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What do itchy skin, ear infections, and sneezing all have in common? They're symptoms of allergies in dogs. Several types of allergies affect dogs. Like humans, dogs can suffer from environmental and food allergies that affect their quality of life. Luckily, there are many different types of allergy medicine for dogs that can reduce or eliminate their symptoms to allow them to enjoy walks or their favorite snacks. Keep reading to learn more about the types of dog allergies and treatment options. 

Types of Dog Allergies

Dogs can suffer from several types of allergies, including airborne and food allergies. 

Airborne Allergies

Airborne allergies, also known as Canine Atopic Dermatitis, are when dogs are allergic to certain environmental allergens. They can affect dogs of all breeds and sexes. However, some breeds are predisposed to allergies, such as Chinese Shar-Peis, Wirehaired Fox Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Boston Terriers, and Labrador Retrievers.1 Airborne allergies are often seasonal, but some dogs suffer year-long, with itchy skin being the most common symptom.1 Depending on the dog's allergies, they may also suffer from inflammation in the nose, rhinitis, asthma, sneezing, and ear infections.1

Vets typically diagnose dogs with allergies by ruling out other diseases and illnesses, but allergy testing can be used to identify allergens to find the right treatment plan.1 Airborne allergies include allergens in a dog's environment, including dust, mold, pollen, and even dog fleas, which can cause flea allergy dermatitis, resulting in inflammation and itchy skin.2 

Food Allergies 

Food allergies are another common issue in dogs, and dogs can have adverse reactions to more than one type of food.3 Unlike environmental atopic dermatitis, dogs can become allergic to an ingredient in their food at any time, so a dog could eat the same food for many years before showing any symptoms. Similar to airborne allergies, pruritus, also known as itching, is the most common symptom, but dogs may also experience ear infections.3

Common dog food allergies are reactions to chicken, beef, lamb, and wheat. However, dogs can also be allergic to human foods. Food allergies are typically diagnosed and treated using the elimination diet. Your vet will eliminate certain potential allergens from your dog's diet during a trial period to see if their itching resolves.3

Symptoms of allergies in dogs

Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

Symptoms of allergies in dogs vary, but the most common sign is pruritus or itching. Other signs include:

  • Irritated skin 
  • Face rubbing 
  • Scratching 
  • Licking or gnawing feet or legs
  • Face swelling
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Hair loss

Types of allergy meds for dogs

Types of Allergy Meds For Dogs

Several types of allergy meds for dogs are available, depending on the type and severity of your dog's allergies. Options include:

  1. Oral
  2. Topical 
  3. Injectable 

Oral Medications: 

Allergy pills for dogs are designed to help treat itching and inflammation while reducing the severity of the allergies. Allergy pills for dogs include:

Oclacitinib 

Oclacitinib, also known as Apoquel, is an oral dog allergy medicine designed to treat itching in dogs by providing rapid relief from itching and inflammation in dogs with allergic skin diseases. It can be used short or long-term.4 Apoquel controls atopic dermatitis, a long-term inflammatory disease caused by environmental allergies like dust and pollen.5 This allergy medicine for dogs works by controlling the itch signal in a dog's body to help them stop scratching and itching.5

Antihistamines 

Antihistamines like Benadryl and Zyrtec are also commonly given to dogs to manage allergies to treat inflammation and itchiness.6 Always check with your vet before giving your dog antihistamines designed for humans because some are safe while others aren't. In addition, the dosage depends on a dog's weight, so you must know a safe dosage since overdoses can happen, causing hallucinations and seizures in dogs.7 

Benadryl and Zyrtec are effective antihistamines for dogs when given in the proper dosage, but Benadryl may cause more minor side effects, such as drowsiness. Benadryl is not FDA-approved for veterinary use, but it's considered safe for dogs and works by blocking the receptors that receive histamines in the body to relieve symptoms associated with allergies, such as itchy skin, sneezing, and hives.8 Benadryl is used to treat dogs with mild to moderate allergies, including seasonal, food, and environmental allergies, and allergic reactions to insect bites like mosquitoes.8

Topical Medications:

Topical medications are used on the skin to treat inflammation, hot spots, and itchy skin. 

Dog Steroids for Allergies

Topical steroids offer relief from itchiness by fighting inflammation with minimal side effects. They're sprayed directly on the skin or used in drop form in the ear for ear infections. Common topical medications for allergies in dogs include Cortavance and Hydrocortisone. 

Topical sprays are often used for hot spots and localized itchiness and inflammation to help manage dog skin allergies. Cortavance is a spray that makes application easy and cleaner than topical ointment. Using topical medications may be preferable when dogs need to avoid the side effects associated with oral medication. In addition, dog steroids for allergies can help treat ear infections due to allergies when combined with anti-fungal ingredients. 

Injectables:

Injectables are another type of allergy meds for dogs that can be beneficial in dogs with severe seasonal or environmental allergies. 

Canine Atopic Dermatologic Immunotherapy  

Canine atopic dermatologic immunotherapy treats atopic dermatitis and the symptoms that come with it, such as inflamed, itchy skin that can result in painful lesions. Immunotherapy changes the dog's immune response to allergens to reduce their symptoms.9 These shots increase a dog's tolerance to environmental allergies, increasing the dosage until reaching a maintenance dose. It can take up to six months before immunotherapy begins to work, so pet parents should commit to at least one year of therapy.9

That being said, Cytopoint is a fairly new allergy shot for itchy allergic reactions in dogs and lasts for up to two months. This biological therapy works with the dog's immune system and contains engineered antibodies to help their immune system target and neutralize proteins that cause itchy skin.10

Talk to your Vet

Itchy skin is uncomfortable for dogs and can lead to lesions and infections when a dog's nails or teeth break the skin's surface while scratching. In addition, dogs with chronic ear infections can get painful ruptured ear canals, affecting their hearing. Ear infections in dogs are painful, and since they can be caused by allergies, you should talk to your vet as soon as possible if your dog starts scratching their ears or you notice a musty odor or change in earwax color. 

Dog Allergy Meds: Frequently Asked Questions

How can I treat allergies at home? 

Never treat your dog's allergies at home without first consulting a vet. If you notice your dog itching or sneezing, you should have them diagnosed before proceeding with any treatment. Once your vet diagnoses your dog with allergies, they'll send you home with a treatment plan, which may include several types of medications. 

What can I give my dog for allergies? 

Benadryl and Zyrtec are common antihistamines that are effective for managing dog allergies and reducing symptoms. However, you should never give your dog human medication without first consulting a vet to ensure you give them the right dosage. 

When is it time to call a doctor? 

Talk to a veterinarian when your dog seems to be scratching themselves more than usual. Since excessive itching could indicate several illnesses, they should be diagnosed as soon as possible. In addition, talking to a vet can help reduce your dog's symptoms to help them get treatment faster. You can access Dutch's televet services whenever you're concerned about your dog's allergies. 

Can dogs take Claritin? 

It's typically best to avoid giving dogs Claritin because there are different types of this medicine, and some are toxic to dogs. For example, Claritin-D contains pseudoephedrine, which is toxic to pets. However, vets may prescribe Claritin for allergies in dogs, with the dosage depending on their weight. 

A dog with allergies biting their leg

Final Notes

Seeing your dog have an allergic reaction is definitely scary, but fortunately there are many options for allergy medicine for dogs. Depending on the severity of your dog's symptoms, your vet may need to treat their allergies with a combination of medications. Luckily, you can get your dog the relief they need from their symptoms by talking to a Dutch vet. Dutch can help diagnose and treat atopic dermatitis and allergies in dogs to relieve their discomfort and reduce their symptoms. Talk to a Dutch vet today. 

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References

  1. White, Stephen D., and Karen A. Moriello. “Allergies in Dogs - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/allergies-in-dogs.

  2. Dryden, Michael W. “Fleas of Dogs - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/fleas-of-dogs.

  3. Pucheu-Haston, Cherie M. “Cutaneous Food Allergy in Animals - Integumentary System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/food-allergy/cutaneous-food-allergy-in-animals.

  4. Moriello, Karen A. “Pruritus in Animals - Integumentary System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/integumentary-system-introduction/pruritus-in-animals.

  5. “Apoquel® (Oclacitinib).” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/pet-medication/apoquel.

  6. Shipstone, Michael. “Antihistamines for Integumentary Disease in Animals - Pharmacology.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/pharmacology/systemic-pharmacotherapeutics-of-the-integumentary-system/antihistamines-for-integumentary-disease-in-animals.

  7. “Can You Give Your Pets an Antihistamine?” ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/news/can-you-give-your-pets-antihistamine.

  8. Burke, Anna. “Benadryl for Dogs.” American Kennel Club, 21 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/benadryl-for-dogs/.

  9. “Canine Atopic Dermatitis - Integumentary System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/atopic-dermatitis/canine-atopic-dermatitis.

  10. CYTOPOINT - UW Veterinary Care. https://uwveterinarycare.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Cytopoint-2018.pdf.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $15/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.