Did you know that as many as 40% of dogs suffer from allergies? They’re a big problem. Dog owners talk a lot about food allergies … but environmental allergies in dogs are actually more common.
If your dog has allergy symptoms, keep reading. You’ll find out what causes environmental allergies and how to manage them using natural solutions.
What Causes Environmental Allergies In Dogs?
Allergies happen when your dog’s immune system overreacts to something in her environment … known as a “trigger.” That trigger could be something like pollen, dust, mold or other airborne substances. The antibodies in your dog’s immune system think these substances are dangerous … even though they may not be. So the antibodies try to get rid of the foreign invaders.
Here’s more detail on how it happens …
Stem cells that live in your dog’s bone marrow produce a specialized white blood cell called a B cell. B cells produce antibodies that identify anything that shouldn’t be in your dog’s body … like viruses, parasites or allergens. There are 5 different classes of antibodies in your dog’s body .. immunoglobulins known as IgA, IgB, IgC, IgD and IgE. It’s the IgE antibodies that identify allergens.
When an allergen (the trigger) enters your dog’s body, the IgE antibodies alert the immune system to get rid of it. At the same time, those IgE antibodies attach to mast cells. Mast cells in the connective tissues help regulate the immune system. They contain chemicals like histamines that fight allergens. When allergens enter the body, mast cells release histamines to kill them.
That might sound good … but unfortunately, histamines cause redness and inflammation, itching, sneezing and irritation.
Types of Allergies and Symptoms
Allergies can come from something in your dog’s diet or something in her environment. Both have similar symptoms. You can usually remove a certain food from your dog’s diet … but you can’t do much to get rid of most environmental triggers. Some of the most common triggers in dogs are tree, grass and weed pollens, mold and dust.
Environmental allergies in dogs are usually seasonal. Dogs may get very itchy in the spring and fall, with fewer symptoms during winter or summer months. Your dog will usually start to display symptoms between 1 and 3 years old.
Common symptoms of allergies in dogs include:
- Itching and scratching
- Ear infections (sometimes chronic)
- Hair loss
- Chewing or licking paws
- Runny eyes
How To Treat Environmental Allergies In Dogs
The best way to protect your dog is to keep her away from the source of the irritation. But that’s not practical with environmental allergies. If your dog’s allergic to tree pollen, you can’t keep her indoors for weeks on end.
Your vet may suggest steroids, or an anti-allergy drug like Atopica, Apoquel or Cytopoint. These drugs work by suppressing part of your dog’s immune response… and this makes your dog more vulnerable to other diseases.
Your vet may also recommend an over-the-counter allergy drug … but those have side effects too (read more at the link below).
So, if you can’t remove the allergen and you want to stay away from dangerous drugs, how can you ease your dog’s suffering? There are a few natural solutions that can help.
RELATED: Read more about Benadryl for dogs …
Natural Remedies For Environmental Allergies
1. Bovine Colostrum
Cows produce colostrum in mother’s first milk, immediately after giving birth. This helps young calves build up their own immunity. Excess colostrum the calves don’t need can help manage your dog’s allergies.
The primary antibody in bovine colostrum is IgG. It can help boost your dog’s immunity to common allergens (1). The cow who produces the colostrum has immunity to these allergens. When you feed your dog colostrum, she takes in the cow’s antibodies.
Research shows that another ingredient also helps reduce allergy symptoms (2). Proline-rich polypeptide (PRP) in colostrum is an anti-inflammatory. It may also help create special T-cells that switch off the allergic response.
To give colostrum for dog allergies, you can use either a powder or a capsule. Give 1/16 tsp powdered colostrum per 25 lbs of body weight daily or 1 capsule daily for small dogs, 2 capsules daily for medium to large dogs.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, organic apple cider vinegar can relieve allergy itches. It also helps get rid of the offending allergens. One of the most common effects of environmental allergies in dogs is itchy feet. Your dog’s paws are constantly exposed to allergens. Try an apple cider vinegar foot bath to help:
Apple Cider Vinegar Foot Bath
Mix two parts water and one part apple cider vinegar. You can prepare this in a large bowl or bucket at the door, ready to use as soon as your dog comes in from a walk.
- Soak your dog’s paws for up to 5 minutes each.
- Don’t rinse, but dry her paws well after soaking.
Apple Cider Vinegar Body Rinse
If her skin is itchy, you can also use an apple cider vinegar rinse for her whole body. You’ll need …
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup cooled green tea
- 1 cup filtered water
After bathing your dog with a natural shampoo, rinse … then pour the ACV mixture all over her and pat dry.
Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
If your dog has flea allergies, use an apple cider vinegar spray. This will make her skin and coat unattractive to fleas. You’ll need …
- 4 oz warm water
- 6 oz apple cider vinegar
- ¼ tsp sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
Mix the ingredients in a small spray bottle. Spray your dog’s coat and underbelly weekly. Avoid her eyes or any open wounds, to avoid stinging.
3. Bee Pollen
Bee pollen is a mix of the pollen collected by bees with enzymes from the bees themselves. It can help manage environmental allergies in dogs. When bees gather pollen, they’re not picky. They go to all kinds of different flowers before heading back to the hive. This means it’s likely the bees are collecting the pollen that makes your dog itch.
Giving your dog a small dose of the pollen she’s allergic to helps desensitize her to the pollens. When you buy bee pollen …
- Make sure the pollen comes from local bees so that it contains allergens from your area. If you use bee pollen from somewhere else it may not contain the same triggers that cause your dog’s symptoms.
- Start with a low dose. Give one granule the first day, mixed in her food. Watch for her response, and if there isn’t one, give two the next day. Increase the amount over several weeks to a dose of 1 tsp per 30 lbs of body weight per day.
These are herbs with anti-allergy properties.
The histamine content in nettles can protect the body from an attack of allergens. You can dry the herbs or make nettle leaf tea. You can also sauté fresh nettles in a pan with grass-fed butter or ghee until tender and add to your dog’s food. (Be sure to use rubber or thick gloves when picking nettles so you don’t get stung.)
- If you use a tincture – give 1 drop for every 25 pounds, 2-3 times per day.
- Make a tea using 1 oz of herb in a quart of filtered water. Boil the water, add the herbs, then cover it and let it steep for 30 minutes. Give 1 Tbsp of cooled tea for every 25 pounds divided for morning and evenings with food.
- For topical relief, make a compress. Put tincture or tea on a clean cotton cloth and cover the affected area. Use hot or cold.
Astragalus helps boost the immune system and relieve allergy symptoms. To give it to your dog, use powder or capsules, and give 100 mg per 10 lbs of your dog’s weight per day. You can also use a tincture and drop some right into your dog’s food.
5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research shows omega-3 fatty acids help regulate the inflammatory response that causes allergies (3).
You’ll find the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in cold water oily fish … so mackerel and sardines are good choices to feed. They have a higher content of EPA and DHA, the fatty acids that help regulate inflammation. You can also add a supplement with these fatty acids. But it’s best to avoid fish oil because it’s unstable and can easily go rancid. And it’s also environmentally unsustainable.
Instead, choose a clean, sustainable source of omega-3s like green lipped mussel oil or ahiflower oil.
When your dog’s body recognizes an allergen, it releases histamines. Histamines trigger inflammation, redness and irritation. Quercetin (a bioflavonoid) contains antihistamine compounds that can stop this problem. Research shows that quercetin can turn off histamine production (4). It can also stop the production of inflammatory molecules and prevent itching.
Some fruit and vegetables contain quercetin. You can add these to your dog’s diet:
- Apples (including the skin)
You can also give a dog supplement with quercetin. Or buy a quercetin supplement for humans. Assume the dosing recommendation is for a 150 lb human and adjust for your dog’s weight.
Caution: Don’t use quercetin supplements long-term. Only give it for as long as is necessary. Do not give quercetin to dogs with kidney disease.
Other Tips For Environmental Allergies In Dogs
Here are some lifestyle changes to help your dog with environmental allergies …
- Feed a fresh, raw diet to boost gut health and improve your dog’s natural immunity.
- Change your furnace filter often to keep the air in your home allergen-free.
- When you vacuum, let your dog hang out in a different room. Vacuuming can stir up dust and cause the allergies to spike.
- Give her a good old-fashioned wipe-down with a damp cloth or towel. It helps to remove the offending allergens from her coat.
- Replace your chemical cleaning products with more natural options. This protects your dog from the harmful ingredients in cleaning products and avoids allergies to those toxins.
- Check your house for mold and get it removed – mold is harmful to everyone in your home, not just your dog.
These easy tips and natural remedies can help relieve environmental allergies to keep your dog comfortable all year long.
- Hurley WL, Theil PK. Perspectives on immunoglobulins in colostrum and milk. Nutrients. 2011;3(4):442-474.
- A M Keech. Peptide Immunotherapy: The Use of Bovine Colostrum Proline-Rich Polypeptides in Cytokine Modulation for the Alternative Relief of Allergic Symptoms. J Allergy Clinical Immunology, Vol 119, Issue 1, Suppoement S260, January 1 2007.
- Mueller RS et al. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on canine atopic dermatitis. J Small Anim Pract. 2004 Jun;45(6):293-7.
- Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Molecules. 2016 May 12;21(5):623.