When spring is in the air, it brings more than mild weather, chirping birds and fluttering butterflies. Pollen, mold and other allergens abound causing sneezing fits, teary eyes and runny noses. Don’t be surprised though when your dog asks you to pass him a Kleenex or two. Dogs are affected by seasonal allergies too, only difference is that in dogs, an allergy triggered by something inhaled, is often referred to as “canine atopy.”
Atopy in dogs is often triggered by the presence of dust, pollens and mold and therefore their symptoms may often be more common certain times of the year. Unlike humans though who typically show allergy symptoms through respiratory signs, dogs are more likely to develop skin problems. Whether your dog is itching or showing respiratory symptoms, one thing is for sure: he looks miserable and you want to help him out. There are several over-the counter options to help your pampered pooch deal with allergies and some natural remedies too.
Five Ways to Help Your Dog Survive Canine Atopy
While there are several ways to help your dog’s canine atopy, consider that over the counter products and natural remedies may help only with mild cases. Sometimes your dog may need something stronger, that’s only available through your vet. Also, because many skin problems can be caused by other conditions, always see your vet first so he can confirm your dog is actually dealing with canine atopy and not something else that requires a totally different treatment and approach.
When your dog develops an allergy, his body produces histamines as a defense mechanism against the foreign particles the body has categorized as threatening. As much as this sounds like something good, unfortunately these histamines are responsible for triggering the inflammation and itchiness typical of allergic reactions. Medications known as antihistamines work by blocking the release of histamine. While many histamines require a prescription, some are available over the counter. Benadryl, Claritin and Zyrtec are commonly recommended for allergic reactions in pets, explains veterinarian Patty Khuly. Because of the risk of improper dosage, side effects and interactions with other meds, it’s a good idea to ask your vet first if it’s OK. Once you have the green light, make sure to avoid antihistamines containing decongestants and pain medications which can be potentially toxic.
Steroids are known for suppressing the immune system, which works well for allergies since in this case, the immune system is overreacting. These medications though come with a hefty price often under the form of side effects. A milder option is offered by steroid-based creams, sprays, shampoos and gels with some products available over the counter. Consider that alcohol-based steroid sprays though may sting the skin, further points out Dr. Khuly. Some steroid-based over-the-counter products are specifically made for dogs and crafted to combat rashes and painful hot spots.
Decongestants, as the name implies, are meant to help in cases of nasal congestion. Allergies are often associated with stuffy noses because the nasal passages swell and this causes an increase in the amount of mucous. Most over the counter decongestants though are proven to be toxic to dogs. Watch out for phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine which are often found in allergy, cold and flu products. A far much safer option is to run a vaporizer or let your dog breathe some steam by keeping him in your bathroom and running some hot water.
Allergies occur in dogs whose immune system has turned against them, explains veterinarian Randy Kidd. Because the immune system plays a role in the development of allergies, it’s a good idea to support it through a healthy diet and supplements. Several holistic vets recommend adding raw meat to the diet. Natural anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements that help boost the immune system include vitamins C, A and zinc and essential fatty acids.
Last but not least, preventing exposure to the allergen can help better manage and reduce episodes of allergic reactions. Identifying the triggers is a big step so you can better prevent exposure. Air filters are helpful if your dog is allergic to airborne allergens. Soothing oatmeal baths may remove allergens from the coat while comforting the irritated skin. Keeping the grass short in the yard will prevent grasses and weeds from producing pollens and frequent vacuuming with a good vacuum equipped with HEPA filtration systems will remove allergens from carpets and rugs.
The Bottom Line
As seen, there are several options to help a dog that’s suffering from canine atopy. Often, a synergistic approach that tackles diet, enforcing the immune system, minimizing exposure and treating skin lesions is required to provide relief. Whichever approach you take, play it safe and always consult with your vet first.