Dog Skin Allergies: Causes and Natural Remedies
If you’ve noticed your dog contending with skin irritation, you’re not alone; itchy skin due to allergies is the most common health concern that brings pup parents to the vet’s office.
Maybe you’ve consulted a traditional veterinarian to little avail, or you’re hoping to avoid the vet altogether. That’s understandable - vet visits can result in substantial bills or unneeded stress for an anxious dog. So it may be encouraging news to you that there are savvy, safe, and effective ways to address moderate skin allergies from the comfort of your home.
While traditional treatments like steroids may improve symptoms - such as inflammation, itching, pain, and secondary infections - the symptoms may arise again after the cycle of medication is completed. That’s because they don’t treat the underlying issue. Why remedy your pup’s allergy symptoms for just a couple weeks when you can take holistic measures to prevent the allergic reactions in the first place?
In this article, we’ll walk you through the most common allergens that could be plaguing your pooch and discuss safe solutions that could minimize their effects and improve quality of life - for both you and your best friend.
Identifying Dog Skin Allergies and Their Causes
Pet parents can usually identify the presence of allergies by observing several of the following symptoms and behaviors:
- Red and inflamed skin
- Oily skin
- Scratching, licking, gnawing (sometimes resulting in self-trauma)
- Paw-chewing/swollen paws
- Dry skin/dandruff
- Hair loss
- Itchy, red eyes
- Eye discharge
- Ear itching and frequent ear infections
Allergies are the immune system’s response to everyday substances it has learned to identify as harmful irritants. Certain allergens cause a reaction when they make direct contact with the skin, while others must be inhaled or ingested to provoke a reaction. The most common categories of allergens include:
- Plants (pollen-producing)
- Food ingredients
- Dust and dander
- Chemicals in soap, cleaning products, yard treatments, etc.
- Flea saliva (flea allergy dermatitis)
Unlike other, more straightforward canine health conditions, the question, “what is my dog allergic to?” may seem open-ended and unanswerable without extensive tests - especially when you consider the range of potential allergens that could be urging your dog to lick, nibble, and/or develop ear infections. But once you start to peel back the layers and investigate, the solution may be simpler than you initially thought.
Before we launch into holistic home remedies for skin allergies, remember there are other possible sources of your dog’s itching. These include dry skin due to a lack of humidity, mites (some of which can cause mange), fleas, bacterial or fungal infections (like ringworm), and thyroid disorders. A flea infestation is easy to rule out; you probably already know that these dark, wingless insects can be seen with the naked eye. You may also find black flecks on your dog’s coat, known as “flea dirt.” If you suspect your dog may have a bacterial or fungal infection, skin tonic oil is a great solution to alleviate itchy skin. The spray contains a powerful, yet soothing neem oil that supports skin health. The other issues mentioned are less common, but it’s best to rule them out before proceeding with solutions targeting dog skin allergies.
Addressing Dog Skin Allergies with Natural, Safe Remedies
If you’re not sure what allergen might be ailing your dog, first thing’s first: don’t make the situation worse. Avoid potentially toxic pharmaceuticals or harsh chemical shampoos that may irritate the skin. Your strongest instinct as a loving pet parent is to soothe the external effects of internal health issues - and there are ways to take immediate action to relieve symptoms, but choosing artificially fragranced, chemically stringent soaps or sprays is not beneficial.
Instead, treat the dermatitis with gentle, natural products. Wondercide’s hypoallergenic shampoo bar helps soothe skin inflamed by an allergic reaction. The combination of aloe and neem oil (a natural antiseptic) moisturizes and cleanses aggravated skin. If bathing your dog is a bit of a chore, you can pair the use of this therapeutic dog shampoo with the simpler application of skin tonic spray, which also includes organic neem oil. A little spritz can go a long way in improving skin irritation and is gentle enough to use multiple times per day if needed.
Chronic ear infections are also a symptom of allergies, the frequency of which can be heightened by moisture and uncleanness. Genetic traits like floppy or extra-hairy ears can contribute to both of these factors, making it all the more necessary that you proactively approach ear infections in an allergy-prone pooch. Wondercide’s Natural Ear Care Kit includes a gentle ear wash for everyday use and natural ear mite and infection treatment, both formulated by a holistic veterinarian. Learn how to clean your dog’s ears so you don’t accidentally cause harm to the eardrum or ear canal.
How a Healthy Diet Can Eliminate Dog Skin Allergies
Once you’ve begun to tackle the uncomfortable external symptoms, it’s time to strategize ways to avoid allergic reactions in the first place. One of the best places to start is by altering your pup’s diet. What we humans put in our bodies directly impacts our health, and the same is true of dogs. And just as with human food, many potential allergens lurk in even the most respected brands. Common perpetrators in dog chow include grain, dairy, soy, egg, beef, and chicken.
Again, out of the many possible culprits it can be hard to know which one troubles your dog. Instead of putting on your investigator cap, you may find a simpler solution in switching to a higher quality, limited-ingredient, low-grain diet. But if that doesn’t work, an elimination diet trial may come in handy. Whether you want to experiment on your own or consult a holistic veterinarian for help is up to you and should be determined by the severity of your dog’s symptoms. Either way, your approach should be well-researched and methodical.
The gist of an elimination diet involves putting together meals that:
- Are free a any suspected allergens
- Contain a single protein source rather than two or more
- Only contain a new source of protein (for example, if you’ve been feeding your dog chicken, try fish or rabbit)
- Are either supplied by a highly trusted, quality brand, or are prepared at home with quality ingredients
The elimination diet must apply to treats, table scraps, and even certain medications with animal protein or grain. Otherwise, your dog may still be exposed to allergens. You will most likely start to see improvement within four to eight weeks (although it can take up to 12). When/if the symptoms disappear, you can either continue to adhere to the limited special diet or experiment with adding a different ingredient into the mix once per week to really pin down the culprit. This may make your life easier in the long run, as you’ll have more options to choose from. Remember to rotate safe protein sources regularly so that your dog doesn’t develop a new allergy due to prolonged exposure.
Whether or not your dog has a food allergy, a healthier diet will boost the immune system and encourage a more reasonable immunological response to whatever is causing trouble. There’s a reason why we humans often take vitamins and supplements furiously when we start feeling under the weather, and it’s because the strength of the immune system determines our ability to fight off the majority of medical conditions.
Pup parents should also note that gut health plays a powerful role in allergies, especially in cases where digestive symptoms accompany dermatological symptoms. Try a beneficial probiotic as well as digestive and immune support for dogs. The wonders of neem bark powder are impressive, and when ingested this powerful organic ingredient promotes the body’s healthy response to pathogens.
Eliminating Sources of Contact Dermatitis
As we already emphasized, a healthy diet and supplements function as a launching pad for maintaining your pet’s overall health. But if the allergies stem from direct contact with an irritant, you may need to start making more informed, strategic choices about the products you purchase.
Try using all-natural grooming and household cleaning products. Strong artificial fragrances, sulfates, parabens, and alcohol can provoke skin irritation. If you take your dog to the groomer, talk to them about the products and ingredients they use.
Use natural pest control for your home and your yard. Even traditional flea and tick treatment marked “safe for pets” can be toxic. Take the same approach to preventative medicine, sprays, dips, or collars - avoid the toxic chemicals and stick to products like the Natural Pet Parent Pack, which kills ticks and fleas safely and naturally.
Keep in mind the products you choose for your own needs as well. An irritant doesn’t need to be applied to directly to your pup’s skin to cause negative affects. For example, a powerfully-scented laundry detergent or strong hardwood floor cleaner may cause irritation while your dog is simply lounging around the house.
If you suspect your dog’s allergies may be caused by something outdoors, like pollen or Bermuda grass, trying wiping their paws and belly after walks, or providing booties and a sweater to protect these sensitive areas.
Other Holistic Tips for Relieving Dog Skin Allergies
We know the advice can seem a little overwhelming, but the truth is that holistic treatment is actually pretty straightforward. If your human doctor tells you that you need to go on a heart-healthy diet and exercise more, it doesn’t mean you have to pull you hair out counting every calorie or train for a marathon. You simply need to adjust your perspective and begin making instinctively better choices every day. The same goes for tackling your pooch’s allergies.
That being said, there are cases where pet owners need the guidance of a holistic veterinarian. If your dog’s symptoms are severe, you won’t have the luxury of experimenting with different foods and products before seeking the advice of a trusted professional.
Otherwise, here are a few more tips that may help you clear up your pup’s moderate skin allergies once and for all:
- If your dog has respiratory symptoms, airborne allergens may be to blame. Make sure to maintain the air filters in your home, and consider buying a vacuum with a high quality HEPA filter; allergens like dust mites often linger in carpet fibers. Check your house for mold as well; mold spores can be dangerous to both humans and pets.
- If you notice more itching after certain activities, such as going to the dog park or walking through the woods, try avoiding that activity for a time. There may be an easily avoidable type of tree, bush, or grass that’s wreaking havoc on your dog’s skin.
- Always provide fresh, filtered drinking water for your dog. Dehydration can lead to skin dryness, which can exacerbate itching.
- Wash your pet’s bedding once per week with hypoallergenic detergent.
- Be careful as you bathe your dog that you don’t get water in their ears; this can cause ear infections and can be counter-productive for dogs with allergies, who are already predisposed to ear infections.
- Apple cider vinegar mixed with equal parts water is a great topical home remedy you can use on the fly. Coconut oil may also help.
Unlike many quick-fix, temporary solutions such as steroids, holistic remedies sometimes take a little time to work. But when they do, the result is typically thorough and permanent. That’s because holistic remedies involve not only the question “how do I treat this,” but also, “why is this happening in the first place?”
Be patient as you wait for your actions to take effect. Your diligence and empathy will greatly pay off for you and your pooch in the long run!