Allergy Medicine for Dogs : 8 Medications Worth Trying
Finding the right allergy medicine for dogs depends mostly on the cause or the type of allergy involved more so than on the type or breed of dog. It may make a difference as to whether you will be treating an adult dog or a puppy or a large dog or a small dog in terms of dosages of medication. Some dogs will sometimes respond differently to a given type of medication than other dogs in the same manner that some people will respond to a given medication differently than other people will.
There are many things both dogs and humans can be allergic to, namely feathers, dust or other airborne particles, chemicals, mold spores, and certain foods. One of the more common canine allergies that don’t often affect humans is fleabite. As is the case with humans, among the more common symptoms of an allergic reaction in a dog is itching skin. Consequently, the most commonly prescribed or purchased allergy medicine for dogs is one that will relieve the itching. During the first time an allergic reaction appears, the medication that is called for is usually designed to ease the symptoms, but not treat the source since the exact cause of an allergic reaction isn’t usually known initially.
Allergies Are Seldom if Ever Inherited
Dogs usually don’t have allergies in the same way that people often do. Instead, dogs tend to develop them. A dog may eat a certain brand of food for months or even years and over time begin to develop an allergy to it, in which case simply changing the type or even the brand of the dog food will often be an effective remedy.
Oral medications such as antihistamines can be effective in treating dog allergies as can fatty acids. Not all dogs take kindly to swallowing a pill, but veterinarians and pet stores usually stock little edible pockets called Pill Pockets where a pill can be placed in before giving it to your pooch. These pill pockets taste so good that your canine buddy will consider them to be a treat and will usually want seconds. There are always those extra smart dogs that manage to eat the good-tasting pill pocket while leaving the pill behind on the floor. Another tactic you can employ is to find a medication that can be mixed in the dog’s food without affecting the taste or smell of the food.
Not All Allergies Are Food Allergies
Often as effective as allergy medications are environmental remedies. Environmental remedies are for the most part preventive remedies in that the source of an allergy is kept away from the dog. An environmental remedy can consist of anything from keeping a dog that is allergic to pollen indoors during days having a high pollen count to keeping the house, including the dog’s bed, spic and span and free of dust at all times. A food allergy is another problem of course, unless you are made aware of which foods or types of food your dog needs to avoid. Keeping your pooch flea-free can be important too. While flea bites are always annoying to dogs, if your canine pet is allergic to flea bites, they will be even more so. The presence of fleas is therefore one of the first things you should check for if your dog seems to be suffering from an allergy.
Food allergies are not all that common in dogs but are still common enough that they cannot be totally ignored. As mentioned above, any dog is rarely born with a specific food allergy. Instead, it is more likely to become allergic to a food it has been used to eating over a long period of time. Among the most common antigens in foods that are commonly eaten by dogs are corn, wheat, dairy products, eggs, and beef. Eggs and milk are by far the most common antigens. Knowing what these more common antigens are will sometimes offer a clue as to what to feed or not to feed your pooch if it appears to have a food allergy. Dog owners have found that giving their pets a varied or diversified diet can significantly reduce the chances of them ever coming down with a food allergy.
With Medicines, More Is Not Always Better
While a given allergy medicine for dogs may be quite effective in dealing with the symptoms or the allergy itself, giving more of the medicine is not necessarily better. The same applies to vaccinations. Too many vaccinations or too many doses of allergy medication can, over time, have the opposite desired effect as both can cause the immune system to overreact, setting the stage for even more allergies to take hold.
Before heading to the vet or the pet store for allergy medications, it would be worthwhile to review what the typical symptoms of an allergic reaction in dogs are. This would save you the trouble of getting medication to treat the wrong problem. Itching and scratching are probably the number one symptoms, but other common symptoms include red or watery eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose. In more severe cases, a dog may scratch at its ears or develop an ear infection and it may lick or chew at various places on its body, especially the paws should they become sore or swollen.
It may require an examination and diagnosis by a veterinarian to determine the exact nature of the allergy and the appropriate medication to treat it. If the medication is to be taken orally, you would want the veterinarian to advise you of the proper dosage and of whether the medication is prescribed or can be purchased over the counter.
The Three Types of Effective Medications
If the medication is designed primarily to reduce itching and scratching, which is most often the case, it will be one of three types:
- One type is either a natural shampoo that will remove possible allergens from your dog’s coat and skin or a medicated shampoo that is designed to provide relief in more severe cases or cases where the skin has become damaged by rubbing or scratching.
- Another is an anti-inflammatory medication. An anti-inflammatory medication in most cases will block an allergic reaction. Anti-inflammatory medications are the preferred method of treatment when seeking immediate relief from allergy symptoms. These medications generally consist of steroids, cyclosporine, or antihistamines.
- An antibiotic may be prescribed if itching and scratching have led to infection. In this case, the proper dosage should be determined by a veterinarian. As noted earlier, excessive use or dosages of antibiotics can make the immune system more sensitive to potential allergens.
There are numerous pet products based on natural substances as well as a number of home remedies that can also be tried without danger of doing any harm to your pet. If the symptoms are severe, the prescribed medication is often the best however, if for no other reason than the strength inherent in many prescription medications tends to provide the fastest relief.
Over-the-Counter and Veterinarian-Prescribed Medications
Some over-the-counter medications are safe to be given to your pet, while others may not be. Obviously, you want to, as a minimum, give your pet some measure of relief. You want to be especially careful however when it comes to giving a medication that is meant for use by humans to your dog. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are toxic to dogs (and to cats as well). This means you should never give your pet Tylenol, Advil, or Motrin for allergy relief.
- While you may not expect the breed to be of any particular importance when it comes to selecting an allergy medicine, it is a fact that some breeds find certain medications toxic, while other breeds will not. For example, Imodium can be used to treat allergy symptoms for most breeds but is toxic to any dog that is a member of the collie family, which would include Shelties and Whippets. There may be similar examples covering other medications and breeds, so it is always best to check.
- Pepto-Bismol is safe to be given to dogs that are experiencing stomach upset or vomiting as an allergy symptom. If, however, you have a cat in your household that is also experiencing an allergic reaction, never give it Pepto-Bismol. There are in fact a number of medications that are safe for dogs but are highly toxic to cats. Aspirin, for example, can be given to any dog but should never be given to a cat.
- Benadryl is an antihistamine and is effective for use on dogs. The dosages need to be kept small however, with a 1-milligram dose twice a day being the usual recommendation. Benadryl is not harmful to cats but is not particularly effective as a feline allergy medication.
- Aspirin can be given to your dog to help relieve pain and inflammation. Aspirin is best given with food (it is also most easily given that way). Aspirin should only be given as a short-term solution however since its blood-thinning properties could eventually prove harmful to your pet.
- Hydrocortisone, a topical medication, is quite safe to use for relief of itchy skin or skin that has become irritated or raw. Hydrocortisone can be applied once or twice daily on affected areas.
- Derm Caps are fatty acid supplements recommended by many veterinarians to reduce skin irritation. Derm Caps are not known to have side effects and in fact are considered to be a food supplement rather than a medication. An added advantage is that most dogs seem to like their taste.
- Atopica is another highly recommended medication. Atopica does what an allergy medication is supposed to do. It reduces reactions in the body to things the body is allergic to. Atopica does have some side effects but they are generally mild. This particular drug is given to a dog daily for about a month after which the dosage is gradually reduced. It can take up to three months before the full benefits of this medication are realized, but it is proven to be very effective. The primary drawback is that Atopica can be expensive. There are however other medications that can be taken in combination with Atopica that will allow you to reduce the normally recommended dosages.
- Sometimes as a last resort, veterinarians may choose steroids to combat the effects of allergic reactions. Steroids were at one time the most common types of allergy medicine for dogs but they could not always be used for long-term treatment because of their numerous side effects. Steroids can still be used successfully in many cases, even for the long term, when certain precautions, as dictated by a veterinarian, are taken.
While it may be the most expensive way to select an allergy medication for dogs, allowing a veterinarian to make the selection is certainly the safest way and in many cases yields the best results. Your next best bet would be to visit a pet store, where the pet medications that are on sale are intended for non-human use. The one thing to be aware of in this case is if you should also have a cat with an allergy problem, you do not want to give it the same medication you may be giving to your dog. Also, you want to always read the labels and follow the recommended dosage.
As noted above, there are several medications that are meant for humans that can also be given to a dog, but the number is not large. Anytime you consider giving a medication to your pet that has been manufactured for use by humans, you should do enough research to ensure it will be safe for your dog. If it tastes good, your dog will eat it, no matter what its toxicity might be.