During certain times of the year, dogs can have seasonal allergies just like humans do. How can you tell? Typically dogs will be itchy, they may have watering eyes, and they might even sneeze a lot. Some dogs will start snoring very loudly and just sound congested. If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, it’s highly likely that they have seasonal allergies.
When it comes to treating their allergies, you’re probably wondering if you need to get a prescription from your veterinarian. Actually, you’re in luck because dogs can take many different over-the-counter allergy medications and tolerate them very well. Let’s take a look at what is acceptable for dogs.
Over-The-Counter Allergy Medications Dogs Can Take
There are several things that dogs can take. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each (if there are any cons) and help answer all of your questions and concerns.
1) Benadryl – This is a tried and true medication that can be given to dogs or children whenever there is an allergic reaction to anything. It’s a good idea to keep in the house at all times, whether you keep name brand or generic is up to you. They both work well. Benadryl is best for things like bee stings. Dogs invariably stick their noses into places that they don’t belong to and get bitten or stung by something.
If you see swelling on the face, look for the type of bite. If you see anything that looks like a snake bit, get them to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. If the snake was poisonous, time is of the essence. Their life is jeopardy if they were bitten by a venomous snake.
On the other hand, if a wasp, hornet, or bumblebee got a hold of them, they will also swell until they look like a Shar-Pei and Benadryl will help them as fast as anything else will. Follow recommended dosages for dogs. The downside of using Benadryl is that it will make them sleepy and lethargic. They also can have the opposite reaction and become wide awake and hyper.
2) Claritin – This is another OTC medication that is safe for dogs. One tablet will begin helping the allergy symptoms within an hour in most cases. This doesn’t make your dog sleepy as Benadryl does, but it will also not help with bee stings and things of that nature typically.
Claritin can potentially cause some drowsiness and it may also cause some irritability. Watch for signs of restlessness or pacing for stomach upset or cramps. If this happens discontinue use for your dog and try another pill. This is for the seasonal things that cause itching skin and watering eyes.
Your dog may fall asleep after taking Claritin, but that is typically from the relief they get and finally being able to relax and sleep. Don’t assume it is a side effect of the pill unless it happens every time. Drowsiness is probably a fair trade-off for extreme itching and watering eyes though.
Most dogs tolerate one whole pill but if you have a smaller dog or a miniature dog, use a pill cutter to half the dose. Some dogs can tolerate two pills per day, but most medium-sized and smaller dogs should have just one per day.
3) Zyrtec – This is another OTC allergy pill that dogs can have. Again, it is advised that they have one per day or 24 hour period. Most dogs tolerate it very well without drowsiness or side effects. Zyrtec is great for mold allergies and dust mites, as well as the other typical allergies that impact dogs and humans alike.
If you’ve tried Claritin and it didn’t seem to work well, try this one. Dogs typically have no adverse reactions to Zyrtec at all. Potential side effects from using Zyrtec daily could be constipation and extreme thirst. Your dog could potentially feel sleepy from Zyrtec and while there are potential side effects, they aren’t very common.
Thirst and drowsiness are the two most common.
4) Allegra – This is considered extremely safe for dogs and it would take a very massive amount to be bad for them. 1 milligram per pound of bodyweight is the recommended dosage of this OTC allergy medication. That means a 40-pound dog could have 40 milligrams per day of this medication.
This may sound like an awful lot but the truth of the matter is that all antihistamines are not as effective in dogs as they are for humans, so they need a bit more than we do. While they work, it just takes more.
Never give your dog an antihistamine that has “D” after the name. This goes for Zyrtec D and Claritin D. This means that they have an added decongestant and those are not safe for dogs at all. They react to it as a stimulant and they should never have it.
While antihistamines have been deemed very safe in dogs, and we know that they tolerate them at higher amounts well, don’t use more than the recommended doses unless a veterinarian tells you to. More is not always better.
Some allergy medications aren’t tolerated well by dogs. Read the labels. Anything that has alcohol, aspirin, or ibuprofen added to it is not safe for your dog and should not be used. You should always be very clear on what is anything that you give to your dog.
Aspirin can damage the lining of their stomach and should not ever be given to them. Ibuprofen can cause internal bleeding and should never be given to dogs. Alcohol is toxic to dogs and very little can cause severe reactions in them.
Other Problems from Allergies
Allergies can cause hotspots from the dog licking and chewing at their skin constantly. If your dog has been chewing, he has likely caused hotspots that appear as red, irritated skin. Some of them can become so bad that they ooze and are an open sore.
These sores are slow to heal and will usually scab over, which causes even more itching. It may not be enough to simply give your dog an allergy pill to stop the itching. You may need to treat the wounds on their skin as well. This will help them heal and bring comfort to your dog much faster.
Using some castor oil on the spots can help. Cleaning them with a bit of mineral oil is also acceptable. Give your dog a medicated bath or soak them in water that has oatmeal in it. If the wound is open and oozing, take them to the veterinarian. They may need a steroidal cream to help them heal.
These wounds can become infected and it is very important that you treat them and keep them clean so no further complications develop while you are treating your dog for allergies.
Allergies are horrible and they bother dogs and humans alike. With each season there may be things that cause allergic reactions and it’s important to pay attention to your dog because he can’t tell you that he’s miserable.
Listen for coughs or sneezes and pay attention to the extra crusty stuff in the eyes or the browning fur at the corners of the eye, from the constant watering.
The faster you treat allergies, the less likely it that your dog will get hotspots or lose fur. The goal should be to catch the symptoms as soon as they start and treat them rapidly. Make sure that you are only giving your dog the pill versions of the allergy meds, never use the liquid. Never use “D” anything, never give your dog a decongestant.
Keep wounds cleaned. Wipe eyes with a soft, wet cloth in the mornings, letting it soak the area a moment so that it doesn’t pull fur and hurt when you remove the accumulation. Don’t use any eye drops on your dog unless a veterinarian has approved them and recommended them to you.
You don’t want to over-bathe your dog because you can dry their skin out and make small problems become bigger problems. You absolutely can get them wet, so soaking in a cold water bath and rinsing allergens from their fur is a great idea.
Soaking in a tub of oatmeal water will help make angry, itchy skin more relaxed so that your dog can stop chewing on his own body until he has holes.
Remember that to them, their skin feels like something is crawling in it. They do what comes naturally – attack the invader and get rid of it. This means that they will dig into their own skin until they are bleeding and are bald all over. They can rip most of the fur off their behind in a single day.
When Things Are Simply Out of Control
If you cannot get the allergies under control with OTC medications, then it may well be time to visit the veterinarian and have them prescribe something like Apoquel which is made exclusively for dogs. This prescription has been designed for the dog that doesn’t respond to much other intervention.
It’s hard to sit and watch your dog chew herself constantly, all day long. In a matter of five minutes, they can open big sores that become hotspots and problems that you have to deal with.
Dogs may have an allergic reaction to food too. If you’ve recently changed their diet and the issues started at the same time, go back to their old food and see if the reactions stop. Many dog allergies are due to food allergies in dogs, so you should bear this in mind when you are attempting to find the source of your dog’s discomfort.
Many dogs don’t tolerate food changes well as they age either. Allergies tend to become more problematic in older dogs. So if your dog has never had a problem for five years and suddenly at age six has decided that everything is going to require chewing and itching, don’t feel alone.
It happens to many pet owners. Address it as quickly as you can and if you need help, schedule an appointment at your veterinarian.