My dog Belle has allergies as well as sensitive skin, which can be a terrible combination. She itches and scratches all year round, sending fur flying throughout the house (thank goodness for the Roomba – for those of you who have dogs who shed year-round, this is a blessing!). Her skin sometimes gets really inflamed. The inside of her ears will turn pink and her belly will develop “hot spots.” She does some pretty weird things but I knew this was a real problem when she started really scratching at her ears and rolling her head on the carpet to try and reach the itchy parts.
Dogs can be allergic to many things, including foods, airborne allergens like dust mites and pollen, and even flea bites. I suspect Belle is allergic to several things as her symptoms are year-round. But I know that flea bites are a definite trigger.
Signs of Allergies in Dogs
- Itchy, pink or red ears often apparent as dog scratches the ears a lot or rubs them on the carpet
- Frequent scratching
- Loss of hair at the base of the tail and scratching this spot
- Patches of hair loss that show red, flaky, inflamed or crusty skin
- Eyes running
- Frequent sneezing
- Constant licking of spots
- Chewing of his paws
Ways to Help a Dog with Allergies
Bathing in Medicated Shampoos
There are a couple of things that I have found work pretty well for her. Although many veterinarians and dog experts recommend that you don’t wash your dog often, I have found that washing Belle once a week in the spring and summer months actually seems to help her. She will start scratching more frequently when it gets closer to the time for her to get a bath. If I wait longer than a week, I can tell that the itching is worse.
One of the best shampoos I have found to help relieve her itching is Happy Jack Itch No More. Now, this stuff smells pretty bad (it contains coal tar, the same stuff as in T-Gel) but I actually prefer this smell than some of the perfumed dog shampoos out there.
We have also started her on antihistamines to try and stem the problem. It’s too early to tell if they are working, but it does seem to be helping. This first batch is from the vet, but I think that over-the-counter human pills will work the same as long as I am sure to get the correct dosage.
Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs
I will never use prednisone to treat the inflammation again. About three weeks ago we had some warm weather which caused a hatching of fleas (don’t know where they came from). Belle was scratching for a week before I realized what was happening. By that time, her skin was red and splotchy and she smelled a little bit worse than usual. I heard on the radio that dogs sometimes develop a secondary bacterial infection after a flea problem, so we went to the vet on a rainy day (Belle’s deathly afraid of rain and thunder, so imagine the shaking involved in that trip) to get some advice.
Although I asked several questions about prednisone treatment (I had read about the degeneration of muscle tissue in humans from long term use), I agreed to give it a shot to get Belle’s inflammation under control. The vet recommended a 5 day course of two pills a day which would then taper off over the next ten days. But by day three, we had a problem.
Now, the vet warned me that Belle would drink more, but he didn’t mention that she would have to pee about every two hours (I guess I should have inferred that). The first night she took a pill, I left her in the house (it was a cold night) for about four hours one night to come home and find an accident on the floor. She had never done this before, but I wasn’t sure if it was the medicine or not.
The next day she was asking to go out every two or three hours. Now, sometimes my dog tricks me into thinking she needs to go out to pee so that she can see what the commotion is outside, but this was no joke. She could barely make it out the door before she had to pee.
By the evening of the third night, she had become incontinent. Although it was after hours at the vet’s office, I was worried. Luckily they had an after-hours hotline number. In about an hour, the vet called me back and provided an adjustment to the prednisone treatment -taking her off the medicine much quicker than originally prescribed, but still safely tapering off the dosage.
I don’t think I will ever use prednisone again. It seems like too drastic of a treatment for something like allergies and skin inflammation. For now, I will maintain with baths and allergy meds and keep an eye out for any skin issues.