Pet Allergies

How do you know if your pet is having an allergic reaction?

  • Consistent itching/scratching
  • Licking/gnawing of paws
  • Poor skin/coat health (itchy, red, moist)
  • Hot spots
  • Ear infections
  • Constant licking
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Snoring (caused by throat inflammation)

So, what causes these allergy symptoms? Surprisingly enough, the most common allergy triggers for pets is not environmental triggers, or even food triggers, it’s fleas. Yep. Fleas.  In South Carolina dogs can have a flea problem year round!

The hierarchy of pet allergen triggers goes something like this:

  • Fleas/Flea Bite Dermatitis (most common)
  • Environmental Triggers (pollens, grasses, household cleaning agents, etc.) (common)
  • Foods/Treats (least common)

What to do?

Be sure your dog is on a safe Flea Preventative from your vet year round, then start a journal and create an attack plan. Starting a pet journal will help you identify allergen triggers so that you can discuss them with your vet. Note all the symptoms, when they appear, and note other facts about the day. Did you take a walk? What time was it? Note the month, day, and time. Did you change floor cleaning chemicals? How about laundry detergent? Did Fido roll in the new plants? Did you give Fifi a piece of chicken from your lunch? Keeping a journal will help you notate and look for patterns that will help you identify your pet’s allergen triggers.

Thankfully, in today’s busy world, most people don’t even have to keep one long. When you commit to watching your pet’s interactions in the world, you may discover the trigger or triggers in as little as a few days to a week!

Environmental Triggers

Killed the fleas? Still have issues? Refer to your journal. Has Fifi had these symptoms year-round or did they just start? Look for patterns when you expose your pet to various situations.

As far as treatment options, some pets are affected by grass and pollen levels, especially those smaller breeds closer to ground.

  • Wipe off Fido’s paws and fur when he comes in from outside with a wet wipe or rag. This will keep him from licking himself and ingesting the pollen. (Tip: Some folks use Apple Cider Vinegar when wiping off the paws. Excellent choice with two benefits! Apple cider vinegar is a natural antihistamine and doesn’t taste very good, which could curb paw licking. You can also soak the paws in apple cider vinegar for maximum benefit.)
  • Treat your fur-baby to a weekly bath with a gentle, non-drying shampoo, like Cloudstar Buddy Wash or Tropiclean Neem Shampoo (for serious itch relief).
  • Add apple cider vinegar to your dog’s diet. Some breeders add ACV to their dog’s water bowl. ACV has tons of amazing health benefits, including healthier skin and coat, which looks great when in the competition ring. If your pup is not a fan of ACV flavored water, you can try apple cider vinegar in a simple ingredient, lowest possible dose pill format, like this one. (NOTE: Apple cider vinegar, like any supplement should be discussed with your vet first.) I will be posting a full blog on treating your pet’s allergies with Apple Cider Vinegar soon!

Food Allergens

Food allergens tend to be the least likely cause of pet allergies for most pets, however, for a pet suffering from multiple allergens (food and environmental, or food and fleas), reducing the amount of exposure to allergens will bring much-needed relief.

The most common pet food grain allergens are:

  • corn
  • wheat
  • soy

As these common grains contribute to a lot of allergy symptoms in pets, it’s no wonder why so many folks have hopped on the “grain free food” wagon. While meat should always be the first ingredient in any dry commercial pet food, low-allergen whole grains can be beneficial to dogs, serving as prebiotics (or food) for the probiotic bacteria that grow and thrive in the digestion tract. So, unless your pet has severe grain allergies, I always recommend to switch to a low-allergen grain source, like rice, pearled millet, or oatmeal, which we use in our recipes.

If you have successfully gotten rid of corn, wheat, and soy from your pet’s food AND TREATS (don’t forget those!), and Fido is still itchy, try changing protein sources. Chicken and beef are common protein allergens in dogs. Switching to a fish or fowl-based protein may bring relief.  Our Cold Water Recipe and Grizzly Salmon Oil is a great go to recipe for itchy dogs.

With any food or dietary changes, make sure to transition your pet to the new food gradually, over the course of one week. Generally, when switching to a better quality food, you may see some results in your pet’s overall health and appearance in as little as one week. Look for full results after a 2-3 months.