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Allergies are commons problems in dogs and cats. The following background information and basic steps will help improve your pet’s health.

Affected pets have usually lived for at least 1-3 years in your current housing location. Typical dog breeds that more commonly have allergies include spaniels, retrievers, terriers (esp Westies,) and Dalmations (no specific cat breeds are affected.)

The cause of environmental allergies is a genetic predisposition to develop IgE antibodies to inhaled/absorbed allergens. Allergen-specific IgE binds to receptors on mast cells in the pet’s body, cross link with environmental allergens on re-exposure, with subsequent mast cell degranulation (exploding mast cells) leading to release of histamine, heparin, leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and other chemicals that cause itching and inflammation.

Clinical signs of allergies include itching, often beginning seasonally (typically fall and spring.) The itching is mild to severe and is classically directed at the face, feet, underarm areas, and lower parts of the body. The itching may also occur over the entire body, especially as the allergies become chronic. Chronic ear disease may also be a sign of undiagnosed allergies. Unless a secondary infection is present the skin often looks normal, although you may see redness (erythema,) moist dermatitis (hot spots,) hair loss (alopecia,) and secondary excoriations. Secondary infections (Staph, Malassezia yeasts) can be seen especially in chronic cases. Other conditions that mimic allergies include fleas, food allergy/hypersensitivity, sarcoptic mange, and hypothyroidism.

Conventional therapies for allergies include antihistamines/H1 blockers (Diphenhydramine, Hydroxyzine, Chlorpheniramine, Clemastine, etc.) H-2 blockers can be combined with H 1 blockers but may exacerbate signs if used alone due to inhibition of negative feedback that histamine exerts on mast cells. Side effects include drowsiness (may improve in a few days.). They are safer than corticosteroids especially for chronic use, but are usually not particularly effective.

Corticosteroids (Prednisone/Prednisolone, Dexamethasone, Triamcinolone) are very effective for quickly controlling itching and work by Inhibiting phospholipase A2 which decreases prostaglandins/leukotrienes; stabilization of mast cell membranes also occurs. They cause many side effects including, in the short term, increased water intake/urine output, increased appetite, and possibly a personality change. Long term they may cause obesity, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, altered lab values, infections, fatty liver disease, osteoporosis, and demodectic mange.

Newer medications such as cyclosporine (Atopica) and Apoquel are expensive, are not particularly effective in my experience, and have many serious side effects. I don’t recommend them except as a last resort.

Natural therapies work very well for most allergic pets. They replace traditional medications as they relieve inflammation and itching, detoxify the pet, support the liver and GI tract, support the immune system, reduce oxidative damage, remodel cell membranes to cause reduced inflammation (high dose fish oil,) and remove allergens and infectious organisms from the skin.

I have found the following supplements helpful to get started. Because every pet is different, I always encourage you to set up a phone consult with us if needed. Because the natural approach is about healing rather than simply making your pet feel better, it may take 2-3 months before maximum effectiveness is achieved.

Topical decontamination (Bathing) is VERY IMPORTANT in controlling itching. Using Dr. Shawn’s Natural Itch Relief Shampoo as often as needed to keep your pet comfortably itchy is recommended. Dr. Shawn’s Itch relief Shampoo has been specially formulated for frequent use without drying out your pet’s skin (the more you use it the quicker your pet heals!) Follow each bath by cleaning the ears with Dr. Shawn’s Organic Ear Wash.

Dr. Shawn’s Enzymes and Probiotics helps support the GI tract, the largest part of your pet’s immune system. Probiotics also help restore normal GI flora for pets taking antibiotics, antifungal medications, and steroids and antihistamines.

Dr. Shawn’s Xiao Skin Allergy Support is a natural alternative to steroids to help reduce itching in pets. Dr. Shawn has found that regular usage of Xiao helps many of his patients avoid high doses of steroids that some allergic pets require.

Dr. Shawn’s Liver Support helps support the liver and aid in the detoxification of damaged cells and allergen-antibody complexes. This chewable treat is enjoyed by most pets and is easy to administer.

Here are a few final tips which can help your pet if he suffers from allergies.

1.Diet-Feeding the proper diet is the foundation upon which any integrative pet care program begins. Minimizing harmful byproducts and chemicals is essential in preventing further inflammation and itching. Natural processed diets or homemade diets can be chosen.

2.Minimize vaccines-I recommend an annual blood antibody test called a titer test to determine if and when your pet might need vaccinations. If the titer is low, your pet might need a vaccine; if the titer is normal, no vaccine is needed. Rabies vaccination is a different case and vaccination schedules are based upon state law in consideration of your pet’s health. I don’t vaccinate most pets 12 years of age and older.

3.Minimize toxins-While oral monthly heartworm preventive medication is important (I have not found any proven natural preventives) most pets do NOT need annual chemical flea and tick control (Frontline, Advantage, Advantix, Revolution, Program, etc.)

4.Additional Therapies-There are a number of natural therapies I use in addition to those listed above as part of my therapy for treating allergies in pets. These vary with the pet’s condition. When needed, a homeopathic and/or herbal detoxification therapy is also utilized. Which specific supplements are chosen depend upon a number of factors, and each patient is prescribed a specific protocol based upon these factors.

5..For more helpful tips, check out my book The Allergy Solution for Dogs, at