Itchy puppy

An itchy situation

Allergies don't overlook any opportunity to burden the masses, including the four-legged members of our family. Itchy, scratchy and just plain uncomfortable, we can all relate to the dreadful side effects of an allergic reaction.

Luckily, a trip to your local pharmacy for an antihistimine or two does the trick. If only it were that easy for your pet. Learning how to diagnose your pets' unusual behaviors is the first step toward a quick fix. Read on to find out how to determine if your pet is suffering from allergies.

Atopy vs. food allergies

Just like humans, your pets' allergies can be attributed to two common causes.

Atopy means allergies caused by inhalation of everyday substances in the environment, including tree and grass pollen and house dust mites. Your pet can experience an outburst of symptoms that happen periodically during the same time each year (what we experience as allergy season) or year-round if the allergens present themselves as a daily part of their living environment.

Food allergies can be more challenging to diagnose. Allergies to an ingested item can occur at any stage in your pets' life. Pets can also develop an allergy to a food item they have not been allergic to in the past.

Common symptoms

Antihistamine Dosing Guidlines*

Claritin (Dogs Only)

  • 15 pounds and under — 5 mg once daily
    15-40 pounds — 10 mg once daily or every other day
    40 pounds and up — 10 mg twice daily (every 12 hours)

Benedryl (Dogs Only)

  • 1 mg per pound 2-4 times per day (every 6-12 hours)


  • Cats — 5 mg once daily
  • Dogs — 5-10 mg once daily

*Always consult with your vet prior to administering medications.

Does your pet suddenly use your pants leg as an eye-rubbing station? Have his paws become finger-licking good? Keep an eye out for unusual behaviors as well as surface imperfections. As a quick guide, the ASPCA determines the follow symptoms as common allergy-related side effects.

  • Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin
  • Increased scratching
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Itchy back or base of tail (most commonly flea allergy)
  • Itchy ears and ear infections
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
  • Paw chewing/swollen paws
  • Constant licking

At home remedies


Households with lush grass, weeds and trees should limit the amount of time each allergy-prone pet spends outside. Paws and skin should be wiped down regularly to prevent constant licking and reduce scratching. Regular baths with an oatmeal-based pet shampoo can help soothe itchy skin.

Food allergies

If you suspect a food allergy, you'll want to discuss options with your vet. Your vet can help you rule out a food allergy by suggesting a diet consisting of foods your pet does not ingest on a regular basis. Fido will have to stick to this diet, and only this diet, for 4-12 weeks. After this time period, you can slowly re-introduce food items to your pets' diet and closely monitor his reactions.

More on pet health

Which human foods can you feed your dog?
Raw diet for dogs: What you need to know
Chiropractic care for your pets



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