'Because of Buddy' is dedicated to helping people whose dogs are suffering 
from itchy skin and paws, hot spots, fur loss, yeast issues and allergies.

Is my dog allergic? What can I do?

-- by Joyce Hamill, Brookline Senior Volunteer & Foster Home; www.BecauseOfBuddy.com; 2013; Updated 4/2017.

Why So Itchy?

When humans have an allergic reaction, we mostly sneeze and wheeze but dogs have a skin reaction and get itchy.


Ask yourself these questions if your dog is scratching a lot:

1. Could he have fleas?

2. What time of the year is it?  Is it pollen season?

3. What food is he eating and for how long?

4. Has he been treated already and now symptoms are returning?


Identifying Possible Triggers

Flea Bites – a dog who is allergic to flea saliva only needs one or two bites to get very itchy.  The area most affected is usually their rear end. You’ll see concentrated fur loss and flaky/irritated skin toward the tail base.

Airborne Inhalants – Tree, grass and weed pollens are spring and summer triggers while dust and mold allergies are evident when we close windows and turn on the heat in fall and winter. The particles get trapped in the dog’s fur and can get absorbed by the skin – especially skin between the toes. Dogs with this type of allergy tend to itch on the front half of their bodies. Signs are face rubbing, foot licking, armpit scratching as well as scratching the neck and chest.

Food Ingredients – intolerance or sensitivity to food ingredients is common while food allergies are rare. Food allergies are a more immediate and stronger reaction while an intolerance is a delayed response (up to several weeks). These dogs are missing proper enzymes to digest their food or there’s an abnormality in their ability to absorb certain nutrients. Dogs who are sensitive to an ingredient are typically scratchy all over and have inflamed ears. They often also have secondary skin disease.


Hundreds or thousands of dollars can be spent at the veterinary dermatologist on skin and other tests.  When it comes to airborne particles, is it really worth it to find out what your dog is allergic to?  Chances are your dog is reacting to several outdoor and indoor particles that are impossible to avoid.  Also, the dog may acquire new allergies yearly.

For dogs with possible food issues, up until recently, the primary option was a time-consuming and confusing food elimination trial. Now there is a test that uses saliva to determine if a dog is sensitive to any of the 22 most commonly ingested dog food ingredients. Once you get the results, you can choose dog foods without those ingredients.

Treatment Options and the Roller Coaster Ride

The goal is to make your dog comfortable as soon as possible. Well-meaning vets often prescribe steroids and antibiotics if the skin is infected due to scratching.  This standard medical treatment is just a bandaid, not addressing the underlying cause and can ultimately make the dog worse by weakening the immune system. Antibiotics destroy the good bacteria that maintains a healthy balance in the intestines. Yeast is no longer kept in check and steroids suppressing the immune system further worsen the problem. Yeast thrives and causes more scratching, skin infections and a distinct smell. Before you know it, the treatment for allergies is actually causing more symptoms. If your dog has skin patch allergy testing done, the dermatologist may suggest allergy serum shots. These may work in some dogs but it’s very difficult and expensive to keep up with all of the allergens. Some vets will assume that it’s dog food causing the itching and will suggest a prescription food. The problem with those foods is that potatoes or corn are the main ingredients and they contain dyes or chemical preservatives.


Lessons Learned – The Immune System

The intestinal tract is very important in the role of allergies. 70 - 80% of the body’s immune system is located in the intestine so if damage has been done to the intestinal lining, it can seriously impact the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and function normally (causing inflammation and allergic reactions). It makes sense that if you can heal the intestinal wall, then the immune system can be restored. Once the immune system is restored, allergic reactions can be minimized. There are specific supplements that can help heal the intestinal wall –  specifically Seacure: hydrolyzed white fish (pre-digested protein) that promotes structural integrity and function of the intestinal lining. If your dog is sensitive to white fish, note that Seacure is already pre-digested so it should not be an issue but if you'd prefer an alternative, then try L-Glutamine Powder (Now Brand).


What You Can Do

You are the best advocate for your dog. Play detective, examine past vet records and look for patterns and timing of flare-ups. This will help you figure out what are your dog’s triggers for itching. It also turns out that if your dog has one allergy, chances are they will have others so be prepared that both pollen and food ingredients could be causing the problems. Don’t expect a quick fix, this will take time and dedication. Try the following based on which ‘triggers’ you may suspect:

Flea bites: Antihistamine (generic Claritin or Zyrtec 2x day), oatmeal baths, EFA supplements (Omega 3 – 6 -9, Krill or Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil), flea repellent (preferably something more natural such as Vet's Best Flea & Tick Spray (w/peppermint oil & clove extract).

Airborne Inhalants: Antihistamine, oatmeal baths, Seacure, EFA supplements (Omega 3 – 6 -9, Krill or Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil)

Food intolerance:  Antihistamine, digestive enzymes, Seacure, EFA supplements, switch to a quality grain-free, novel protein dog food (fish, pork, duck, rabbit) that fits your budget (check dogfoodadvisor.com for food ratings) and consider ordering the Nutriscan saliva test kit to identify the offending ingredients (Nutriscan is the only company I personally trust for this test). Rotate dog foods (or the flavor within the same brand) every few months so that the dog does not become sensitive to its main ingredients (usually the main protein). Note that many grain free dog foods use peas, lentils and potatoes in the first four ingredients. If your dog is not doing well on one of those, the Nutriscan saliva test is well worth the cost to identify the offending ingredients for you to avoid. 

Side effects from past treatments: If yeast/fungal infections are a problem due to repeated use of steroids and antibiotics, try probiotics (Bacillus Coagulans) and give at least 3 hours after antibiotics if dog is taking them, Zymox Enzymatic Shampoo, Seacure, Organic Virgin Coconut Oil and Vetericyn Hydrogel Spray (skin infections), switch to a quality grain-free, novel protein food (fish, pork, duck, rabbit) that is also lower-carb (internal yeast thrives on carbs) – such as Orijen, Acana, Merrick, Canine Caviar. Click here to read how to choose a dog food wisely.

Resources:  BecauseOfBuddy.com, NutriScan.org, DogFoodAdvisor.com, WholeDogJournal.com



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