Dealing with doggie allergies

It’s fall allergy season here in Southwest Colorado and many folks are getting prepared. Did you know that dogs can have allergies, too? Like people, they may be allergic to certain plants, pollen, foods, chemicals, dust mites, mold or other substances.

What are allergies?

An allergy is an immune system-based response to a particular substance. An allergic response occurs quickly after exposure to the offending substance and can be a prolonged response if the substance is frequently encountered. The symptoms of an allergic response may include weepy or inflamed eyes, runny nose, sneezing, inflamed sinuses, itchiness, etc. Extreme allergic reactions may be life-threatening and are beyond the scope of this article.

Food and allergies

Certain foods may worsen allergies even if they aren’t the actual allergen. For instance, foods that are pro-inflammatory due to intrinsically inflammatory ingredients or ingredients that are hard to digest may worsen allergy symptoms or predispose your dog to reactivities.

If feeding commercial food, you may need to experiment with different brands, or even making your own. This may be a slow process but potentially offers a big payoff. Avoid brands that use inflammatory ingredients such as wheat, soy, corn and purified forms of gluten. I don’t have a problem feeding small amounts of grains like rice, oats and barley to my dog, but if a grain is the first ingredient in a food blend, it may be a blend best avoided.

Be sure to include some caretenoid-rich foods — beets, squash, pumpkin, etc — in your pooches’ diet to support healthy immune system function. Blueberries and other flavonoid-rich foods help stabilize mast cells, the subset of immune cells responsible for releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause many of the inflammatory manifestations of an allergic response (sneezing, runny nose, weepy or inflamed eyes, inflamed sinuses).

Reducing environmental factors

Our 4-legged friends are low to the ground. This means higher levels of exposure to dust that’s settled on the floor. Keep your floor clean…sweeping isn’t enough on wood, linoleum or tile floors, use a mop regularly. Note that carpet off-gasses chemicals and is a great petri dish for molds and mites…not the greatest environment for your pooch.

Do not apply products containing synthetic scents (“fragrance”, “perfume oil”, etc) or other harsh chemicals to your dog’s skin and coat. These are detrimental to liver health, and the liver plays a key role in reducing allergic responses by “cleaning” the blood as well as by producing an enzyme that keeps histamine levels in check.

Try to make your house a stress-free environment for your dog. Stress impacts immune system function and may worsen allergies via different mechanisms.

Herbal support

Chamomile – Many folks recognize this as a calming herb, helpful for stressed-out dogs, but did you know that it counters allergies as well? It’s an antihistamine as well as anti-inflammatory herb. Chamomile may also provide allergy support by promoting good digestion. Better digestion means less mucus production and stuffiness during an allergy attack. Also, chamomile is a “liver herb”, further contributing to anti-allergy effects by supporting healthy liver function . The tea may be too bitter to appeal to your dog, so a glycerite extract of chamomile may be the way to go. The extract can be added to a  bit of food three times a day:  3-5 drops for a small dog, around 15 drops for a medium dog and 20-30 drops for a large dog.

Nettle Leaf – Stinging nettles are an exceptionally nutrient-rich edible green, and have potent an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory activities. Ironically enough, nettles contain a small amount of histamine! Nettle leaf is also a detoxifying herb, helping to support metabolism and waste elimination, which in turn may reduce reactivity. Externally, nettle tea can be used as a skin wash to help relieve itchy skin, perhaps not what you would expect if you’ve ever bumped into a nettle plant. A small amount of the tea or a couple pinches of the herb can be added to your dog’s food. Be sure to take breaks, say 2 days a week with no nettle supplementation, and avoid nettle in dogs with kidney disease, as long term use may further irritate the kidneys.

Rose Hips – This is another nutritious anti-histamine herb, and it tastes great. Not only that, rose hips are high in Vitamin C, a nutrient important for immune system health. You can add a few pinches to 1/2 teaspoon of ground rose hips to your dog’s food a couple times a day, depending on the size of your dog. If you have roses in your garden, you can use the hips (the fruit that forms if you don’t deadhead the roses). Just be sure not to use the hips if your rose bush is sprayed with pesticides.

A final note

If your dog seems highly reactive, start with just a minute amount of herb to test for a reaction. Give it a day before going for the full dose. As with people, you may have to experiment with different herbs for your pup to ultimately find the one that does the trick!


Content © Dr. Anna Marija Helt, Osadha Natural Health, LLC. Permission to republish any of the articles or videos in full or in part online or in print must be granted by the author in writing.

The articles and videos on this website for educational purposes only & have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or to substitute for advice from a licensed healthcare provider.