Sneezing, excessive stretching, and watery eyes are all signs that your beloved dog is dealing with allergies. While there are many ways to help relieve your canine’s allergy symptoms, veterinarians will sometimes prescribe Rx medications for severe cases.
Here’s what you need to know about allergy meds for dogs.
4 common irritants dogs are allergic to
- Pollen. The same pollen causing “hay fever” in people can cause seasonal allergic reactions in dogs. Dogs might inhale pollen floating through the air from trees or plants, or sniff growing grass and weeds. Tree and grass pollen seasons tend to last from spring to mid-fall.
- The environment. Dogs can react to environmental elements like pollen, dust, mold, and animal dander. Depending on what’s bothering your canine companion, dogs might experience environmental allergies seasonally or constantly.
- Flea allergies. When adult fleas bite your precious pup, they inject a small amount of saliva into the dog’s skin, causing an itchy response. According to VCA Hospitals, just one flea bite is enough to cause itching for several days, which means you might see your dog scratch and scratch. Your dog doesn’t need to be infested with fleas to show a reaction, and all dog breeds can experience flea allergy dermatitis.
- Foods. Sometimes dogs can be allergic to something in their kibble or treats. They may be sensitive to proteins commonly found in dog kibble, like beef, chicken, or lamb.
How dog allergies are treated
Treatment for your doggie’s allergies depends on the severity of your pet’s symptoms and their overall health. Veterinarians will first work to determine if your dog’s symptoms are allergy related or due to another underlying health condition. They may run an allergy test to determine what your dog is allergic to.
To treat severe dog allergies, vets may prescribe a combination of medication, supplements, and topical therapies like shampoos and conditioners. “Sometimes, there is never a 100% fix for your dog’s allergies,” according to Dr. Erica Irish.
Dr. Erica Irish
It can take a lot of testing and a lot of trial-and-error to figure out what your dog is allergic to and how you can help ease their symptoms.
3 common Rx allergy meds for dogs
In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend a popular Rx medication for your dog. Here’s a quick breakdown of prescription medications for dog allergies.
Apoquel is an anti-itch tablet medication for pets with allergies. The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine states that dogs under a year old or those with serious infections shouldn’t use this drug and notes that it could increase susceptibility to infection. “It is stronger than antihistamines but is a non-steroid so it doesn’t have many adverse effects,” says Dr. Irish.
Another anti-itch medication, Cytopoint, is made to give dogs relief within 24 hours that lasts anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. It’s a non-steroid. Your local veterinarian can inject Cytopoint with a shot.
Prednisone is an anti-inflammatory drug that’s used to treat allergic reactions, itching, and anaphylactic reactions. Long-term use of prednisone can lead to GI disturbance, diarrhea, weight gain, vomiting, and other symptoms. Our veterinary advisor, Dr. Dwight Alleyne, commonly prescribes prednisone for his dog patients with allergies.
2 OTC allergy medications that are commonly prescribed for dogs
You might already be familiar with these over-the-counter medicines for people, but there are a few things to know before you use them on your favorite four-legged friend.
Most dogs can safely take Benadryl to relieve allergy symptoms like sneezing and itching. However, dogs with pre-existing health conditions like lung disease and glaucoma shouldn’t take the antihistamine, and it’s always a good idea to ask your vet before giving your dog a drug. Merck Veterinary Manual suggests that you give dogs 1-2 milligrams of Benadryl for each pound your dog weighs, twice a day.
👉 Dr. Irish advises starting large dog breeds on the maximum dose of 75 milligrams and watching their progress.
Zyrtec is popular because unlike Benadryl, the antihistamine doesn’t cause sleepiness. Zyrtec isn’t FDA approved, but in most cases it’s a safe choice for treating your dog’s allergies. In rare cases, dogs may experience constipation, vomiting, excessive salivation, and urine retention.
🚨 Never give your dog Zyrtec-D, as it contains a dangerous ingredient, pseudoephedrine, which can harm dogs.
3 natural alternatives to treat your dog’s allergy symptoms
Once you know that allergies are causing your pup to feel under the weather, you’ll want to help them feel better. There are many supplements designed to treat canine allergy symptoms. Here are a few of our favorite natural supplements that will give your dog some relief — just remember that supplements treat, but don’t cure, allergies.
Organic, veterinarian-recommended pills
Native Pet Allergy Immunity for Dogs
Native Pet’s Allergy Immunity for Dogs is formulated to aid immune support with nine natural ingredients, including real chicken, spirulina, and chicken bone broth. Dogs can easily chew on the soft, air-dried supplements that work to support their histamine response.
Amazon customers report that Native Pet’s supplements really help their dogs’ itchy skin, ear infections, and other allergy symptoms.
👉 Dogs with chicken or fish allergies should avoid this one!
Ingredients: Spirulina, dried fermentate, colostrum, B. coagulans, real chicken, chicken bone broth, organic coconut glycerin, dried whole krill, and natural tocopherols.
Made with 100% pure salmon oil
Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil by Natural Dog Company
Made in the USA, Natural Dog Company’s natural oil is formulated with only one ingredient: pure salmon oil, which naturally includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids aid dogs’ overall health by supporting heart health, cognitive abilities, joint and muscle health, and immune systems.
The fatty acid gives dogs softer coats, and allows them to experience less itching and shedding — something some Amazon customers saw in their canine companions after dosing dogs with this oil.
👉 This salmon oil shouldn’t be served to dogs with fish allergies.
Ingredients: Wild Alaskan salmon oil.
Relieves allergy related symptoms
Premium Care Aller-Immune Chews
What we love: Packed full of vitamin C and natural ingredients, these chews boost dogs’ immune systems, help their digestive system, and support the development of muscle and skin. We love that these supplements are free of any artificial preservatives and added sugars.
These soft chews are specifically made to fight environmental and seasonal allergies. They’re packed with vitamin C and made with natural ingredients like kelp and bee pollen as well as colostrum, which support the growth of muscles, skin, and bones. Several Amazon reviewers saw their dogs’ excessive licking and itching stop almost immediately, and others noted that it reduced redness and rashes.
Ingredients: Bee pollen, kelp, vitamin C, organic licorice root, and colostrum.
👉 Check out our full list of dog allergy supplements, recommended and approved by our vets
Ingredients that help doggie itches and sneezes
While there are many ingredients found in dog supplements, these 3 ingredients are commonly included in supplement formulas for their effectiveness at treating canine allergies.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Dogs need omega-3’s as a part of their diet to aid their cognitive function, immune system, and treat allergy symptoms. Puppies need omega 3’s to support their overall growth. Omega 3’s are especially helpful for supporting skin and coat health, as it makes dog coats silky soft and reduces itchy, flaky skin.
- Vitamin E. This essential vitamin is a popular choice in dog food, shampoos, and supplements for its many health benefits. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that improves immune functions, supports eye, coat, and heart health, and is found naturally in salmon and fish oil along with those omega-3 fatty acids.
- Turmeric. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory herbal supplement. Though there hasn’t been a lot of research on the spice’s health benefits, it’s said to have antibacterial properties, aid joint support, digestive function, and infection prevention. Several supplement brands like Zesty Paws and Kangaroo Dogs use turmeric in their formulas.
👉 Many well-balanced dog foods contain enough vitamin E for your dog, so be sure to check with your vet to prevent overdosing.
Always talk with your vet about the best treatment
Before you begin giving your dog new medication or supplements, you need to talk to your veterinarian to ensure that it’s the best call for your canine companion. The symptoms you see in your dog may be signs of a more serious health condition — and your vet can confirm if the skin issues are allergy-related or not. Once they determine that allergies are the cause, vets will focus on anti-itch therapy, antimicrobial therapy, and other short- and long-term treatments.
Veterinarians are the best people to help you decide whether a prescribed medication or natural supplement works for your dog. They’ll know if your medication or supplement will interfere with other drugs your dog takes or affect their overall health. Depending on the degree of your dog’s symptoms, a natural supplement might not be enough.
Dr. Erica Irish
Mild itching can be helped with antihistamines while severe itching is better helped with Apoquel or Cytopoint, or even steroids in some cases.
In addition to dosing dogs with a medication or supplement, you’ll need to use other products like shampoos, conditioners, and sprays to keep your pooch comfortable.
“Topical therapy is critical for environmental allergies. Besides wiping paws and bellies, routine bathing is key,” says Dr. Erica Irish. “Conditioners, topical sprays, and leave-on mousse products are also a big help because you can treat deep skin infections without having to use oral antibiotic/antifungals for many weeks, which risks resistance.”
Tips to keep your dog safe around prescribed medications
In addition to regularly giving your dog any prescribed allergy medication, you’ll need to safely store your medicines, fill prescriptions, and ask your veterinarian for advice.
Chat with your vet before giving your dog prescription medicine — Drugs and supplements can negatively interact with each other, so it’s safer to consult your vet first.
Ask vets questions — It’s perfectly natural to have follow up questions after getting a prescription. A few good questions to ask your veterinarian:
- What to do if you miss a dose
- What adverse symptoms and side effects to look out for
- What to do if your dog reacts negatively
- Why this medication is right for your dog
- When you should contact your veterinarian again
Keep medication out of reach of dogs and kids — Dogs are sneaky thieves of table scraps, shoes, socks — and yes, they can (and will) get into medication if the opportunity arises. Place human and dog medications up high out of reach of dogs.
Double check the label — Pharmacies can make mistakes, so check to make sure that the prescription and dose of the drug matches your veterinarian’s directions.
Follow label directions — Give your dog medicines as prescribed and store them correctly in the bottle they came in at the correct temperature.
Never use another dog’s medication on another dog, cat, or human — This is probably obvious, but medication can get mixed up. These drugs may not be safe for your other household pets.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best allergy medicine for dog allergies?
The best allergy medication for your canine is the one your veterinarian recommends for their specific allergies. Many veterinarians will recommend an antihistamine to treat their symptoms.
Is there a daily allergy pill for dogs?
Yes, Zyrtec and Claritin can be given to dogs once a day; Benadryl is given twice a day. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet about the appropriate dosage for your dog’s size and age.
What do vets prescribe for dog allergies?
What your veterinarian prescribes for dog allergies depends on their severity. For mild itching, vets may prescribe antihistamines. For severe allergies, vets may do allergy testing so they can do immunotherapy to boost your dog’s immune system.
“This way, reactions to allergens are much less intense. Immunotherapy is the closest that anyone can get to a “cure” for allergies,” says Dr. Erica Irish. “Intense itching can be helped with Apoquel, Cytopoint, or steroid medications. In other cases, immunosuppressant medications like Atopica may be necessary.”