If your dog is allergic to something, this can make them feel quite miserable, and cause a number of logistical problems for you as their owner. Whilst we tend to think of allergies in dogs as being one of the more minor and less dangerous health conditions, this is not always the case; some allergies can be acute and even life-threatening, although this latter tends to be the exception rather than the norm.
Finding out what any dog is allergic to can be a problem as well, and there are so many potential triggers and manifestations of allergies that simply reaching a firm diagnosis alone might take months; or may be virtually impossible to achieve at all.
However, whatever your dog is allergic to and however it affects them, there are quite a few different approaches that your vet might take to managing, treating or resolving your dog’s allergy, which might be effective or appropriate for different situations.
Your vet will of course work with you to advise you on the best approach for your own dog, and not all treatments and management options are appropriate for all dogs and all situations. That said, by learning the basics of the most common approaches and treatment methods your vet might use to help your dog with their allergies, you’ll be better informed and more able to make the right decision.
Read on to learn about seven of the most common and effective approaches that can be used for treating different types of allergies in dogs.
The best way to deal with an allergy – if you can achieve this – is to ensure that your dog isn’t exposed to the allergenic trigger in question! However, this is also often the hardest approach to achieve, for various reasons. As mentioned, you might not even know for sure what your dog is allergic to, or even what type of trigger it is, such as food, or something environmental and so on, which makes avoiding exposure more or less impossible in some cases.
Additionally, some allergens are so ubiquitous as for it to be almost impossible to prevent exposure – like pollen.
Various different steroids can be effective at treating allergenic flare-ups in dogs, and these are often very effective, depending on the dog, allergy, and reaction in question. However, there are some downsides and potential risks to steroid use too, particularly long-term, and so your vet will always weigh up the potential pros and cons carefully before advising steroids for your dog’s allergy.
When your dog has an allergic flare-up, it is not actually the allergen that makes them ill; after all, if things that some dogs were allergic to were actually harmful, all or most dogs would react to them. The allergy symptoms dogs display are a result of their body’s immune system overreacting and wrongly identifying the allergen as a threat, which triggers a histamine response to repel the perceived invader.
It is this histamine response that causes your dog’s allergy symptoms. Antihistamine medications therefore calm and reduce the impact of the body’s histamine response, and may greatly ease your dog’s allergy symptoms.
However, not all dogs respond to antihistamines and so they might not work for all allergies; but if they are effective for your dog and your dog will take the medicine without incident, this is one of the safest, and cheapest, options available.
If your vet can diagnose accurately what your dog is allergic to and the allergy in question is acute, ongoing or highly problematic, they might recommend a course of exposure therapy, or immunotherapy. This is a managed process of gradually, over a long period of time (often months) exposing your dog’s body to ever-increasing doses of the allergenic trigger within a safe, controlled setting in order to retrain their immune system to ignore it and stop seeing it as a threat.
This is a great, permanent solution to individual allergens when indicated, but can be costly and take a long time to be effective.
For allergens that can’t be entirely avoided like pollen at certain times of the year, reducing the level of exposure your dog has to the allergen might help. This may mean things like walking them at certain times of day when there’s less pollen in the air, using air filters in the home, and wiping your dog’s coat off once they come back from a walk to remove pollen from it and so, reduce the amount of it around them.
Bringing flowers into the home or keeping a beautiful garden might be out too!
Certain “good” fatty acids like Omega 3 have been found to be effective at reducing the body’s histamine response to allergens, without the need to take histamine-suppressing medications.
Fatty acid food supplements and so on might be recommended by your vet to help to support a comprehensive approach to treating your dog’s allergies, or for very low-level allergies that don’t cause your dog huge problems.
Additionally, locally-sourced honey has been found to help some people to resolve highly acute allergy symptoms within their local area, as this is a form of natural exposure therapy due to the bees making the honey feeding on the pollen innate to the area.
However, this is something you should discuss with your vet, to weigh up any potential risks and the perceived efficacy and benefits of such an approach.
Depending on what type of allergy your dog has, there might be a lot of different ways that you can reactively manage their symptoms to keep them more comfortable, and to limit how badly your dog is affected by their allergy.
For instance, in dog breeds like the English bulldog which is prone to skin allergies, using topical anti-itching creams, soothing baths, and anti-inflammatories can all help to take the edge off your dog’s allergy symptoms – and keep them from itching and bothering at sore areas of the skin and so, making them worse.