How To Treat Allergies In Your Dog and Cat
Allergies are one of the most common and frustrating medical problems that affect both dogs and cats. Allergies are a hypersensitivity in which exposure to a benign substance causes your pet’s immune system to go into overdrive, which leads to inflammatory mediators being released that leads to the itching, scratching and chewing that drives us insane but is uncomfortable for your pets.
Unfortunately, the incidence of allergies in people, dogs and cats is increasing. Food, immune system deficiency, toxins and stress are definitely contributing to the rise in allergies we are seeing in ourselves and our pets.
What are some of the signs you may notice in your pet if they are dealing with allergies?
Chewing at their feet or excessively licking
Changes in skin coloration
Recurring anal gland infections
Licking, chewing, scratching excessively along their flanks
Chronic GI issues like vomiting and diarrhea
There are numerous causes for allergies, and many times the symptoms can look the same making it difficult to diagnose.
Main causes of allergies:
External parasites - Learn more about natural remedies here.
Environmental allergies (atopy)
This type of sensitivity is common in pets and can be difficult to diagnose, especially if there is a concurrent environmental sensitivity. Proteins in the food are recognized as being foreign to the body and lead to inflammation. Learn more about leaky gut and how it develops in your pet. The most common symptom seen is skin itchiness, but you may notice GI upset like loose stool, anal gland problems and vomiting, especially in cats. In cats, the itching will usually be focused on the head, neck and ear region with a food sensitivity.
Many people think that a food allergy develops after switching diets. However, food allergies are very common in pets that have been fed the same food for years. In dogs the most common allergens are beef, chicken, egg, cow milk, wheat, soy, fish, rice, potato, and corn. In cats the most common allergens are chicken, fish, and dairy products, plus common carbohydrates, including wheat, rice, and corn. The best way to empower yourself as a pet parent is to learn how to read pet food labels.
Atopy (environmental allergy)
Atopy (environmental allergy) can develop in any dog, but certain breeds are predisposed, such as terriers and retrievers. This disease can vary based on the environment. Many pet parents will notice their pet's allergies resolve when moving to a more dry climate or may worsen with a change in environment. These allergies are due to contact with the allergen in the environment - this could be grasses, pollens, other pet dander and even dust mites.
Environmental allergies look very similar to food sensitivities, but usually don't involve gastrointestinal issues. However, keep in mind that many pets have a low grade inflammation from being on a food that has inflammatory ingredients and environmental allergies concurrently.
Simple Ways to Help Your Pets
Ensure there are no external parasites like fleas. Learn more about natural flea and parasite repellants here.
Assess what's in your pet's diet (meals and treats). If you're concerned that your pet is allergic to something in their diet, first stop all treats and table scraps that are meat or dairy. Safe treats include those made without animal protein or dairy products like carrots. If your pet is still itchy after a few weeks, it may be a hypersensitivity reaction to the regular food. The next step would be to do a hypoallergenic food trial or a food sensitivity test.
What to Feed. Food is the foundation for health, and if we are not optimizing the food that is going into our pet's body, then we'll never fully resolve the itchiness. If we're concerned with food sensitivities, we want to feed a basic recipe for at least 8 weeks to see if the itchiness subsides or lessens. Pick a protein your pet most likely has never been exposed to. Keep in mind, even though your pet's food may say it's chicken, there's usually other types of protein further down on the ingredient list. This is one of the many reasons why it's important to learn how to read pet food labels. Use an online pet food recipe maker like www.BalanceIT.org to help formulate a limited ingredient diet with one protein and one or two veggies. Also, make sure any vitamins or minerals you are adding in are hypoallergenic to ensure they don't create an adverse reaction.
Make sure that you have your pet on a good probiotic and digestive enzyme to help them break down their food to fully absorb it while supporting optimal gut health. Here's a list of our supplement recommendations for enhancing gut health.
Bathe Your Pet. Studies actually show that bathing your pet once a week is helpful in reducing allergy symptoms. Also, get a wet washcloth and wipe your dog's paws and coat down after coming inside. Doing this will help reduce the amount of pollens on your pet's fur that flare allergy symptoms. I recommend using hypoallergenic dog shampoo. You MUST stay away from human shampoos, because they aren't formulated to maintain the right pH for your pet's skin which can worsen symptoms.
Topical Treatments Are Essential. Calendula ointment is an herbal medication that has been successfully used to relieve the itch. Apply a thin coat twice daily to affected areas. Using brewed teas topically can also be beneficial to your pet. Green tea, chamomile and black tea have been shown in studies to specifically reduce inflammation. Brew a cup of tea and apply the cooled tea topically to the affected skin. Manuka honey is a great anti-bacterial option that you can use topically on sores or infected skin, and it's safe if your pet ingests some.
Anti-allergy Supplements. There are numerous supplements that we can use to help build up the skin barrier to external allergens, reduce inflammation, and support our pet's immune systems.
If you are looking for a few recipes to get your dog off of a kibble diet, get our Personalized Nutritional Plan. You'll get two recipes formulated for your dog or cat and support to help get them onto a diet to optimize their health.
If your dog is still suffering from allergies, you're going into the vet over and over again, trying more and more drugs with no results, reach out. Chinese herbal medicine is incredible at resolving the root cause of the issue and getting your pup back into tip-top shape! If you're not sure about Chinese medicine, use our telehealth option to find out more about how your dog can benefit today.
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*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Dr. Katie Woodley cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.