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Environmental Allergies in Dogs

Barking Bistro Environmental Allergies

Another huge subject here folks.  Here at barkinBISTRO we will share as much information as we can in this article and hope it helps you to understand a little more about this complicated issue.

As many as 40% of dogs suffer from allergies, in our opinion that is a huge amount! If your pup is suffering from allergies, you will probably have discussed food as the culprit with your vet, but environmental allergies are more common.

A slightly longer article than normal for us at barkinBISTRO, but we feel strongly that if your pup has this problem, you need to know as much information as possible, so we will break it up to make reading easier, and as always, if you have any questions, we are always here to help. Make a cup of tea or coffee and get stuck in!

Also known as ‘atopy’, canine atopic dermatitis is an allergic skin condition in your pup that causes itching, red sore skin and affects at least 10% of our pups, normally before the age of 3.

Commonly affected breeds are:

  • Boxers
  • Cairn Terriers
  • English Setters
  • Fox Terriers
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Jack Russel Terriers
  • Labradors
  • Lhasa Apso’s
  • Poodles
  • West Highland Terriers

Any breed can be affected, but the above breeds seem to suffer more.

Environmental Allergies in Dogs and What Causes Them.

Allergies occur when your pup’s immune system over-reacts to something in the environment, this is called a trigger and can be pollen, dust, mould, or chemical substances in the air. Your pup’s very clever immune system recognises these as enemies, so the antibodies try to fight them off.

There are five different categories of antibodies in your pup’s body:

  • IgA
  • IgB
  • IgC
  • IgE

It is the IgE that gives the body an immediate response to an allergen and these IgE antibodies are on high alert to send signals to the immune system to say “help – get this out of my body”.

When this happens in your pup, the IgE antibodies attach to mast cells that are in the connective tissues which help to regulate the immune system.  These mast cells can contain chemicals like histamine that fight the allergens.  These histamines, as we know can cause all the problems you are seeing in your pup, redness, sneezing and inflammation.

Allergies and Symptoms – which type does my dog have?

Environmental allergies are normally seasonal and you may find that your pup gets itchy, red and uncomfortable in early spring, when the pollen is starting.  This can go on until late summer and may often stop completely during the winter.

Allergies from food sensitivities have similar symptoms and of course we have to look at food here, which may mean doing an elimination diet

Does your pup have any of these symptoms?

  • Runny eyes
  • Itching and scratching the body
  • Licking paws excessively
  • Hives
  • Ear infections
  • Hair loss
  • Sneezing
  • Hot spots

What may be causing these problems?

Although this article is about environmental allergies, it is also worth looking at these quite frightening chemicals that can do a great deal of harm to our four-legged friends too.  Often pollen, dust and food is blamed, but the items listed below can have a detrimental effect too and the above symptoms are often seen in both environmental and food allergies in dogs.

  • Household chemicals such as bleach and other products contain sodium hypochlorite that irritates the skin.
  • Garden and lawn products contain chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides that can irritate skin, paws and noses.
  • Laundry detergent – some contain dyes, chemicals and perfumes that cause itchy skin and may be missed when washing dog bedding or your own sofa!
  • Fluoride in your water can be an irritant.
  • Shampoos can often contain SLS, propylene glycol and parabens that can irritate the skin.
  • Remember that the skin is the biggest organ in the body and will absorb everything it comes into contact with.
  • Harvest mites are hideous little six-legged things in their larval stage and they inject a digestive enzyme into the dog’s skin.  The mites feed on this for around 2-3 days before dropping off after they have increased in size by up to 4 times, similar to a tick. Often found in kibble bags, due to the grain content.
  •  Scented candles are also toxic for your pup – use natural beeswax with organic essential oils if you want to be safe.

Use the most natural and chemical-free detergents to keep your home clean and try to use bottled (glass of course!) water.  A great way to test whether your water is pure is to see whether there is any slime around the bowl – this normally indicates that there could be fluoride in the water and can make a big difference if changed. Check out our Ingenious Probiotics range here.

How do I treat environmental allergies in my dog?

Clearly the best way way is to try to avoid taking your pup near things you know will give them a ‘flare-up’ but this is not always practical if you live near fields that are sprayed with chemicals, or even parks that have regular “round-up” treatments to kill certain weeds, plus the normal pollens your pup may be sensitive to.  We know that you can’t keep your pup inside for weeks and months at a time.  Trying some of our natural remedies can help significantly.

Talking to your Holistic Vet or Canine Nutritionist may help, and in our opinion here at barkinBISTRO, your conventional vet, however wonderful he or she is, will probably only offer solutions such as Apoquel, Cytopoint, steroids and other chemical options, which will take the problem away quickly, but sadly is just masking the problem and suppressing your pup’s immune system, which in turn, could make your pup much more vulnerable to other diseases.

It’s a really tough one folks, we totally understand anyone reading this could be so desperate that they will try anything to help their pup, but please think carefully before trying any of these conventional drugs, as we often see the side effects, which are not good.

Natural remedies for environmental allergies

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar (with The Mother) can help to relieve allergy itching and is a quick and cheap way to help if you pup has itchy feet, the most common place as your pup’s feet are the nearest to the possible offending problem.

Using two parts of water to one part of apple cider vinegar as a foot bath may help to soothe and is best done after a walk.  Soaking your pup’s feet for about 5 minutes if possible in a washing up bowl. Gently towel dry your pup’s feet, so that the apple cider vinegar keeps working.

You can also make a body rinse with apple cider vinegar if your pups skin is very itchy.  Simply use 1 cup of boiled and cooled water mixed with half a cup of apple cider vinegar and half a cup of cooled green tea – mix together and use as a rinse after shampooing with a gentle shampoo.

  1. Bovine Colostrum

Bovine colostrum can be good for boosting your pup’s immune system and the primary antibody in bovine colostrum is IgG that can help to boost your pup’s immunity to some common allergens.  Bovine colostrum may also help as an anti-inflammatory.  Always try a small amount to start with. 

  1. Honey

Honey that is local to you can be very helpful as the bees will have collected the local pollen in your area.  Try offering some honey on a teaspoon to your pup as often they know what they need and will take it.  This is never a quick fix folks, but if your pup does select honey, you can offer some every day.  

  1. Nettles

A free natural herb – the good old common nettle! The histamine content in nettles can help to protect your pups body from an attack of allergens.  Using gloves so you don’t get stung is important of course!  You can pick fresh nettle tops and make ‘nettle tea’ having steeped the nettles in boiling water and left to cool.  Nettle seeds can also be harvested and used all year as they keep well in an airtight container.  They are also great in salads for humans!

  1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids help to regulate the inflammatory response that cause allergies and lots of research has been done to prove this.  Mackerel and sardine are great sources of oily fish to try as they have a higher content of EPA and DHA. Green lipped mussels are also a great source of omega-3 oils and can help to reduce inflammation and itchiness in your pup. See our Proflax products here.

  1. Quercetin

Often referred to as “Natures Benadryl”, quercetin is a safe, natural antihistamine for your pup. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that can provide natural allergy relief for your pup, such as itching, excessive licking and chewing. Research does show that quercetin can turn off histamine production and help to stop the production of inflammatory molecules and prevent itching.

Please note: Quercetin is not recommended for dogs with kidney disease and should not be used long term.

  1. Chamomile, Calendula and Green Tea

These three natural remedies have wonderful properties that soothe and cool irritated itchy skin and reduce inflammation making them excellent choices.  Either use a balm or soak dry herbs in the bath.

A few extra tips to help with environmental allergies

  • When vacuuming, put your pup in another room as vacuuming can stir up dust and cause any allergies to become worse.
  • When back from a walk, use a damp tea-towel and wipe your pup down to remove any pollen they may have picked up.  Also great for removing any awful ticks that may have jumped on to your pup’s coat too!
  • Checking your home for mould too, as mould can be very harmful for everyone.
  • Avoid flea and tick treatments and regular vaccinations as these can trigger bad reactions in your pup. Natural remedies, titre testing, and doing a regular worm count will help put your mind at rest.

Why a fresh raw diet can help with environmental allergies

A raw diet can make a significant difference to a dog’s skin.  Using oily fish that is full of omega 3, 6 and 6 and essential fatty acids.  Often chicken is blamed for itchy skin and some dogs can be allergic to chicken as it is a very overfed protein.  Normally found in dry kibble and can often be feathers, beaks and other parts of chicken which are a waste product.  Outdoor raised chicken is often a different story, partly because it is full of vitamin D and lives a normal healthy outside life, eating what it is designed to and not fed high amounts of grain that may contain storage mites. We often find that dogs that can’t tolerate commercial chicken diets, thrive on a good quality fresh raw diet, like we produce at barkinBISTRO


Keeping a diary of what you are trying is a great way of knowing what is working and what is not. As we mentioned earlier folks, this is a big subject and making small changes to see what your pup reacts to is the best way forward.  As with all our advice, do check with your holistic vet first, before trying anything you are unsure of.

We do know that natural remedies are the way forward and although they may take a little longer to work, your pup is much more likely to have good health and longevity if not given excessive medication.

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