5 Best Dog Allergy Medicine and Treatment Options · The Wildest

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5 of the Best Ways to Solve Your Dog’s Allergies

Here’s what works (and what doesn’t).

by Marisa Meltzer
Updated July 31, 2023
Cute weimaraner dog lying on lawn and scratching its back
Alberto Bogo / Stocksy

Pet allergies are mystifying. They can’t tell us what’s wrong, but it’s agony to watch them sit there and itch. So, what can you do to help them stop scratching non-stop and get to live their happy lives with you again?

Dr. Millie Rosales, a Miami-based veterinary dermatologist who specializes in skin and ear problems in dogs and cats, has some answers for you. Her Instagram account, aptly named @gotitchypet, has lots of close-ups of inflamed paws and ears and snouts, but also witty Reels about flea prevention and the proper use of medication.

In vet school, Dr. Rosales felt restricted by the general curriculum. “I felt like I could take my knowledge only so far. If a case got complicated, I had to send it out to a specialist. I felt like I needed more,” she says. “I realized I always liked dermatology and I feel like I’m really good at one thing.” We asked Dr. Rosales for her opinion on a few popular allergy treatments for dogs. Just like she does on the ’gram, she has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Until our pets can tell us what’s bothering them, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

5 Best Allergy Treatments for Dogs

There’s plenty you can do to improve your dog’s allergy symptoms. Here, Dr. Rosales writes her recommendations for five dog allergy treatment options to help bring your pup relief.

1. Apoquel

“It’s a pill that helps with itchiness. Itchiness can mean a lot of different things: scratching, licking, chewing, biting, rubbing, even shaking their heads. It’s for allergy-related itchiness rather than mange or other skin conditions. And yes, light-coated dogs tend to get allergies more. Apoquel is great for itchiness, but you’re not getting to the source. I think there is no point in keeping a dog on Apoquel for the rest of their life with no consideration of preventing the source of the itch.”

2. Cytopoint

“A lot of dogs with environmental allergies have skin infections. Cytopoint injections are in a class of drugs called biologicals. It’s an antibody — a dog antibody — that neutralizes a cytokine, which is a protein in a dog’s body that causes itchiness. It’s nice for people who don’t want to medicate daily because it lasts an average of four weeks. The downside is that it’s dosed by weight and comes in individual vials, so it may be expensive for big dogs.”

Editor’s note: Cytopoint injections have been a Godsend to our editorial director’s American Staffordshire Terrier (aka Pit Bull) mix who is allergic to...everything.

3. Diet

“There’s no one diet out there that will prevent your dog from allergies. There’s this sense of, ‘Oh, if I do grain free…’ Grain is not the most common thing a dog is allergic to — that’s a common misconception. There are food allergy blood tests out there that are totally unreliable. If a dog has a food allergy, the only way we can assess that is through a diet trial. Your vet will either prescribe a diet or recommend a home-cooked diet.

Basically, we need to feed your pet a protein source that they have not been exposed to prior. I see a lot of dogs with chicken allergies, but that’s because chicken is in a lot of dog foods, treats, even toothpaste. They are exposed to a lot of chicken. For prescription diets, I do a lot of rabbit and potato. I think raw food diets for dogs are controversial — I’m not a fan of them personally. My issue with them is bacteria and GI problems.”

 4. Immunotherapy (aka allergy shots)

Immunotherapy is for environmental allergies. It’s similar to people getting a skin-prick test. It will tell you what exactly is making your pet allergic. Is it the oak trees or ragweed? Then they will formulate a vaccine, oral or injections, based on the exact allergies. Immunotherapy is one of the best long-term managements for dogs with environmental allergies. It gives your pet’s body a chance to develop a tolerance and changes the way their immune system reacts to allergens. Maybe it will get a pet off medications entirely or allow them to not have to take them as often.”

5. Topical Skin Balms and Natural Remedies

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt but I’m not sure it’s going to work. If they had steroids in them like prescription topicals do, that might help with itchiness.”

Editor’s note: Dogs with allergies are more prone to skin conditions such as ringworm and dermatitis caused by bacteria, fungi, and yeast (since scratching leaves open wounds on the skin). Prescription and medicated topicals such as antifungal and antimicrobial shampoos, wipes, and sprays are recommended for the treatment of these issues.

How Do Dog Allergy Treatments Work?

“An allergic reaction occurs in dogs because their immune system overreacts when it defends the body from pollen and other allergens. Often, veterinarians will prescribe antihistamines and corticosteroids to reduce allergy symptoms. Antihistamines reduce allergic reactions in dogs by blocking the release of histamine within mast cells, which is the source of that incredibly itchy effect. Steroids, on the other hand, lower the immune system’s response and inflammation in reaction to allergens. But there are downsides to these treatments. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness and even, in some cases, hyperactivity. Steroids can cause increased appetite, weight gain, infection susceptibility, and organ damage.”

Common Allergy Symptoms

“Dog-allergy symptoms include the obvious increased sneezing, running eyes, itchy skin, and rashes. But you may also notice your pup rub their face on the ground or with their paws, or they may begin scratching their ears or licking their paws.”

Marisa Meltzer

Marisa Meltzer has contributed to The New York Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and is the author of This Is Big: How the Women Who Founded Weight Watchers Changed the World (and Me). She lives in New York City with her dog Joan.

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