If you suffer from seasonal allergies - watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing – you know how miserable it can be. Dogs and cats suffer from seasonal allergies too. But unlike humans, pets typically develop skin problems. Most often they itch – sometimes very intensely – and may also lick or chew their skin and paws. This excessive licking and scratching may cause irritated, inflamed skin, hotspots, and sometimes infections that are the result of the scratching and chewing.
It's important to distinguish between seasonal/ environmental allergies and a food allergy. Food allergies are less common and will cause symptoms all year round, while environmental allergies usually flare up at certain times off the year - often spring and fall.
So what can you do to give your pup relief? Veterinarians often prescribe steroids or Apoquel, which are usually effective, however, they are expensive, aren’t meant to be used long-term, and may have some side effects. Following are some natural steps you can take to alleviate the itching and also address the root cause of why the allergies are occurring in the first place.
Remove Environmental Allergens
Change HVAC filters frequently, consider an air purifier, don’t use pesticides, use non-toxic cleaning products, avoid air-fresheners and dryer sheets, and soak your dog’s paws at the end of every day to remove environmental pollutants like fertilizer, pesticides, pollen, mold and dust mites. You can use a solution of 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup hydrogen peroxide and 1 gallon of warm water and soak paws for a minute or two.
Bathing will help remove allergens and will NOT dry out your dog’s skin as long as you use a natural shampoo that does not include artificial colors, fragrances, parabens, sulfates, phthalates and phosphates. Earthbath and Skout’s Honor are two brands that we recommend that have anti-itch formulas.
Evaluate Your Dog’s Diet
If your dog is on a less than optimal diet – meaning only dry food with a large percentage of carbohydrates – switching to an anti-inflammatory diet, (fewer carbs) and choosing “cooling” proteins (fish, duck or rabbit) may help.
Add omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, krill, and sardine oil are good sources. A supplement, such as Glimmer from Herbsmith or Ultra Oil, can be very effective. Allow 6 weeks to see results, but these fatty acids are a healthy addition to any dog’s routine. Raw goat’s milk or kefir is packed with probiotics that can help fight allergies and promote a healthy gut.
Try Topical Remedies
There are many topical solutions that can be effective for stopping the itch-scratch cycle. Coconut oil is a natural skin soother with antibacterial and healing properties. It can be applied directly to the skin and/or given as part of their diet. Baking soda can be made into a paste and applied directly to inflamed areas or mix 1 Tbsp of baking soda with 8 oz water and spray it on their skin. Commercial sprays or ointments can be helpful. Probiotic Itch Relief Spray from Skout’s Honor, Hot Spot and Itch Spritz from Earthbath, and Manuka Honey Silver spray or ointment are all good choices.
It's a good idea to begin a seasonal allergy support protocol before your pet becomes itchy, inflamed, and miserable. This can help avoid the need for drugs and help your pet get through allergy season with milder symptoms.