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What to do if my dog has allergies

Note: Thank you to Victoria from Bling Bling Puppy for writing this post. My mutt Ace lives with allergies, and the majority of his symptoms went away when I switched him to an all-natural, grain-free dog food.

Allergies can be a real pain to deal with when your dog is being afflicted with them. Usually the first sign is your dog will scratch herself more then usual. The first thing owners will usually do is check the dog’s skin for fleas or ticks. If you detect no biting insects, then the culprit is usually an allergy (though some allergies are caused from insect bites).

Some dogs are more prone to skin allergies than others. These dogs are usually ones that have either double coats like an akita or a chow or that have very thick fur like a poodle or a bichon. That does not mean that short-haired dogs are immune to skin allergies. Many dogs suffer from this condition, and there are a number of factors that contribute to it.

Common symptoms of skin allergies in dogs:

1. Excessive biting, licking and or scratching of the skin
2. Red and swollen skin
3. Flaky and dry skin
4. Chronic ear infections

These symptoms will increase or decrease depending on exposure to what is causing the allergic reaction. Many times it can be as simple as a common household item. These can be household cleaning chemicals, perfumes, chemicals in a new carpet or air fresheners. Other times it is something they pick up from being outdoors. It can also come from something in their diet that does not agree with their body chemistry.

Eliminate the source of your dog’s allergies

The first step is always to try to eliminate the source of the allergy. You can start by trying to eliminate products one by one that could be causing the problem until you find what the problem is.

If your dog has had a recent change in her diet, that is usually the first place to start. Avoiding commercially processed foods, especially ones with bread or grain fillers, is a good way to control most diet-based skin allergies. Look for organic dog food or grain free dog food or even raw dog food.

If you do go with store bought foods, go with brands that have the fewest ingredients possible and have a high meat content with possible vegetables like carrots and peas.

Our dog suffered from food allergies and a diet change helped get rid of them. It turned out that the added ingredients like guar gum were the culprits to his allergies. Once we changed his diet, the problems ceased. We were mostly certain his problems were diet related since he wasn’t exposed to chemicals or changes to his environment.

If your dog’s skin allergy goes untreated for too long she can develop bacterial infections, so it is best to get treatment early. If left untreated your dog can wind up very sick and develop dangerous illnesses that can even threaten her life. The dog could also develop ugly sore spots that get inflamed from over chewing, scratching or licking.

Allergy testing for dogs

If you do take your dog to the vet, the vet may suggest a simple blood test to determine the problem. Although cheaper, a blood test is nowhere near as accurate as an intradermal skin test.

The dog is usually (but doesn’t have to be) sedated during an intradermal skin test. The vet will shave an area on the dog’s body and inject small amounts of different allergens into the dog’s skin in patterns. This allows the vet to determine if any of the potential allergens cause your dog to react and identify the true culprit.

Be prepared to pay $300 or more for an intradermal skin test. Not all vets are trained to do allergy testing, so you may have to make an appointment with a specialist.

As a temporary allergy relief, many vets will prescribe Benadryl. This helps reduce the itching at the price of causing drowsiness in the dog. Benadryl helps ease your dog’s suffering until the source of the problem is identified, but it should not be used as a long-term fix for more than a week or so.

If you suspect your dog has allergies, make sure to visit your local vet to get your dog treated while the symptoms are still early.


Thursday 15th of November 2012

I just wanted to ask (as a last resort) where anyone would go after the many vet visits, every allergy medicine a vet could give, food testing, then skin scrapes, allergy testing (the sedated and needle prick testing of 52 allergens), and many, many vet visits do no seem to offer any relief.

My Yorkie, Bentley, seems to be allergic to most things. After the allergy testing we decided to go with the weekly shots that slowly progressed to once a month. He is still itching like a mad-dog.

He is on Orijen 6 fish. We started with Orijen Regional Red after Wellness Puppy, then Core, but he seemed to itch more with that. I wash him with medicated shampoo once a week (per the vet's orders); give him a small amount of unrefined, virgin coconut oil, and brush him / wipe him down after his walks with a hypoallergenic wipe.

We do live in a city, so I wipe his paws after each walk; he also spends a good amount of time running around beaches and playing in water (his favorite, and mine as well, this to do). But he is washed right after sand and salt water exposure.

He is a happy boy, other than itching. It's mostly (now) under his neck, sometimes flops on to his back to scratch, runs into the couch to scratch, and very little around his rear legs. The neck issue seems so bad that he doesn't even like it when I try to look at the area (I do anyhow) and use creams (Phytobalm) to help with the hot spot. I also keep a very thin shirt on him when he's really itchy. I wash all of the blankets and his clothing in Dreft. He never misses his doses of Frontline.

I am torn between stopping the allergy shots ($300 a vile), as I have not seen improvement in 1.5 years of use. I do not mind spending a lot on him at all, if it really works for him. He is my "baby". I just want to see him not scratch so vigorously under his chin, and not have to run his body into the couches / flop on to his back in irritation and rub himself on anything in sight.

I am just out of guesses. I research this like crazy, had taken him to different vets that tell me to do what I am doing already, and keep up with his shots. I just don't know if the shots are worth it, and if I need to just realize he will just be an extremely itchy boy.

I have been told this won't affect his lifespan -- I hope this is true. I just want to help the guy as much as I can. He is only 3-years-old.

Any advice, help, voodoo ... Anything is more than appreciated. :)

If location knowledge helps, we live in San Francisco.


Melissa and Bentley

Heidi P

Thursday 15th of November 2012

Melissa- If you haven't visited the Nzymes website, it's the least you can do to read up on this issue. It's not expensive treatment (compared to a vet's office) and the only drawback is that it might take some time. It does take some dogs a year to get this cleared out of their system and unfortunately, it looks like my dog is one of those (it's been 11 months) but it is the only thing that has shown any improvement so I have to keep at it.

My Lab's itchies started when she was about 9 months old. The vet did the allergy test, but I wouldn't do the steroids or shots. The occasional Benadryl when it was really bad. I tried all and sundry supplements (coconut oil, fish oil, biotin, E, zinc, selenium, vinegar ...) different protein sources, home cooked meals ... nothing helped. So, as a last resort, I tried the Nzymes.

A lot of what the website says makes sense. Allergies are an immune response - if you get the immune system working, it's less reactive to everything encountered in the environment, and 80% of the immune system is in the gut.

It can't hurt to try ... I can't imagine going through life constantly feeling itchy! Poor doggies!



Sunday 25th of March 2012

Your right. Hopefully tomorrow I can make a run over to the holistic store and see what ideas they may have. I just hate seeing her so miserable. We just moved to Tucson in Sept so this is our first spring here. We have been told this is just the beginning of the pollen so are in for a bumpy ride it looks like.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 26th of March 2012

Aw, poor girl. I hope you figure something out that makes her feel better.


Sunday 25th of March 2012

Wondering how Heidi and Esme's progress with the allergies is coming along. My Phoebe has developed allergies but think it is strictly nature based. She loves playing outside and now eyes are very red and watery. She itches them making me worry because of her d-claws. I try to cut them but she hates it to put it mildly. We started her on a raw diet within the last month would this make her allergies worse or is it just coincidence because of the time of yar it is he in AZ?

Heidi P

Thursday 12th of July 2012

A follow-up on the Nzymes program. It's been 7 months and she was probably about 85% cured of her symptoms. When hot weather hit, she seemed to have experienced a set back, which the Nzymes site says does often happen. They said to just double up on the granules and once she's through the initial cleansing and detox, summer heat won't be much of an issue.

I took her to the vet yesterday, partially to discuss this yeast vs allergy problem and if using monthly heartworm meds are hard on the dog's system. He thought she looked really good and said to keep doing whatever I was doing and if I was really concerned about the heartworm med taxing her health, I could give it to her every 6-8 weeks.

This yeast invasion is NOT an easy issue to resolve. It's very time-consuming and there is no quick fix. Although this appears to be allergies, I'm of the opinion that a healthy immune system won't hyper-react to potential allergens. Get the dog healthy and the immune system in peak condition and balance will be restored.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 25th of March 2012

If her allergies are environmental than switching her to raw food shouldn't affect her.

Heidi P

Monday 16th of January 2012

A follow-up on my previous post about Nzymes. It's been about a month. I'm going to say I see signs of progress. She is still itchy, but not nearly as much as before. Her problem areas look much better (swollen, puffy, infected nailbeds, swollen, crusty, hairless chin) so obviously this stuff must be doing something positive in her system.

If you have done any research on dog allergies and skin problems, this Nzymes site has probably popped up every time you search. It's worth investigating. It seems like they promise miracles and maybe that's an exaggeration because it does take time and some diligence - it's not like a miracle pill or drug - you have to get at the root of the problem which is the digestive system.

It does seem expensive (the kit I ordered was just over $100 w/ shipping) but consider what one trip to the veterinarian costs... And it does last quite awhile. You should see progress before you've used even a third of the supplement(s).

I will continue to post updates (good or bad). I'm sure hoping I can give it a two-thumbs up so other people can help their dog's "itchies and scratchies".

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 16th of January 2012

I'm glad that you have seen some improvements. Thank you so much for taking the time to come back and report to us about this product. It's always good to hear from someone real.

Heidi P

Thursday 15th of December 2011

If anyone out there has tried a product called Nzymes, I'd like to hear your experience with it.

I just started it 5 days ago... I'd seen the online info for months, many months but was skeptical. It's a bit pricey, but still far less than probably one visit to the allergy vet.

I had the blood test done probably a year and a half ago... she is allegedly allergic to flaxseed and dust mites. Removing flax from her diet did NOTHING. I tried single protein for weeks at a time. No change. She has always been on premium/holistic/organic kibbles. Mixed meat and veg (raw and cooked) with her kibble. Tried home-cooked meals.

Tried fish oil (sardine/anchovy and salmon), vitamins (Ester-C, Biotin, E, Zinc), vinegar (inside and out!), coconut oil (unrefined, organic, cold-pressed). Medicated shampoos. As for the dustmite allergies: we have hard-wood floors so it's easy to keep clean, and I wash her bedding once a week (besides hanging it outside almost daily). She's still itchy.

So, I thought, as a last resort, I'd try the Nzymes. Some people (unbiased online sites) said it worked wonders, some say it helped, only a couple said it didn't work. So, I'm going to give it a try before going to an allergy vet and trying the shots (which apparenly has a 50% success rate).

Alot of what the Nzymes site says does make sense... the fact that dog "allergies" seem so common today does NOT make sense.

I'll keep y'all posted on Esme's progress. If this stuff works, I'M going to start taking it! (they make a people formula too) Cross your fingers for us...

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 15th of December 2011

I haven't heard of that product. You will definitely have to keep us posted. I hope Esme (and you) are feeling much better soon!