Caring For A Dog With Allergies
I’ve considered writing this post for quite awhile now; every time I’d decide otherwise, convincing myself that Rusty’s allergy management isn’t in-depth enough to really make up a full post. That was before I wrote out step by step instructions for our dog sitter about everything that goes into his daily routine. 😅
When we adopted Rusty we had no indication that he would have allergy issues; we assumed his itchy skin was related to his severely matted coat and would be fixed after a trip to the groomer. When that didn’t help, we realized we were in for a long journey.
The more I meet people with dogs, the more I’m realizing that this is a common problem that people are solving in many different ways. While some allergies are food related, Rusty has general/seasonal allergies — meaning nearly anything enjoyable about life as a dog can make him severely itchy and sneezy. While his excited sneeze attacks are quite adorable, it’s difficult to see him suffer.
Our vet advised us that the strongest course of action was Apoquel — aka Claritin for dogs. While we did this for a few weeks until the worst of his symptoms subsided, Apoquel is known for severe side effects that can worsen with long-term use. Though I can’t deny it was helpful, keeping Rusty healthy for as long as possible is my top priority and relying on something that could undermine that for short term relief didn’t feel like the right solution for us.
After troves of internet research and trial and error, we’ve thankfully found a system that is about 90% effective. While he still itches and sneezes more than what is ideal, he is in overall good shape compared to the condition he was in. Below I’ve listed out our “allergy tool belt” and the way we implement each thing into our daily lives. Through the tools below, proper care, and thoughtful decisions, we’re able to keep our boy happy, healthy, and only sneezing excessively when he tries to sleep on his back. 😅
Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple Cider Vinegar is a holistic cure-all, so I wasn’t surprised when my research showed that it was helpful for dog allergies. While many sources recommend a topical application to sooth itchy paws and skin, I administer it to Rusty with a meal to strengthen his immune system from the inside out. I mix 1 tablespoon of it with water and pour over his breakfast in the morning, but you can also add it to their water — it isn’t his favorite, but it has worked wonders. This made the most immediate difference in his symptoms out of everything we tried, so bearing the smell of it is well worth it.
Burt’s Bees Pet Wipes: Paws are where pups get exposed to a lot of allergens, so these pet wipes are good to clean his feet as well as keep our own floors more sanitary! I don’t do this for every walk, but if we’ve been out on a hike or somewhere with abundant grasses I make sure to use them.
Coconut Oil: This is Rusty’s favorite part of our daily routine. I mix one cup of coconut oil and one cup of peanut butter on the stove, pour into a mold of silicone cups, and freeze until hardened. Then we keep them in a baggie in the freezer and he gets two per day, working out to roughly two tablespoons of coconut oil. He comes running every time we open the freezer because these are delicious. Not only is coconut oil great for his joints, but it also helps keep his skin moisturized and itch-free! He also enjoys coconut oil plain so it could easily be added to his kibble, but I wouldn’t give up his face when he’s excited for his frozen treats for anything.
Frequent Brushing: This is so simple, yet so effective. Rusty’s a long-haired dog so he needs brushed more than most, but even short-haired dogs can benefit! Not only does it feel soothing for their itchy skin, but it also helps redistribute the oils in their coat just like for human hair. I brush Rusty at least every 2-3 days with some leave-in conditioner to keep his coat soft and his skin hydrated.
Herbsmith AllerQi: I can understand why people feel skeptical of herbal treatments because of how long they take to show results, but these little tablets are incredible. Rusty gets one pill at breakfast and one pill at dinner. While it took about a month to notice a difference, as it’s built up in his system the change has been dramatic. I’ve only forgotten a pill once or twice and both times I’ve realized due to his discomfort levels.
Microcyn Spray: Thankfully with our stringent routine hot spots are a rare occurrence, but when they do happen this spray is a lifesaver. Because Neosporin isn’t safe in areas where dogs can lick and coconut oil would be eaten in a heartbeat, using this for any hot spots or wounds has been my go-to. It typically clears them up within a day, and seems to soothe the itchiness as well.
P.L.A.Y. Pet Bed: Because of his sinuses, Rusty has an awful time lying flat on his side and a nearly impossible time lying on his back. If he’s on the couch or the bed he props his head on a blanket or pillow, but we also got him this bed with raised sides so he has a bit of support for his head at night. He routinely sleeps until noon so I’d say it’s a winner!