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Preventing DOG allergies, the NATURAL NUTRITION & anti-histamines way.

dog allergy Archie dog

Disclosure – I have a very skin allergy prone dog (Archie) that has had me learn a LOT about dampening his immunes response to perceived allergen threats over the years. In fact, only a few years in we prevented the FOUR visits a year to the vet for ear issues, to once in about 8 years.

Half of the anti -allergy practices we do to keep him well, we do ALL year around. And in fact EVERY dog owner should at least consider doing some of these  too – even if your dog isnt obviously allergic. This article is NOT about food allergies.

Dog allergies – everything you need to know, to prevent them !

Canine itch and red skin reactions for dogs around spring time in particular is a sign of dog allergy or – atopic dermatitis. 

The season dog itch is just like their owners get, our bodies OVER RESPOND to a perceived threat by a harmless organic substance in the environment. And Like human’s, dogs are susceptible to three main body areas being inflamed:

  • Skin allergy or eczema – the obvious red blotches on skin, causing constant licking
  • NOSE and sneezing or – rhinitis (hay fever)
  • LUNGS (tightness in chest) called asthma

While dogs can be allergic to many things, just like the owners, the year-round environmental culprits are molds, dust mites and skin cells (dander) of other dogs or cats.

Often the SEASONAL spike in dog allergies is because of springtime POLLENS. These can be blooms in trees but more likely your dog will be itching from plants like RYE GRASS pollinating in Spring through to summer.

Coupled with certain weeks (like ragweed) springtime dog itch means that every time your dog steps on grass during this time if its genes have a predisposition to an allergic response. They will have contact allergies they will bring home with them and the reaction will increase throughout the day.

WHY do skin allergies occur in dogs?

Like the owners, dogs can have an inherited GENETIC predisposition to atopic skin allergic reactions.

Many breeds of dog breeds have a higher rate of skin allergy than the average dog.

Dogs that DON’T have seasonal skin allergies are the lucky ones where their skin cells are closely packed together. The atopic dog has large gaps between skin cells where water can leak out, causing dry skin, and allergens can leak in. This causes the body to have an unnecessary over-reaction, where the side effects are seen as rashes on the skin and itching.

When a dog’s body perceives a chemical threat from pollens it creates a LARGE number of HISTAMINES. Your dog creates white blood cells called mast cells that release histamines (chemicals) as a natural but inflammatory-immune response to allergens.

The problem is when the dogs body goes into overdrive with the histamine creation. This inflammatory response is the redness, swelling and desire to itch the skin.

The real kicker in this process is the SECONDARY RESPONSE to the histamine caused itch. The large gaps that started the immune response ALSO lets in bacteria and yeasts that are a natural part of your dog’s skin biome in small numbers, but these are disastrous when they leak into the body and have run-away populations.

The combination of the wide skin cell gaps, creation of histamines in their body causing inflammation on the skin, and secondary reactions of increased bacteria and fungi then make your dog lick the area or scratch with their hind legs, often tearing the skin or at least making the skin continually wet. This wet environment allows the bacteria and skin fungi to really thrive and make their skin even itchier. The itch will keep them licking and make it a perfect environment for more bacterial and fungal infections.

The dog areas most prone to atopic skin allergy: Anywhere its wet really.  That means face (mouth and nose and eyes), feet from grass contact, armpits and anus.

The 4 steps to dog skin allergy prevention

There are FOUR typical levels of treatment but they are all about CONTROL and lessening the itch, never curing it, as this is genetic level.  They are:

  1. NATURAL nutrition (Animal source omega 3)
  2. body cleaning (medicated shampoo and conditioner)
  3. Anti-histamine (OTC)
  4. Pharmaceutical cortisones or other proprietary blends.

Noting that for most of the year, natural nutrition and washing your dog in a shampoo that removes the secondary infections is typically enough.  Always make sure you are regularly giving your dog its monthly worm and flea chew treatments so that you can rule out other causes of an itch. And that the itch itching is not caused by something more monovalent like Cushing’s disease.

Spring time with increased dog itch will often call on using antihistamines (at the right doses – see below) for the short term. In severe cases a vet will need to prescribe harsher chemicals that have some nasty side effects (step 4).

THIS is why using a REGULAR food (with Omega 3) and cleaning regime for a dog that is prone to these allergies is VITAL if you want to prevent further suffering and vet visits.

1 NATUTAL dog atopic treatment   with nutrition that works!

This is a major prong in our arsenal against the Archie itch.  Many science articles have been written about it, and we have created many blogs on the supreme value of omega 3 for your dog. But you want see any more profound quick results (typically within a week) of how effective these does are in controlling skin allergy itch in dogs.

That might sound like a big call, but between the science papers, and my own observations (and vet bill savings) – I am very confident that it’s a REAL thing.

This is how it works.   Omega 3 – has many health values, it can help with skin conditions (like psoriasis) and skin allergies, it also assists in health of kidney and heart conditions, arthritis etc

The value of Omega 3 (from ANIMAL SOURCES) for skin allergies is in reducing inflammation (caused by the allergic reaction to pollen and creation of histamines) – and improves the dog skin’s general condition (pliability and prevention of ingress of pollens/ bacteria/ fungus.

The part about improvement in skin condition is just as important as its anti-inflammatory response. But note, aafco do not mandate minimum levels of Omega 3  in dog food, (only Omega 6) and they do not suggest a source. Dry and often wet commercial dog food often contain Flax seeds as a source of Omega 3, but this is high in ALA concentrations of Omega 3.

Why Omega 3 supplementation is necessary

Salmon Oil capsules (and Our Fish dog treats and kangaroo treats) instead of having the ALA omega 3 form, have omega 3 in EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) form.

Because ALA form only converts at about 10% efficiency to EPA and DHA much of plant-based Omega 3 in ALA form is wasted. Omega 3 is converted down several more times from EPA and DHA form in chemical reactions and its reaction with Omega 6 before it does its work, so using ALA form is of little value – just makes the dogs body work harder.

THIS is why supplementing dog food (that has flax seed in ALA Omega 3 form), with Animal based Omega 3 (EPA and DHA) is vital for any dog, but particularly an atopic prone dog.

What essentially the Omega 3 does is replenish the dogs natural oily skin barrier to prevent the ingress of pollen. But if your dog is very deficient in Omega 3 (from animal sources), it might take a week for it to replenish all of the internal areas of your dog, before it reaches the skin.

I feed my dog between 4  to 6,  x 1000mg capsules per night with his main meal.  The capsules have approximately 300mg of DHA + EPA in them. There are very few negative possible side effects besides initially loose stools from any extra dosing and I have been told that high Omega 3 can reduce the update of Vitamin A (but he also gets a vitamin tablet containing Vitamin A (below the max allowed level)).

Note that this supplementation is needed all year round, and tends to only fall short of complete protection around spring allergy times when more techniques are required.


dog allergy Husky and schnauzer dog For the severe allergic dog reaction, we recommend weekly medicated dog shampoo washes.  Yes, you will hear some owners brag that they have never washed their dog, but to me that sounds closer to lethargy, then healthy dog practices.

The reason that people should mostly be concerned about over washing a dog is removing natural healthy oil skin barrier protections, but we address that a few sentences down.

The reality for my poodle x cocker spaniel allergies is that BOTH breeds have a strong tendency for genetic skin allergies. If I don’t wash him weekly/ fortnightly he will typically get feet itch (athlete’s foot fungal infections), that his licking causes to rapidly increase. His sleep will be interrupted, his pleasure of life will diminish.

He deserves better than that, so we wash him regularly with Maleseb. ‘Paws’ brand also does a version of this medicated shampoo, but essentially Maleseb has a great mix of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal chemicals in it, that after 10 minutes leave in, pretty much kill off the skin populations.  THEN it is VITAL to thoroughly wash the shampoo out, and use a medicated conditioner to replenish the dried-out skin. This is a ‘leave in’ oatmeal-based product.

If he itches on his feet mid-week, we have diluted maleseb 1:20 and rubbed it on his red paw pad bits and dried it off – and that substantially reduces the desire to lick and itch.

IF we don’t regularly wash Archie in medicated shampoo and then conditioner, his immune response is so overwhelmed sorting out his feet, that his ear populations then increased leading to an expensive and long-term vet visits and cortisone prescriptions.

Some people will rub ‘PawPaw’ brand conditioning cream (the red container) on the dog pads after the maleseb washes to help reduce any lingering itch.

Keeping a short dog coat

This is useful for owners who have double coated dogs where they need to strip the coat regularly, as well as the people who own dogs that are non-shedding (and the coat doesn’t stop growing). Long coats trap pollen and dirt and many things that can add to the itchiness of your dog.

That is why my dog who visit the dog park daily gets a clipping at least every two months. I ALSO enjoy seeing him move around like a puppy just after the clipping – the new freedom it gives him.


We often resort to these chemicals at this time of year (Australian spring) – where we have plenty of rye grass – that both my dog and I are allergic to.

When the medicated dog washes and short coat, and daily omega 3 aren’t cutting it – anti-histamines are the next ADDED step. When my dog is randomly sneezing, beginning to lick his paws again, and has weepy eyes in the mornings, it’s time to use human anti-histamine allergy eyed drops and human antihistamine tablets.

It’s true that they might only have value in half the allergic dog population, but always worth the try. And if one type of gen 2 product doesn’t work, try another.

What you need to know is that antihistamines fall into two broad categories, first generation that can cause drowsiness and last for a short period, versus second gen antihistamines that have more anti-inflammatory properties, don’t cause sedation and last a long time. With very few side effects – so yes, only grab the second gen type ONLY.

There are three main, over the counter, second gen, antihistamines mostly known by their brand name so here they are:

Telfast®- (active ingredient fexofenadine )  these are available in 60 to 180 mg tabs.  But note that while not likely to overdose, the dosage for most dogs is only  5-10 mg / Kg once or twice a day.

For example, my dog is 20 Kg, and is highly skin sensitive, so a 20 x 10 mg or 200 mg dose once or twice a day would be ideal (ie typically I give him a single 180 mg tab in the morning).

Zyrtec® (active ingredient cetirizine) – available as 10 mg tablets.  The dosage is 5–20 mg/dog once daily.  So I would use 1 tablet initially with Archie.

Claratyne® (active ingredient loratadine) – available as 10 mg tablets. Dosage 5–20 mg/dog once daily.

Note, just like for human’s, different antihistamine types have varying positive effects than others, so trial and error with your dog is important.

Typically, its recommended to trial one of the second gen tabs, for 5 – 10 days to see if there is any improvement. Also note that these tablets come in very different physical sizes. I actually prefer telfast (or the pharmacy own brand equivalent) a little more than the others because its bigger and easier for me to push down the back of his mouth. If your dog will eat tablets hidden in treats, then yes that is preferred.


These should be the last resort, or if sudden very painful reactions (skin colour and itching are already occurring in your dog – the first resort).

Vets can typically prescribe corticosteroids, Apoquel® or Atopica®

The corticosteroids have been Archies first port of call but can cause excessive drinking, urinating, eating, panting.  Not ideal for an older dog.

The last two meds above can have less side effects but along with the vet bill, can be very expensive.  If he gets to this stage, sometimes it will take two or three vet visits and prolonged scripts, not ideal.


We have been able to handle our very allergy prone dogs comfort levels very well with regular medicated shampoo and conditioners washes, and Omega 3 daily doses, and Roo and fish dog treats.

Omega 3 from Animal sources, as in our fish and kangaroo range, can add further benefit to alleviating symptoms.

Short and clean coats (and fur removal between toes of the feet) can also greatly help.

Spring time eye and oral tablet does of anti-histamines can be of value for many dogs.

We avoid the vet at all costs for skin allergy issues – believing that prevention is truly better for everyone, than treating an ‘outbreak’.  Because once our dog starts itching his ears, we can try ear flushes, but it’s often at the runaway point of bacterial and fungal infections in paws and ears and the vet visit isn’t far way.

We hope that this dog skin allergy guide has been useful for you, and of course, if dog symptoms persist, see your vet !   Your dog’s wellbeing is ALL important!

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