What’s causing your dog to do all that scratching, itching and excessive paw licking? Chances are the cause is allergies. But to what? Let's take a closer look...
Allergies are rough, especially when our dogs can't communicate what's going on for them. Is it an allergy to food, to grass, dust mites? There are literally hundreds of allergens and that doesn't always make it easy to manage.
Allergies show up in many ways. Some pets can experience runny eyes and sneezing, while others have more serious recurring skin problems.
My dog, Jessie, has some form of allergy that causes him to constantly lick at his groin, especially at night. This can be very frustrating for dog and pet parent alike! I personally feel bad for Jessie, but I also get frustrated as I hear him licking non-stop.
So what can you do?
First and foremost, it's important to realise that if you have a dog with allergies, you’re likely going to be dealing with some type of allergy symptoms for the duration of their life. However, you can make a big difference to the frequency of symptoms and how serious they are.
Here’s is what I suggest, and what has worked for my own dog.
1. Adequate flea control
Firstly, ensure that you are not dealing with fleas as a problem. You can also use a natural flea spray that has cedarwood oil, and a safe holistic powder for putting in the cracks and crevices of your house called Borax.
2. Low allergenic food
Feed your dog a simple food that they are less likely to react to. I have found that a diet of fish and sweet potato works very well, and with this there is less itching and licking. Every dog is different, so you have to try different foods; there is no one perfect food for all dogs. But the principle is to think simple - minimal ingredients, and avoid artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. Try the new diet for four weeks to give it time to show changes, if any.
3. Regular bathing
Ensure you wash your dog’s feet when they come in from outside and provide them with regular washes. I give Jessie an oatmeal shampoo weekly. In the summer when his symptoms occur more frequently, I bathe him twice a week. I have also found that by wiping his feet with a damp towel after he comes in from outside, there is far less itching and scratching.
Antihistamines come in both natural and conventional forms. I have used Benadryl for big flare ups on Jessie's skin, dosing him at 0.5mg per 450g (1lb) (Jessie is about 23kg (50lb) and I give him 25mg of Benadryl at night). I do this twice a day if needed. Lately I have been trying Vitamin C which has some antihistamine qualities, and his itching is decreasing. The Vitamin C dose is 100mg per 4.54kg (10lbs) twice daily.
5. Essential fatty acid supplements
If your dog has allergies, they should be taking essential fatty acid supplements. I am using my supplement, Ultimate Canine Health Formula, which contains essential fatty acids in the form of flax oil. The omega-3 dose I suggest is 1000mg per 4.54kg (10lbs) daily, which works out to be one tablespoon of flax per 50lb daily.
Probiotics are increasingly being used for dogs with allergies. These beneficial bacteria play a role in normalising the overactive immune system. You won’t see an instant response, but you may see some marked decrease in allergic signs after using probiotics for four weeks. I am using my supplements with lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, but you can dose lactobacillus at 1/4 capsule per 4.54kg (10lbs) of body weight twice daily.
The last increasingly used ingredient for allergies is colostrum - the first milk produced by mammals upon birth of their offspring. Research has found an ingredient known as praline-rich polypeptide (PRP) in bovine colostrum. Similar to research conducted on human babies delivered via natural birth, PRP is said to help provide key antibodies against allergy-causing elements. The colostrum dose for dogs with allergies varies based on the company selling the product. I advise giving ¼ of the human dose per 9kg (20lb) daily. My supplement, Ultimate Canine Health Formula contains bovine colostrum in adequate levels for your dog.
If you have a dog who suffers regularly from allergies, don’t despair, there are things that you can be doing to decreasing the itching, scratching, constant licking and even hair loss. I encourage you to be systematic about this, reviewing my top seven suggestions above and applying these to your dog. The allergies will not go away overnight, but you really will be able to dramatically improve the quality of your dog’s life.
Dr Andrew JonesCheck out Andrew’s blogfor more valuable animal-related content.