ITCHY PUP? Great Tips That Scratch The Surface For Relief

By, Katy Cable/A 4 min. Read

By, Katy Cable/A 4 min. Read

For the past few weeks nearly every dog owner I know is complaining about their dog's relentless scratching and itching. I too, hear the incessant licking and tap-tap-tap-tap-tap of the dog tag as Olive attacks her own itch in the middle of the night. That starts me itching my own dry skin and you get the picture. Did you know your dog can suffer from seasonal allergies just as you do?

Over half of all pet owners aren't aware their fuzzy family members can be feeling miserable thanks to allergens. Now lets take a look at what type of allergy it might be and how you can offer some relief for your sweetie.

There are two main types of allergies: food allergies and environmental allergies. Food allergies frequently cause diarrhea, vomiting, bloat and sometimes irrational behavior due to your pet feeling uncomfortable and having no way to get relief. Later, itching and irritation can follow. If your pet gets itchy during winter, spring, summer or fall, and there isn't a bout of vomiting or diarrhea first, it's most likely a reaction to a seasonal allergens. If symptoms continue year-round, it's more likely a sensitivity to something in their diet.

There are a several exceptions to this rule. For example, living in So. Cal where we don't get snow, a hard freeze, or, with the exception of this year, RAIN! Environmental allergens can build up and cause year-round issues. And, without extremes in our seasons, allergies can persist or worsen year-round.

Most humans who experience seasonal allergies, suffer from dry, red, itchy, puffy eyes. Sneezing, and a dry persistent cough. Dog allergies more commonly take the form of skin irritation or inflammation – a condition called allergic dermatitis.

If your dog has seasonal allergies, their coat will become very itchy. You'll notice them scratching excessively, and they will most likely bite or chew their paws or other areas of their body. If your pup is rubbing up against you (especially if you don't have food in your hands) or if you notice them rubbing against furniture or rolling their faces into plush rugs or carpeting for relief, most likely they’re desperately trying to relieve uncomfortable itchiness as best they can.

If this continues long enough without relief, their skin will become red, inflamed, warm and tender to the touch. Other signs of allergic dermatitis include patches of hair loss, open sores on the skin, and scabbing. If left untreated, hot spots can develop. A hot spot is raw, red, inflamed, infected skin that occurs when your dog's natural bacteria overwhelms an area of their skin. Typically the skin will be very red, and often there’s weeping, bleeding, and hair loss.

Pugs, English Bulldogs, Basset Hounds and Irish Setters with allergies can also suffer from ear problems as a result. Their ear canals may be hot, red, itchy and inflamed as part of a generalized allergic response, or they may grow infected with yeast or bacteria. If your pug's ears are giving them problems you will notice them scratching at their ears, and shaking their heads frequently. Often you will notice anything from a hint of a sweet smell to a horrible foul odor in their ears. Upon cleaning their ears you may find a brown discharge that can be thin and runny or a thick clumpy sludge.

While respiratory symptoms aren't common in pets with allergies, they do occur. A running nose, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing and that scary "back-breathing" in flat nosed, brachy dogs, can also attack four-legged seasonal allergy sufferers.

Another tell-tale sign of an allergy is redness. Allergic pets often have puffy red eyes, red gums, a red, possibly bumpy blemished chin, red paws and even a red anus.

Seasonal allergies can worsen or turn into year round problems. Allergic reactions are produced by your pet's immune system, and the way his immune system functions is a result of both nature (his genetics) and the environment. The more your pet is exposed to the allergens they're sensitive to, the more intense and long-lasting the allergic response becomes. In order to build up your pet's immune system and tolerance try to first identify the culprit and eliminate exposure

Helping a Pet Suffering From Environmental Allergies. As someone who has been plagued by allergies all my life, my physicians recommend a few simple things which you can also do for your pet. We all need to enjoy the great outdoors but limit exposure during peak readings for pollens, ragweed, etc. During a rough season, it's important to shower both at night and in the morning to remove allergens. I recommend you do the same for your dog if they are symptomatic. Also use an air purifier and close windows during windy days and the peak pollen hours from 2-8 AM.

  • Frequent baths give complete, immediate relief to an itchy pet and wash away the allergens on the coat and skin. Make sure to use a grain free (oatmeal free) shampoo. I like Oxyfresh Shampoo followed by massaging a dash of coconut oil over their wet coat. Zymox is also a favorite for stubborn itching.These pure, gentle cleaning agents won't strip or harm your pet's natural oils but will do the trick to remove allergens. 

  • Paw soaks are also a great way to reduce the amount of allergens your pet tracks into the house and spreads all over their indoor environment. If this is too much hassle, wipe their paws with a damp cloth and a dash of a product mentioned above after coming in the door. More expensive but also good are hypoallergenic pet wipes. 

  • Keep the areas of your home where your pet spends most of their time as allergen-free as possible. Vacuum and clean floors and pet bedding frequently using simple, non-toxic cleaning agents rather than household cleaners containing chemicals. I like Dreft or a hand wash in Pure Castile Lavender soap. 

  • Because allergies are an immune system response, it's important to keep your pet's immune function optimal. This means avoiding unnecessary vaccines and drugs. I have seen awful results from dogs getting vaccinated during a systemic outbreak. Vaccines stimulant the immune system which is the last thing your pet with seasonal environmental allergies needs. Talk to your vet about “titers” to measure your pet's immunity to core diseases as an alternative to automatically vaccinating. Or, wait until they’re not symptomatic. 

  • Switch your pet to a human-grade, species-appropriate, anti-inflammatory food. Foods that create or worsen inflammation are high in carbohydrates, grains and gluten. (Most dry kibble is 40% carbs.) This is a good time to try a canned or fresh food diet. Also, knock out the treats until allergies are under control. 

  • Add those Omega-3 fatty acids which help decrease inflammation throughout the body. Adding them into the diet of all pets, particularly pets struggling with seasonal environmental allergies – is very beneficial. The best sources of omega 3s are krill oil, salmon oil, tuna oil, anchovy oil and other fish body oils. USE EXTREME CAUTION when feeding fish oils and products. Typically pet food uses the least expensive, poorest quality ingredient sources. With lakes and oceans so polluted, you don't want to add mercury and other toxins to an already compromised pet. Use human grade oils that have been approved and stamped by outside third party companies. I use anchovies and sardines packed in olive oil or spring water. These are too small a fish to worry about contamination. I also use Nulopouches containing sardines, salmon and mussels. They make an inexpensive easy treat or meal topper and they use extremely high quality seafood.

  • Coconut oil. I also recommend coconut oil for pets but especially those with allergies. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which helps decrease the production of yeast. Using coconut oil can help moderate or even suppress the inflammatory response. It also helps take a bit of the stinky, fish smell away. I have seen amazing results in a few days for dogs suffering from horrific skin/yeast problems by simply switching a dog's diet and adding organic coconut oil. You can also use this on their coat, paws, tear-stains, nose, teeth, and hot spots for relief. 

  • Try to get out during non-peak pollen hours and exercise or play with your pooch and wear them out. If they are tired they may sleep better and not be sitting around itching and uncomfortable.

I hope this puts an end to some of your fur baby's suffering this season. For great tips each week, please subscribe to my free weekly blog by clicking the link below. Pugs and kisses!