Zyrtec is 10mg).
Fuzzy wants pet parents to be equipped with the tools and resources they need to keep their pets happy and healthy. Knowledge is power, but so is access. Fuzzy offers 24/7 Live Vet Chat for members to make essential pet questions and parenting easier, as well as a full catalogue of pet health products and prescription meds to reduce the symptoms of pet allergies. Sign up and become a member today.