Temporary allergy relief for my dog?
May 7, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Dog with allergies - how can I keep him from scratching himself raw?

About a month ago, we adopted a dog from one of my wife's coworkers (domestic situation prevented her from keeping it, not sure of the details). He's a very sweet, well-behaved hound mix, ~40 lbs. However, he did come with a pretty harsh case of allergies and dandruff.

We're bathing him with medicated shampoo/conditioner and giving him supplements for the dandruff, and giving him Benadryl for the allergies. It's eliminated his sneeze attacks and reduced the itching somewhat, but not entirely.

Most of the irritation seems to be focused around his mouth, which quite a full hot spot, but is very pink and angry-looking. He's scratched himself to bleeding once, but mostly it's just very raw. If possible, I'd like to keep him from doing any more damage to himself or getting the area infected.

YANMV - but we're in the middle of moving and are short one car, and there's no chance of getting him to the vet until next week. Any suggestions to alleviate the itchiness and prevent him from making it worse until then?
posted by lash to Pets & Animals (20 answers total)
Poor little guy! (And we need a pic, of course.)

If the irritation is around his mouth, I'd try putting a little olive oil on top of his food. It would help soothe the itchiness, I'd think, and it's also good for his coat.
posted by trip and a half at 1:08 PM on May 7, 2011

I'm not sure what will alleviate the itching, but to prevent him from scratching, use vet wrap for appendages. It's cheapest at your local farm supply store.
posted by desjardins at 1:08 PM on May 7, 2011

Our beagle had allergies, too. The vet told us we could give her two Benadryl a day (one every twelve hours) to help alleviate the itching. When it got real bad, though, we had to resort to a steroid injection from the vet as a last resort.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:07 PM on May 7, 2011

Is there any indication what the dog might be allergic to? My dog is allergic to certain food ingredients and switching out her food and treats made her all better. Are there any other symptoms?
posted by ThirstyEar2 at 2:10 PM on May 7, 2011

Talk to the vet, but the likely solution is going to be Benadryl, plus a switch to a different food. Often lamb and salmon based foods work well. Have him checked for underactive thyroid, also.
posted by beagle at 2:39 PM on May 7, 2011

Hydroxyzine works better than Benadryl, but you will need to get it from the vet.

If he isn't on a high quality OFA supplement like Eicosaderm, he should be (not vegetable oils, fish oil) - this helps enormously with inflammatory conditions.

But yeah, he needs to go to the vet asap, he probably needs big guns to get over the worst of it - there is not much you will be able to do at home that is going to really help with a dog in bad shape like you describe, he may need a course of steroids and antibiotics.
posted by biscotti at 3:14 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

elizabethan collar... it will keep the dog from being able to scratch it's face.

hot spots are usually treated with steroids and antibiotics from your vet.
posted by virginia_clemm at 3:20 PM on May 7, 2011

I would agree with biscotti. Feed the dog some sardines with its food. Also, I recommend food with a minimal amount of grains and preservatives. It isn't going to fix the situation over the weekend, but it is effective in the long term.
posted by isawthat at 3:26 PM on May 7, 2011

Go to the vet and have them give you the appropriate dosages for all OTC antihistamines. Some dogs do great on the go-to, Benadryl, but we've had better luck with Zyrtec and others like Claritin.

But, and this is the other reason (besides doing this properly) to see the vet: sometimes it just takes a round of steroids to get it to a controllable stage, and then antihistamines will hold you over. One of my dogs had terrible seasonal allergies in Texas, coinciding with my husband and I suffering them really badly, and almost every year I just never quite managed to keep her medicated enough to keep her from scratching awful bald bloody patches on her face and finally doing a round of Prednisone. Now we've just moved to California and she is fine without medication, but one of the other dogs has a scabby butt from whatever it is that makes my husband and I slightly miserable here. The Zyrtec is making a difference with that.

When we originally took the girl to the vet, they gave us an invoice with the pound/dosages for every OTC antihistamine and told us to try each one for 3 weeks until we found one that worked. They also gave us a fish oil supplement (oh god it stinks, but the dogs love it) and it truly does make a difference. We've switched them now to a better food (Innova) but I can tell that I can't find the fish oil since we moved.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:36 PM on May 7, 2011

The Bear advises me that there is a bacteria that lives on the bottom of the water bowls from which our pets drink, and that cats and dogs can develop allergic reactions around their mouths. Solution: keep water bowl very clean. This article is interesting too.

Also, to stop your dog from scratching himself around the muzzle, strongly recommend Cone of Shame. The kind that Mud Bay sells, a soft cone with a velcro fastening, which looks like this number from Petco, works well.
posted by bearwife at 4:49 PM on May 7, 2011

Similar to what bearwife suggested, but some critters are allergic to plastic in the common food/water bowls. If you've been using one, try switching to stainless steel or glass.

My cat always got pimples on her chin when I initially used plastic bowls. Pimples!
posted by Zoyashka at 5:32 PM on May 7, 2011

Short term solution, there's a lot of topical sprays. Talk to your vet.

Longer term... What Zoyashka said. What are you feeding him? Try switching to either: a) a high-end food that has more oils in it (Innova, Blue Buffalo, etc.) or b) a food that's designed for dogs who are allergic to certain ingredients, such i.e. Wellness Simple Solutions.

We had the SAME problems you're having with my friend's dog, and switched her food from Purina Pro Plan Adult to Innova Adult, and there was a visible difference within a month. The poor dog went from being almost hairless and entirely raw/pink on her belly to being a healthy color and having healthy fur that quickly.
posted by SpecialK at 6:27 PM on May 7, 2011

Our dog didn't respond to Benadryl for the itchies, but Zyrtec works great. Also fish oil supplements have helped.

With allergies you want to try to reduce as many allergens as possible. Switching to a food like Nature's Recipe that doesn't have common allergy-inducing ingredients might help.

Agreeing with above that a round of steroids or combo steroid/antihistamine (my dog does well on Temaril P) can help at the start of allergy season.

And yes the cone of shame works. It's pretty hilarious but it will keep your dog from getting to her face. I recommend taking it off for walks and meals though because it's a bit cumbersome.
posted by radioamy at 7:37 PM on May 7, 2011

What's he eating? Do an elimination diet. Try switching him to something grain free and simple. First Mate is my brand of choice but there are lots of options.
posted by Neofelis at 8:53 PM on May 7, 2011

Is there any sort of yeast smell to this pooch?
posted by azpenguin at 9:59 PM on May 7, 2011

And, to follow-up, your dog may well be allergic to grass and pollen. That's what our beagle was allergic to. No amount of diet-shifting will help you there, unfortunately.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:28 AM on May 8, 2011

Response by poster: @Everyone who asked - he's eating California Natural, but it's not a grain-free variety. Bag's almost empty, so I'll pick up something grain-free ASAP to see if it helps.

bearwife/Zoyashka - he's got a stainless steel bowl, which has received a good scrubbing.

azpenguin - The missus claims he smells like corn chips. I don't think he's yeasty, but all I can smell on him is stinky dogbreath.

Thanks for all of the suggestions, folks. He'll be getting the cone of shame today to keep him from scratching, and I'll let you know what comes of his vet visit next week! (Oh, and he thanks you too!)
posted by lash at 9:20 AM on May 8, 2011

Corn chips is what yeast infection smells like to me. But yeast infection can be secondary to skin irritation due to allergies anyway. Hair loss around the mouth does sound like he's sticking his face into whatever he's allergic to, whether it's his food or something in the environment (sniffing in the grass?)

You could try wiping his hot-spots with something like a wet-wipe (even just a wet clean rag, probably) every time he's potentially exposed to allergens: after eating, after coming inside. This might help with the symptoms right now.

There are itch sprays you can get at pet stores that have numbing agents in them (it'll have something-caine in it). In the midst of a bad allergy outbreak these can be really, really helpful to the poor dog.

We have a dog with food allergies *and* environmental allergies. Boy, Temeril-P was like a miracle drug. It's an antihistamine with a touch of prednisone (prescription), and it clears up the dog's allergy symptoms like nothing else. That won't help you right now, but it's something you can ask about later.
posted by galadriel at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2011

I can't tell from your post if you've seen a vet yet... I'm sure you know this, but the shampoo you use needs to be formulated for dogs, since they have a different skin PH, and human shampoos will just make any skin matters worse. At any rate, I'd try to see a veterinary dermatologist if you can. And if you haven't seen a vet at all, I would try to do that sooner than later; both/either dandruff type stuff and inflammation around the mouth and/or eye area can be signs of mite infestation (mange). Probably not! But you'd definitely want to rule that out.

(also, I'm getting an error on your pic link!)
posted by taz at 2:04 PM on May 8, 2011

And, to follow-up, your dog may well be allergic to grass and pollen. That's what our beagle was allergic to. No amount of diet-shifting will help you there, unfortunately.
Actually, the histamine level in your dog's body is what matters. If your dog is allergic to grass and pollen, it's likely allergic to grain, so cutting the grain out of it's diet will reduce the overall level of histamine in the body and therefore the systemic part of the allergic reaction.
posted by SpecialK at 7:46 AM on May 9, 2011

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