Pet environmental allergies and the manifestations of the disease are extremely challenging to manage in our pets, causing much frustration. The most common manifestation of allergies in pets is skin disease and ear infections (red itchy skin, patchy scabs all over the body, hair loss, discharge from the ears, and severely itchy ears). If your pet suffers with allergies, you know firsthand how frustrating and difficult it can be to manage. The most challenging concept for pet parents to understand is that treatment for environmental allergies generally involves management not a cure-all remedy. While many pet parents turn to medication to help manage symptoms, more and more pet parents are looking for natural remedies for allergies in dogs and cats.
So today, I want to walk you through a typical allergy diagnosis and the various treatments I would use in my practice to help your pet. Let’s take a look at one of my patients I actually treat at my animal hospital, how I assess and evaluate him, and what I utilize from a natural holistic approach to help manage his allergies. Let’s get started.
Natural Remedies for Allergies in Dogs and Cats – Food as Medicine
As a veterinarian, my number one goal is to manage disease and keep my patients as comfortable and healthy as possible. Because allergies are so common and something most pet parents manage their entire lives, I began really focusing on the holistic and natural management of this disease a few years ago.
A large part of my natural approach to pet allergies is evaluating their body as a whole system (not just the parts that appear to be effected), diagnosing their bodies’ imbalances, and trying to establish a whole body balance in order to create the healthiest body and immune system to combat allergies and disease. One of the most effective natural remedies for allergies in dogs and cats is changing food and diet.
Newman’s Allergy Journey
Newman is a 6-year-old male neutered French bulldog who has been battling skin infections and ear infections his entire life. The skin and ear infections started when Newman was around 18 months old and appear to occur more often during the spring and summer months. However, as of the past year or so, we have seen more skin infections throughout the year and not just during spring and summer. Newman is about 5 pounds overweight. But he is completely healthy otherwise with no prior history of disease. Newman has been eating Science Diet adult chicken and rice kibble since he was a puppy.
Newman’s Physical Examination Findings with Dr. Birken:
- Heart and lungs – Within normal parameters
- Ears – Left ear has a yeast ear infection, right ear normal, no signs of infection
- Eyes – Normal
- Body – Warm to the touch
- Tongue – Pink and wet
- Pulse – Fast and strong
- Abdomen – Normal
- Skin – Generalized skin infection (scabs and hair loss noted on the belly and back, generalized dull hair coat)
- Pyoderma (skin infection) – Generalized
- Otitis externa of left ear (ear infection)
- Skin and ear infections are secondary to allergies
Newman’s 2-Part Treatment Plan:
1. Western Based Medicine Approach
- Pyoderma (bacterial skin disease) – Start a 3-week course of antibiotics
- Ear infection in left ear (otitis externa) – Start medicated ear drop daily for 14 days and medicated ear cleaner once weekly
- Medicated shampoo
2. Natural Holistic Medicine Approach
From an Eastern Food Therapy (EFT) approach, pets suffering with allergies fall into a warming category and benefit from cooling ingredient diets. So the last thing we would want is for these dogs to be eating chicken, which is classified as containing WARMING proteins.
Because these warming properties will continue to exacerbate the problems.
I switched Newman from a chicken based kibble diet (warming protein that will make his condition worse) to a whole food nutrition based diet. I recommended a diet with cooling ingredients, like rabbit or pork, to help nourish and heal ailments and to promote overall wellness and health.
Instead of treating just the allergy symptoms alone, we’re looking at the diet to restore balance and nourish at the cellular level to help boost the immune system. Boosting the immune system helps ward off environmental allergies before they’re a problem, making our pets less prone to the allergies in the first place!
Kibble based diets have many artificial additives, preservatives, and chemicals. These cause harm to the body, creating an imbalance.
Newman’s Diet Plan:
I set Newman up on a diet plan including foods and supplements with COOLING properties, such as the following:
- Proteins like Duck, Cod, Rabbit, and Pork
- Grain and Beans like Millet, Barley, Brown Rice, and Buckwheat
- Fruits and Veggies like Spinach, Broccoli, Celery, Tomatoes, Watermelon, and Strawberry
- Oils and Condiments like Sesame Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Soybean Oil, and Honey
When my clients want to home cook for their pets, I will create a balanced and whole customized diet plan. It is important to understand that cooking home diets for pets is a science and must be created by your veterinarian to assure there is not a deficiency in vitamins or minerals. Home cooking is wonderful when done appropriately; however, it is not necessary in order to provide your pet with a whole food nutrition diet free of artificial additives, preservatives, and chemicals.
Newman’s mother did NOT want to cook his meals. So we decided to start him on Side by Side whole food nutrition pet food. Here are a few of Newman’s favorite recipes:
- Pork and Duck Air Dried Recipes – Side by Side
- Cooling Pork and Rabbit Stew – Side by Side
- Cooling Rabbit and Blueberry Treats – Side by Side
Supplements to Enhance and Boost Cooling Effects
In addition, I added natural supplements to further create cooling effects on Newman’s body and boost his immune system. They also restore balance and health of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and improve the health of his skin.
I started with supplements rich in Omega-3s to help brain and cell function. Omega-3s have incredible anti-inflammatory properties that many dogs need during allergy season.
Omega-3 fatty acids also provide optimal nourishment to the skin and coat and help relieve joint pain! These amazing supplements help reduce Newman’s flaky, itchy skin, and excessive shedding. They also help his skin retain moisture and hydration.
So to restore the balance of your pet’s skin, I suggest you start in the digestive tract with these Side by Side supplements:
We started with a round of probiotics. Allergy symptoms may be exacerbated if the digestive system is not functioning as a balanced system.
Having a healthy GI tract is essential for dogs because this is where all food nutrients are absorbed and assimilated by the body. Undetected imbalances cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and susceptibility to infections.
Imbalances may also interfere with the immune system’s ability to work properly. Probiotics help bring balance and harmony to the GI tract, which allowed Newman to heal naturally.
Newman’s Response to Treatment
Within just 8 weeks of transitioning Newman to a healthier, whole food nutrition diet that was appropriate for his ailments, he started improving dramatically. His skin and ear infections cleared up, and he now has a shinier beautiful coat. In addition to his skin and ears infections improving, his mom reports that he has lost those extra 5 pounds and overall has more energy and seems happier. She says, “He is acting like a puppy again!”
It has been 1 full year since we transitioned Newman to a healthier diet that is appropriate for his body. He is still doing really well with much fewer skin and ear infections throughout the year!
Final Thoughts on Natural Remedies for Allergies in Dogs and Cats
I love learning and utilizing treatment options that help ease suffering in pets. These newer therapies are replacing older treatment options, such as steroids, that can be harmful on the body with long-term use. Controlling common allergies and itching in pets is difficult and frustrating for me, as a veterinarian. But it’s even more so for my patients and their parents.
I cannot stress enough that environmental allergies in dogs and cats are not curable, only manageable. Using both a Western and Eastern based approach to allergies in pets, we are giving them the best opportunity to combat and manage the disease.
As always, my number one goal is to make sure our pets are happy and healthy. If you have any questions or concerns, always contact your veterinarian. They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.