Bonus! Includes tips to strengthen your dog’s immune system
Anyone who has dealt with seasonal allergies in dogs knows this scenario: your dog is happy and healthy, when out of the blue they suddenly start scratching and chewing themselves. Frantic scratching leads to hotspots, fur loss, and secondary skin infections.
How do You Know if Your Dog Has Seasonal Allergies?
One of the key indicators of a seasonal allergy is that your dog only itches at certain times of the year. If the dog’s itching is a year-round struggle then it is more likely an environmental or food allergy.
If your dog suddenly starts scratching a lot, first think through anything that has changed recently in your dog’s environment.
- Did you switch foods?
- Use a new shampoo?
- Clean your carpets or treat your lawn?
If you can’t think of any changes that might have caused the allergic reaction your dog is having, you may be dealing with seasonal allergies.
Start a log of your dog’s symptoms and the dates – it will come in handy down the road for two reasons:
- If you end up seeing a vet at some point it will help you remember what happened when.
- Over the years, it will help you see a pattern of when the itching generally starts and when it stops.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies in Dogs?
First, let’s talk about the science of seasonal allergies. The root of an allergic reaction is an immune system that is not working correctly.
When an allergic dog encounters an allergy trigger, its immune system mistakenly sees the trigger as a dangerous invader that needs to be attacked. It releases antibodies which in turn stimulate mast cells to release histamines to kill the “invading” trigger.
This release of histamines causes inflammation, itching, redness, and irritation.
Common seasonal allergy triggers include:
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Scratching & biting skin or paws
- Hair loss
- Runny eyes
- Ear infections
- Yeast infections (in ears and/or on skin)
- Constant licking skin or paws
- Nasal discharge
- Scabs or crusts on skin caused by bacterial or yeast skin infections
Common Sense Actions to Reduce Seasonal Allergy Symptoms in Dogs
Before we talk about natural treatments for seasonal allergies, let’s go over some common sense actions you can take at home to reduce allergic symptoms.
1. Make sure your dog doesn’t have fleas
Look on your dog’s skin for signs of fleas. Fleas are small and quick, but they leave behind “flea dirt (feces).” Flea dirt looks like tiny specs of pepper on your dog’s skin.
If you see dark specs on the dog’s skin, lift some off with a comb and place it on a wet paper towel. Flea dirt it will turn a rusty-red color, soil will stay brown colored.
If your dog has fleas, educate yourself about Home Remedies for Fleas to make sure you do everything needed to get rid of them.
2. Rinse feet after walks
Keep a basin by your door filled with water and 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt. Each time your dogs come inside swish their paws in the basin to rinse off any allergens before they are tracked into the house.
Rinse and replace the water mixture at least once a day.
3. Bathe your dog
Opinions vary about how often you should do this. The most common recommendations are every other week or every week. Be sure to use a gentle shampoo so you do not dry out your dog’s skin and cause more itching. I like Nature’s Specialties Aloe Concentrate shampoo, it doesn’t strip the oils off of your dog’s fur or skin. I used it on my highly allergic dog who needed daily baths to keep him out of misery, it lessened his itching considerably and never irritated or dried out his skin.
4. Wipe your dog down at least once a day
Use a damp washcloth to wipe your dog down each day, this will help remove the allergens from their coat.
5. Wipe your dog’s eyes to relieve itchiness
Mix ½ teaspoon salt with 1 cup of distilled water. Once salt is dissolved, dip a gauze pad in the solution and gently wipe around your dog’s eyes to help relieve itchiness and irritation.
6. Wash your dog’s bedding once a week
If you notice your dog scratches less after washing their bedding, you may want to do it even more frequently. Easier yet, cover the dog’s bed with a fitted sheet and wash that – much easier!
7. Vacuum multiple times a week
Be especially diligent in rooms and areas where your dog likes to hang out and lie down.
Natural Treatments for Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Natural solutions can provide relief for dogs suffering from seasonal allergies, especially when coupled with the common sense measures above.
1. Quercetin & Bromelain
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that has anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine and anti-oxidant properties. The histamine that your dog’s body releases in an allergic reaction causes inflammation. Studies show that quercetin can inhibit histamine production and reduce inflammation.
Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, helps increase the absorption of quercetin in the body.
Dr. Angie Krause of BoulderHolisticVet.com recommends the following dosage for quercetin:
Dose: 125 mg once daily for small dogs (0-20 lbs); 250 mg once daily for medium sized dogs (25-50 lbs); 375 mg once daily for large dogs (>50 lbs)
This product contains both quercetin and bromelain, along with other natural allergy treatments for dogs, and is formulated in dosages meant for dogs:
2. Bee Pollen
Bee pollen contains both the pollen bees have collected as well as enzymes made by the bees.
The idea is to expose your dog to tiny doses of the pollen they are allergic to in order to desensitize them. Because the bees gather pollen from a multitude of plants, there is a good chance the pollen of local bees will carry the pollen that your dog is allergic to.
It’s very important to make sure the pollen you buy comes from local bees to increase the chances that the pollen your dog is allergic to is in the mixture you are giving to your dog. I googled “Minnesota bee pollen” and easily found local choices, I would suggest you do the same for your location.
Ramp up very slowly. Start with one granule in your dog’s food. If you don’t see an adverse reaction, increase to 2 granules the next day, and so on.
The end goal is 1 teaspoon per 30 lbs per day.
An ingredient in colostrum called proline-rich polypeptide (PRP) has been shown to improve allergy symptoms by inhibiting immune cells that cause allergic reactions and creating immune cells that help suppress the overactive immune system response that is causing the allergic symptoms.
This activity reduces the amount of histamine released by your dog’s body, reducing the allergic reaction.
The Zesty Paws Advanced product that I listed above for quercetin also contains colostrum so I am including the link here as well.
4. Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that make it a great treatment for hotspots and itchy areas.
Apply the gel to the affected area twice a day. The gel has a cooling effect that will provide quick relief.
Make sure you buy a good quality brand of aloe. There are many brands out there that are full of green coloring and other additives that could irritate your dog’s sensitive skin.
5. Banixx Spray
If your dog has a hot spot or raw and broken skin, Banixx spray provides soothing relief and helps the skin heal. It is pH formulated to prevent the growth of fungus and bacteria on skin as well.
When spraying with Banixx, saturate the area and massage it into the skin. Make sure your dog doesn’t lick it off: you can use a cone, a thundershirt, or give them a kong filled with peanut butter or canned pumpkin. Apply 2-3 times a day.
6. Coconut oil
Lauric acid, a component of coconut oil, decreases yeast production on the skin.
When used topically, coconut oil can be applied to the skin to decrease itchiness.
Coconut oil can also be added to your dog’s food to boost the dog’s immune system and aid in suppressing the inflammatory response that occurs with allergies.
Build Your Dog’s Immune System!
As discussed above, allergies stem from a poorly functioning immune system. Healing your dog’s over-reactive immune system will go a long way to reducing or ending their seasonal allergies. One of my first dogs, Red, is the perfect example:
“Red was a golden retriever we adopted from a local rescue at age 5. The first fall after we adopted him, Red suddenly began biting and scratching in early- to mid-November. He ended up on antibiotics for a staff infection (a secondary infection which occurs when bacteria enter through the open scratch wounds) and was miserable for about 6 weeks. Then his itching disappeared.
The following November, the itching resurfaced, and we realized he had a seasonal allergy to something outdoors that surfaced in November. It was less severe the second year, but he still was very uncomfortable for the same time period.
We changed his food and added supplements to help strengthen his immune system. Strengthening his immune system happened slowly but each year his symptoms would decrease in severity, and were almost non-existent by the end of his life.
Effective Ways to Strengthen Your Dog’s Immune System
There are many things you can do to help strengthen your dog’s immune system and make it more effective. Here is a preview of two of the most important things you should do to make your dog’s immune system healthier:
1. Switch to a higher quality food
If your dog has been on a poor quality (cheap) or unbalanced food, chances are it is not getting the nutrients it needs to keep its immune system strong and healthy. You will also want to consider homemade dog food pros and cons for your dog. My allergic dog, Red, showed a ton of improvement from a higher quality diet. His coat became soft and thick, his ear infections disappeared, and his allergies decreased significantly.
2. Give your dog probiotics
Did you know that your dog’s gut is home to 80% of their immune system? Probiotics create a healthy gut, which translates to a healthy immune system. Make sure the probiotics you buy contain a prebiotic as well; prebiotics are food for the probiotic to help it flourish in your dog’s gut.
Natural Remedies for Seasonal Allergies in Dogs Can Make a Difference
Fighting allergies in dogs is tough, even if you use conventional medications. Dog owners struggle year after year because most allergies stem from underlying dog health issues that are not easy to fix.
Just like in humans, becoming more healthy takes time and involves a multi-faceted approach that focuses on diet, exercise, immunity building, and more.
The natural solutions in this article will help soothe and reduce symptoms of your dog’s seasonal allergies, but it’s imperative you also begin to boost your dog’s immune system if your long term goal is to reduce and hopefully eliminate your dog’s allergies.
If you have dealt with dog allergies, tell us your story and what helped your dog – the more we know the more we can help our dogs stop itching!