Does your dog have allergies?

Do you have an allergic pup?

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

German shepherds, along with their litany of other health problems, are also known for having allergies. I’m beginning to suspect that Eden may have allergies of some kind.

I guess that’s one of the big troubles with allergies and dogs: How do you know what’s bothering them? Environmental allergies could include a large list of possible irritants, and food trials are costly and time-consuming (just ask Jessica at My Imperfect Dog, who is by now a veritable expert on dog allergies). I’m willing to do what it takes to find out what’s at the bottom of Eden’s itchiness, but I confess that I feel a bit daunted.

She isn’t a chronic itch-er, but she’s certainly scratching more than Pyrrha on a regular basis (and we’ve ruled out fleas). As she’s my new little baby, I worry about her.

I’ve thought about adding fish oil to her food daily, as a first step, to see if that mitigates the issue. And then we could move on to allergy tests and maybe food trials, if need be. For the interim, I’m keeping close tabs on what she’s exposed to and what she ingests. And, of course, we’ll also be talking with our vet soon to see what ideas and suggestions she may have.

If your dog does have allergies, what has been effective in combating those issues?

29 thoughts on “Does your dog have allergies?

  1. I would definitely say try the fish oil. This time of year, our dogs tend to get really dry skin, and adding fish oil certainly won’t hurt anything! Bunny has a mild grass allergy that we usually see bothering her in the spring when the pollen starts floating around, but we’ve been lucky and not had to deal with any food allergies.

    1. Thanks! I think we will; it’s good to hear from you that it can be a seasonal thing. She isn’t very “chronic” about it, so I’m hoping that’s just what’s bothering her.

  2. My Jack Russell Terrier has terrible allergies! It’s tough to watch, for sure. We haven’t gotten them 100% under control, but I will say that the best thing we did for her was bring her into the vet’s office for a blood test. Turns out, she had an underlying condition that was contributing to her itchiness: an underactive thyroid. After we got her on the medication for that, her allergies were much better. Unfortunately for her, one of the things we’re sure she’s allergic to is grass 😦

    1. Thank you for sharing! That is hard. Poor thing! I’m glad you were able to discover the underlying condition. I hope she is doing better!

  3. I agree – definitely try fish oil. I add olive oil and coconut oil frequently as well. I would also definitely take a look at what you’re feeding her. During the winter it’s less likely that environmental allergies are causing the issue. We had a dog with severe food and environmental allergies but just getting the food allergies under control really helped. It couldn’t hurt to try a limited ingredient diet with her and see if it helps but if nothing else definitely start with the fish oil!

  4. I agree with houndstooth, I think it could be the season. At this time we’re putting on our heaters and it makes the air in the house really dry which can dry out their skin. We had a terrible problem with our first rescue Smokey where he ripped out all of his skin. We found out he had those mange mites and treated him for a few weeks and he was fine. But during that time is when we switched to raw (and grain free kibble when we don’t have raw) and we have never had an itching, shedding, etc. problem ever again. Fish oil pills definitely are a great start!

  5. Ruby was very itchy when I first adopted her, and she also had a few unwelcome hitchhikers from Arkansas (fleas and ticks). We got that under control, and the itchiness has lessened, although I think that correlated to moving into the winter months. I’m going to keep an eye once things start blooming and leafing in the spring, and I’ve got some antihistamines on hand from my vet to try. I also notice that scratching can be stress-related with her, almost like a nervous tic.

  6. The one other thing that I think can make a huge difference is regular grooming. My shep itches most when she’s shedding most (not that they ever stop shedding..). She’ll get super itchy and adding in a bit of extra brushing to help get out that dead undercoat tends to make her a much happier pup.

    I’d think Eden is prob about that age where her puppy coat is being replaced by a full adult coat… perhaps that’s part of the problem?

    Either way, a soft brush (so as not to irritate the skin if it’s more of a skin issue) to pull out dead hair and a bit of fish oil are a cheap way to experiment and see if you can get it under control.

  7. Monday has allergies and we did an allergy test at the vet. She is allergic to the canine yeast that naturally occurs on dogs, so it’s a double whammy for her – itchy from yeast and allergic to that yeast. We put her on raw and she gets coconut oil and fish oil supplements (and every now again Vitamin E supplements to balance out the fish oil).

  8. My Lamar Latrell does have allergies, especially in the summer. At least I think that’s what they are! His skin gets all scaly and scabby in some spots, especially around the base of his tail and butt. I expect its a flea allergy and vets I’ve consulted have said the same. I haven’t found a really good solution but Chlorhexidine Gluconate rinse or shampoo, plus shaving the area, seems to help.

  9. Beatrix and Coal both have seasonal allergies! (Unfortunately.) Coal’s are easily managed with diphenhydramine (the generic Benadryl). However, Bea requires Temaril-P, a steroid, April through October. Tried several of the OTC drugs for her, but none worked. Poor girl ended up licking her paws and stomach red/raw. She does very well on the steroids! I also give them fish oil and make sure to use a moisturizing and soothing conditioner on their coats during their allergy season to help with the dry (we live in an arid climate) and itchiness.

  10. You rang?

    If itching is really her only symptom, the good news is that it *probably* isn’t a food allergy. (And don’t waste money on food allergy tests. The pollen allergy tests are accurate, but the food test is not.) Usually food-allergy dogs will get yeasty ears or digestive upset. Do keep an eye out for those things, along with paw chewing which can quickly cause a lot of issues.

    My first guess, with it being January, is that she’s either got an indoor environmental allergy (like mold, mildew, dust) or that, like everyone else says, it’s just dry skin. Fish oil is great for dogs no matter what, and I’ve read some reports that it has a mild antihistamine quality. Pro-tip: look for one in a pump or squeeze top. So much easier to dose.

    I’ll also give Silas coconut oil from time to time. As with humans, it’s kind of “trendy” for dogs right now, so you have to separate a lot of woo-woo from your facts. The most relevant fact for dogs is that it’s easier to digest than some other kinds of fat, which means their bodies can use it more easily. Start small on any kind of added fat, or you’ll get upset tummies.

  11. Fully agree with what Jessica said! Most likely it’s dry skin so definitely give her some fish oil. Also you probably switched her kibble right, when you guys took her in? Most likely to a better quality? So it could be that she’s going through a little detox (getting rid of the bad while the good replaces it) and it’s manifesting as itching skin. Just went through this with Miss Penny as she did the exact same thing. I also added a little probiotic to her diet to help out. The kind I use is by Animal Essentials and it’s a pre and probiotic.

  12. I have a Belgian Malinois who is eight years old. She has had allergies since I got her, as a
    pup. How I wish it was food. That is easy to solve. My dog has environmental allergies outside
    and inside. She is allergic to dust mites and human dander. She sleeps with me and has all her life. She scratches all year round. She does not have huge sores or loss of hair, just
    the itches.
    fortunately, Benadryl helps her.Not all dogs do respond to that antihistamine. Originally, the Vet gave her Vistaril. That did her no good. I had her tested by blood draw. I have given her
    desensitization shots for years. Do the latter help her?? I don’t know; but they helped me
    with my huge allergies, so I keep giving them, doing all I can to help her.
    It is a frustrating problem, and for my dog, there is no cure. I just try to keep her as comfortable as possible.
    She has had a cortisone shot three times in eight years. This was because she was doing
    a lot of licking to her front legs; and I sure did not want her to develop a granuloma.
    Good luck with your dog.
    Exercise helps, as a tired dog sleeps and forgets to scratch.

  13. I have had good results with a good probiotic and fish oil and a grain-free, high-quality diet. Max eats BB Wilderness dry with a couple of spoonfuls of canned on top. I also think daily brushing helps remove skin irritants and circulate natural oils. I’ve also found that fewer baths in the winter months help reduce the itching. Hope you find the right solutions for Eden.

  14. I thought that I had allergies down pat – figured out and able to avoid most things with Elli. But then I started using kibble for treats – I mean, how easy, right? and she was all kinds of gung-ho. Until the itchiness began and the yeast build-up in her ears – over the course of literally one week. Her fur on her forelegs started becoming stained red from her licking herself obsessively and I decided to negate the kibble. Now she’s better again. It’s usually compound symptoms that I look for in her, and I’d suggest the same in terms of Eden. 🙂

    I second coconut oil – go to Costco if you can – they have a huge tub of it that I still have yet to finish. 🙂

  15. Ugh. Allergies are no fun. At all. Does she have any other symptoms like GI distress? If it’s just itching, you might have a seasonal-type allergy on your hands. That’s what happens with Emmett, and oatmeal baths + Zyrtec do the trick. Oh, and we do have him on a supplement, Aller-G3. Cooper’s allergies have rarely resulted in itching… he gets ear infections, his fur falls out, he gets extremely upset stomach issues, plus “puppy pimples” and other yucky skin spots. All of those are from food allergies (primarily, though he does have some outdoor gunk, too). Good luck! Poor Eden! 😦

  16. Ditto on coconut oil.

    I had a holistic vet do the “muscle testing” (NAET) on both Isis and Leo. It’s noninvasive and pretty woo-woo for me, but the results were consistent. Isis was allergic to beef and Leo is allergic to chicken. If we forget and give Leo something with chicken in it, he starts chewing on his haunches.

    I’ve seen vast improvement in both itchy skin and coat with a raw diet. Our shepherds eat a combination of raw beef, deer bones, and a grain free kibble.

  17. My big boy Bruce is severely allergic to yeast, it causes nasty ear infections in him. He is also allergic to coconut, I believe. With him, I avoid these things. I feed raw, but am an expert at reading labels on treats now.

    I do supplement with fish oil, as it is a natural anti-inflammatory, and helps to balance out Omega Fatty Acids. Plus, there is some research to indicate that OFA imbalances may be linked to behavioral/aggression issues in dogs. My three are all on “maintenance” doses of it-100 mg EPA/DHA per 10 lbs of body weight. The therapeutic dose of fish oil is 300 mg EPA/DHA per 10 lbs of body weight.

  18. Melvin has been dubbed ‘worlds most allergic dog’ by several vets. While I doubt that is actually true, it’s not completely false. He is allergic to so many things outdoors and almost every dog food and treat. He gets a complete wipe down with baby wipes after every walk. We did the ‘only give one food until you find one that works then introduce other food items one at a time for several weeks to be sure he can have it’. He can have one food (raw diet) and one treat. Luckily fruits and veggies work great with him also. I am not against the allergy shots, but for Melvin, they didn’t work. Melvin is allergic to fish oil, I only say that to just remind you to keep in mind every thing that you give her, can ultimately be what she’s allergic too. Jake is mildly allergic to a couple things, nothing an antihistamine can’t treat though. You may want to consider (or ask your vet) about even trying benadryl. Good luck! It’s manageable, you just have to do the due diligence of figuring out what it is first!

  19. I’m sure you know that the most likely source of skin issues is the food. Are your pups on a grain free diet with a novel protein source? We have had major allergy issues in our house, and this change has mitigated most. Also, did you know that high quality coconut oil, given orally or applied externally, is known to be as effective as fish oil? And it helps that it is much more appealing!

    1. I have actually heard that food is the third most common culprit for allergies. But yes, they are on a grain-free diet with duck as the first ingredient. Thanks for your comment!

  20. Statistically, more allergies are environmental than a reaction to food. However, food intolerances (not allergies) can exacerbate the problems by weakening the immune system. I would start keeping a diary about the days your dog is itching and the weather conditions plus any exposures she’s had to new places like parks, etc. I agree with moving to a good grain-free food, however I would add green-lipped mussel rather than fish oils to the diet. Omega Dog is a good product. Green-lipped mussel has a much higher potency for anti-inflammation (Omega 3). I would also consider a TCM nutritional assessment to ascertain whether your dog needs a cooling or warming diet. Although I am located in New Zealand, I undertake nutritional consults via phone and Skype for clients worldwide.

  21. Kaya & Norman were really itchy when I first got them and a grain-free diet did the trick. When she was younger, Kaya seemed to be affected by poultry but that has gone away. I’ve heard that after grain, protein source is the most common thing to affect food allergies. I feed Nature’s Instinct LID line, it is really awesome for food allergies and super high quality. I also give them coconut oil because fish oil gives them stinky breath!

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