Environmental Allergies in Dogs
Veterinarian Reviewed on October 7, 2011 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Another cause of itching dogs is environmental allergies also know as atopy or allergic inhalant dermatitis. When I went to veterinary school in the stone age, we were taught that itchy ,scratchy allergic dogs inhaled pollens and other antigens and then these allergies came out as scratching of the ears, face, feet, and general body. It is now know that dogs absorb most of the offending substances through their feet–which makes sense as many of them continuously lick their feet!
The conventional treatment for atopy in dogs is cortisone or failing that a chemotherapy drug called cyclosporin. Both of these substances suppress the immune system and can have a lot of unwanted side effects. They work very well and quickly which accounts for their popularity. However, long term there can be issues with liver and kidney problems–so is less itchy worth it?
So what can you do? To stop the allergic reaction we need to reduce inflammation because allergies result when the body sees normal environmental substances as foreign allergens and mount a hyper response to them.
How do we reduce inflammation: Basic homemade diet or elimination diet, Omega 3 fatty acids , antioxidant vitamins, Vitamin C and bioflavonoids. One simple thing that can be done for dogs with itchy feet is to wash the feet every time the dog comes inside. Clear water works well but black tea actually works better–if you brew some tea and keep it by the dog you can bathe the dog’s feet when he comes in and remove the pollens. Bee pollen of local origin is extremely helpful for this. Local honey contains bee pollen and may serve as a natural “vaccination” against allergies.
Herbs that can be used topically are aloe, witch hazel, calendula , comfrey and chamomile. There are Chinese herbs and herbal combinations that can be helpful. One such product that is carried by Petwellbeing is Nettle-EyeBright. It has some great herbs for immune support and to drain damp ( get rid of that stinky smell from itchy skin).
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan