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Pet Allergies

HomePet CarePet Allergies

Allergies are a poor response of the central immune system to the presence of a foreign material in the skin or body. The presence of the foreign material sets off inflammation which is suppose to tell the central immune system to respond by removing or destroying that foreign material. In animals with allergies, the central immune system simply is lazy and does not do its job. Therefore, the inflammation in the skin gets more intense which causes severe itching. Most often allergies are seasonal, occurring only 1-3 months out of the year. Allergens (exactly what your pet is coming into contact with) are absorbed through the skin (90%), swallowed in their diet (5%), or inhaled into their lungs (5%). Unlike humans that get runny noses, itchy eyes, or sinus pain, Dogs and Cats can ONLY react with skin inflammation, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

CAUSES ( Allergens )

1. Pollens (weeds, trees, grasses)- Absorbed directly through the skin (90%) & inhaled (10%)

2. Flea saliva from flea bites; Absorbed through the skin only.

3. Dander: Human, Cat, Dog, Sheep–Absorbed through skin (90%) & inhaled (10%)

4. Food: Only 5% of dogs/cats have food allergies or food sensitivities—VERY UNCOMMON.

5. Molds: -Absorbed through skin (90%) & inhaled (10%)


1. Ear infections—————–90% of all ear infections are caused by Allergies. VERY COMMON.

2. Itching/Scratching:——— Results in red skin with hair loss on rear legs and lower back/sides and tail

3. Hot Spots: ——————– Large spots of intense itching and infection. Crusty, yellow, and even bleeding areas. VERY COMMON

3. Bacterial skin infections :-Secondary to the intense skin inflammation/scratching.

4. Fungal and/or Yeast skin infections–very common on all four feet. Feet are reddish brown from saliva staining. Whole body yeast/fungal infection in allergy patients are common as well.

HELPFUL TEST: Skin scrapes,Black light test for ringworm, bacterial or fungal cultures, microscopic slide stains, and surgical skin biopsies all help determine the type and extent of allergy based skin problems that are affecting your pet.



1. Bathing 2 to 3 times a week in DISH SOAP (any and all brands) will work to physically remove pollen from the skin and ears which will make itching a lot less. Be sure to use soap and water to wash out the ears and just use tap water to rinse out the ears after bathing. This will remove pollen/grass/wax from deep in the ear. Instructions on how to wash/rinse dog ears are provided at the bottom of this form. CHEWING OF THE FEETCAN BE CONTROLLED  BY RINSING THE FEET OFF EACH TIME YOUR DOG COMES BACK INTO THE HOUSE. THIS WORKS VERY WELL!!!!

***SPECIAL NOTE: Frequent bathing makes topical flea/tick/Heartworm preventatives not work! You will need to use once a month oral flea preventative pill called COMFORTIS & IVERHART MAX for heartworm prevention.

2. Flea Control:  For allergy patients (both dogs and cats) treat even if you see no fleas. One or two fleas can cause severe whole body itching due to flea saliva getting in or on the skin. Treat both the pet and the environment. 90% of all dogs with allergies are allergic to fleas.

Fleas are 99% the cause of cat allergies.  *SPECIAL NOTE:  Do not use flea soap because it does not work very well and will leave no protection.

3. Antihistamines (Dogs Only):  Benadryl, Zyrtec, Clairton, Hydroxizine antihistamine tablets or capsules (do not use the liquid benadryl) can be used to control itching as often as 3 times a day. It is almost impossible to overdose your dog on benadryl or any antihistamine. Antihistamine overdose will just result in your dog sleeping more and sleeping dogs do not itch!.

*Antihistamine dose:  Small dogs 10#s or less—-1/2 to 1 tab given 2 to 3 times a day

Dogs 10# to 25#—1 or 2 tablets 2-3 times a day

Dogs 25# to 50#—2 or 3 tablets 2-3 times a day

​        Dogs 50# to 75#—3 or 4 tablets 2-3 times a day

Dogs 75# to 100#—4 or 5 tablets 2-3 times a day

Dogs 100# to 125#–5 or 6 tablets 2-3 times a day.

*Special Note:  If your dog is too sleepy to suit you then reduce the dose as needed. 

4. Antibiotics and/or Antifungal oral medications: Often allergy dogs have a secondary skin infection of common  staph bacteria, yeast, or fungus which will make the skin and ears smell. 2 to 8 Weeks of oral antibiotics and/or oral antifungals are often needed. Specific testing for the correct oral antibiotic/antifungal will be done in special cases. Be sure to follow the label directions.

5. Cortisone (steroid): Injections, tablets, or spray.  Works well to control allergy symptoms but increases water consumption/urination and if over used will suppress the immune system. Used sparingly, cortisone will control the itching well. (A) Max of 3-4 cortisone injections per year. (B) Cortisone tablets can be used also, but only when the cortisone injection has worn off and the itching is starting to return. (C) Genesis, a cortisone spray, does not have the side effects of the cortisone injections or tablets but requires more commitment by the owner to spray the dog regularly.

6. Cyclosporine (Dogs only): The drug cyclosporine is associated with cancer treatments, but we have found that using it to suppress a dog’s immune system to prevent allergic reactions works very well. However, it will usually cost between $45 to $100 per month depending upon the size of your dog. Side effects (10%) are vomiting, diarrhea, not eating well, but these go away after the first few weeks.


Blood testing for allergies is  available and can determine which allergens are causing the itching. A bottle of selected injectable allergens will be taylor-made by the allergy laboratory. We then start on a series of these allergen injections that will carry over several months. By doing so, our aim is to slowly increase the amount of injected allergens in an effort to train the immune system to properly respond on its own thus reducing the need for cortisone. This series of injections should reduce the itching by teaching the immune system to respond appropriately when allergies act up. This has the least side effects and is 80-85% effective. The cost for allergy testing is approximately $247 plus the vials of allergen for $226.25 each. You will need 2-3 vials for the first year but less in following years.        This treatment greatly reduces dependency on cortisone to control allergies. This works best when allergies are first diagnosed.


About 5% of all allergy patients are reactive to food as an allergen. Because the incidence is so low, the cause of your pets’ itching will most likely not involve a change in its diet. However, if you want to eliminate any possible food allergen then the diet should avoid beef, chicken, corn, soy, all dairy products, egg, and wheat. A true food allergy elimination trial takes 3 months to complete by feeding a uncommonly used protein and vegetable based food only for that entire time, using no cortisone, or benadryl. I do not recommend doing this unless all other measures of allergy control are either failing or not reducing itching enough. Should you want to feed a low allergen diet, I recommend a fish based diet from Purina Veterinary Diet food called DERM diet. For this to work it has to be the only food given. No treats are allowed as well as no table scraps.


To have success treating a dog for allergies, we need to define a real expectation of our treatment choices. Simply put, successful allergy management means that we have decreased the itching and scratching by at least 50% and the owner and patient are comfortable with the treatment level. It is not realistic to expect 100% removal of all itching. For example, if an outside dog is scratching 50% less because of treatment and he is not creating torn skin that easily gets infected, then that dog is successfully being managed. On the other hand, if an inside dog is itching 50% less but is still keeping the owner’s awake at night with itching behavior, then that dog is not being successfully managed and needs more help. This means that communication between you and I about how your dog is responding to whatever treatment we use is very important. We will do our best to provide real world solutions and treatments that hopefully will result in both patient and client satisfaction.

How to flush ears

Ear infections due to allergies can be prevented by keeping the ears very clean. Place a 1 inch layer of dish soap ( Joy, Ivory, Dawn, etc) in a 16 oz plastic spray bottle then fill it with warm tap water. While pulling the ear away from the head and up slightly, spray this heavy soap solution 20-30 times vigorously into the ear canal. No matter how much your pet objects you are really not seriously hurting them and this is extremely necessary to do. Massage the ear well and let the pet shake its head. Repeat this 2-3 times for each ear. Then use another spray bottle filled with only clean tap water to rinse out the soap and debri. Rinse both ears until they are free of soap. You cannot over do the washing or the rinsing. Be sure to always install a small amount of the ear ointment (Malotic, Otomax, etc.) after the final rinse cycle. Some dogs with allergies will need ear flushing 1-2-3 or 4 times a month to prevent infection. This method of ear flushing works very well, is simple to do, and is the only way to mange a dog with a chronic ear infection problem. It is far cheaper to do this yourself and it makes sense that the ears must be free of all wax, loose hair, grass, leaf bits, pus, or black goo so that the ear ointment will actually come in contact with the infected and inflammed skin.  A large 8oz bottle of prescription ear ointment is available for purchase (at a considerable savings) should you find it necessary to treat the ears often.


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