The first step in caring for a dog with suspected skin allergies is to consult your veterinarian. A veterinarian will need to determine the cause of the skin irritation. Mites, yeast, bacteria and infection can cause allergy symptoms, but are not necessarily able to be treated without medications. If allergies are indeed the cause of the problem, natural treatments can begin.
Process of Elimination
A natural approach to treating allergy symptoms includes identification of the allergen. Ask yourself if the dog's symptoms are new, seasonal or constant. If the symptoms are new, eliminate any new foods or products that could be the source. If symptoms subside, no further treatment is necessary. Seasonal allergies manifest annually and constant allergy symptoms never subside. The process of elimination is a bit more complex for seasonal and constant symptoms. Veterinary allergy testing is an option if the cause of the allergy cannot be found by process of elimination.
A primary cause of canine allergies is ingredients in dog food or treats. Common food allergens are the main protein in the diet, grains such as soy, corn or wheat and preservatives. Changing your dog's diet and treats to holistic or organic products is essential if food is considered to be the cause of allergy symptoms. At minimum begin by purchasing a food with a different main protein of that found in your current food. A dog currently on a chicken-based diet can be fed a diet made with lamb or fish. Also eliminate grains that are common causes of allergies. Grain-free diets and those without corn, wheat or soy are good choices.
Whole Dog Journal, considered an authoritative guide to natural pet foods, prints an annual report ranking holistic and organic dry, canned and raw diets and treats. Take at least two weeks for any diet transition, adding less of your current diet each day.
Pet grooming products that regularly come into contact with your dog's skin are another potential allergen. Ingredients and dyes in shampoos, conditioners and other topical products are the culprit. Choose gentle dog-specific products that are free of chemicals and preservatives. Natural oatmeal-based products are considered the most gentle for dogs with sensitive skin and allergies to most other products. A good selection of natural dog shampoos and grooming products can be found at organic, holistic and health food retailers that carry pet supplies or natural pet supply retailers such as Only Natural Pet.
Allergies can be caused by a sensitivity to commonly used household and outdoor products. Plants and grasses typically found in the environment can also be a cause. Eliminating or controlling environmental factors may be time intensive, but necessary.
Begin by eliminating any new products and products containing harsh chemicals or preservatives. Use only natural-based household cleaners, laundry detergents and yard chemicals such as pest control, weed killers and fertilizers. Vacuum daily to eliminate indoor allergens and keep grass mowed short. Consider a gravel play yard if your dog is allergic to grass.
Organic household products can be found in the organic section of most grocery stores. Natural lawn products are readily available from local nursery and big box home improvement stores.
Flea allergy dermatitis and other allergic reactions to insects need to be controlled by first eliminating the offending insect. Bugs cause allergic reactions, but also spread disease, so controlling them takes serious consideration. Readily available flea, tick and mosquito preventatives are not natural, but may be essential for use in high insect areas.
Essential oils, herbs and additives such as spices can all be used in natural pest control programs. Formulations are important and a holistic veterinarian is best suited to make these decisions based on your dog's health and the area of the country where you reside. You can find a holistic veterinarian in your area by searching the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association online database.
When you cannot identify or eliminate the cause of your dog's skin allergies, topical itch relief sprays and supplements can provide temporary relief. Most products contain soothing essential plant-based oils. While these preparations are natural, they will still need to be applied following the directions on the product label for maximum effectiveness.
Relief Spray, manufactured by Teva Animal Health, contains oatmeal and omega-6 fatty acids. The product is applied via topical spray and can be used on itchy areas twice daily. Another good choice is Only Natural Pet Skin and Itch Homeopathic Remedy. Developed by a homeopathic veterinarian, this product is administered orally. Appropriate dosing is essential for safe use.
If your dog's allergy symptoms increase, or you notice changes in the skin that include hair loss, hives or sores, consult your veterinarian. Any dog that develops a fever or shows signs of illness while being treated for an allergy should be taken for immediate veterinary care.