How to Safely and Effectively Address Your Dog’s Skin Allergies

Why do our pets suffer from allergies? And how can we help them overcome these issues? While this is a vast topic, let’s look at some of the basic reasons for allergies and talk about some of the things you can do to help your dog find relief.


What Causes Skin Allergies in Dogs

When an animal’s body is out of balance, it presents with different symptoms because of that imbalance. Skin allergies, and all the itching that goes along with them, are not, in and of themselves, a disease. They’re indicators your pet’s body has built up too many toxins and is frantically trying to rid itself of them.

Because the skin is the largest elimination organ, when the liver and kidneys are overloaded with toxins and the immune system is desperately working to bring everything back into balance, many toxins are forced out of the body through the skin.

This causes itching, hot spots, inflammation, and yeast infections, among other things. And as difficult as it is to see our beloved dogs in discomfort, it’s important to view these symptoms (often labeled as “allergies”) as clues that the body is out of balance. Trying to suppress them without addressing the cause of the symptoms ensures your dog will never find true and long-lasting relief.


Conventional Approaches to “Treating” Skin Allergies in Dogs

Many times, when you take your dog to a traditional veterinarian for allergy symptoms, they’ll tell you the symptoms are caused by a food allergy, flea allergy, or some other environmental allergy. They will often advise you to switch to a different protein source (rarely do they advocate you switch to a raw diet, however). They treat the symptoms instead of addressing the root cause.

Because the root cause isn’t addressed, the symptoms come back over and over, and usually they get worse. This is because the body builds up a resistance to the treatments that were suppressing the symptoms, so you must increase the frequency and/or the dosage.

To make matters worse, often the suggested remedies contribute to the problem. For example, think about steroid shots, which are given by many veterinarians to suppress itching. Your veterinarian may give a steroid shot, for example, of cortisone or prednisone. These are immunosuppressants, which means they suppress the immune system.

The immune system is overactive, but when it’s suppressed, it can no longer do its job and keep the body healthy. If the immune system is out of balance, your pet will never be able to achieve true health. In addition, steroids can cause multiple side effects, such as increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, panting, general loss of energy, development or worsening of infections, vomiting, or nausea.

Veterinarians may also recommend and/or prescribe antihistamines, such as Benadryl. Again, these act as a Band-Aid because they only address the symptom (itching, runny eyes, etc.) and not the actual cause of the problem. And, if the body remains out of balance, it will probably require higher and higher dosages to achieve relief. Think of the Band-Aid solutions as putting a patch on a torn shirt sleeve. The tear is still there, and eventually it will tear again, because the fabric is weak. The patch doesn’t fix the shirt; it just provides a temporary solution. This is exactly what the steroids and antihistamines do.


Addressing Skin Allergies in Dogs Naturally

We’ve established traditional “cures” for allergies don’t really fix the problem. So what, then, will help? Remember the body possesses the innate ability to heal itself—actually, it’s only the body that can truly heal itself. What we must do is give it the proper support to achieve balance again.

Balance is achieved when the toxins are eliminated, the body is nourished properly, and all the systems are working in harmony. There are several steps to this, and depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, you may have to provide them with a little additional support as they get back into balance. Remember, we are not looking to suppress the symptoms, we are looking to achieve total health. Once that’s achieved, the symptoms will no longer be present because the body won’t be in a state of imbalance.

Our goal when faced with allergies is to remove the excess toxins as much as possible from our pet’s environment (and by environment, I am referring to both their external environment and their internal environment). The first step is to make sure your dog is eating a raw diet. Switching your dog to a raw diet will go a long way towards ridding their internal environment of toxins and revitalizing and balancing their immune system to clear out the toxins they do encounter. You also need to make sure they’re getting clean, fresh water. This ensures they aren’t adding to the toxin load every time they take a drink.

In addition to providing them with a raw diet and clean, fresh water, you should consider switching your household cleaners away from those that contain harsh chemicals, and consider stopping use of toxic pesticides (including OTC flea and tick medications) and herbicides.

Once you’ve switched your dog to a raw diet and eliminated ongoing sources of toxins, it’s time to start rebuilding their immune system. Remember, allergies are a reaction to the immune system being out of balance. The immune system needs to be rebuilt so it can respond appropriately to different foreign substances. To rebuild the immune system, provide whole, natural sources of probiotics, enzymes, immunomodulators, and essential fatty acids. Let’s briefly look at each of these to see what it does and where you can find it.


Supplements for Skin Allergies

Probiotics: Reintroduce the good bacteria, allowing the body to absorb vitamins, minerals, and nutrients much more readily. They also help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria so the “bad” bacteria don’t gain a foothold in the body. Good sources are green tripe and/or probiotic supplements.

Enzymes: Responsible for many critical functions in the body, including detoxification and healing. They also allow the body to digest and absorb nutrients from food. They regulate thousands of functions, including thinking. If the body doesn’t have enough enzymes, it will die. In the wild, carnivores naturally get enzymes from the meat and bones of their prey. If your pet has been on a kibble-based diet, its enzyme levels are undoubtedly very low, because cooking and processing kills all the live enzymes that were in the meat. Green tripe is a great source of enzymes, as are other types of raw, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, pasture-raised, organic meat.

Immunomodulators: Can help strengthen a weak immune system or calm down an overactive system. One immunomodulator some people have had great success with is bovine colostrum.

Essential fatty acids (especially omega-3 fatty acids): Provide support for the skin and coat, as well as contributing to joint health, control of inflammation, and allergy reduction. Found in appropriate raw diets, as well as raw fatty fish (such as wild-caught sardines) and krill oil.

Essential oils: Make sure any essential oil you get is pure, therapeutic grade. It shouldn’t contain fillers or impure ingredients. I’ve successfully used lavender essential oil (from Young Living) to help my dog, Barkley, with his allergies. When his allergies are flaring (which does still happen from time to time), I rub a few drops of lavender essential oil in my hands and then pet him. This simple approach generally calms down his itching and biting. I repeat as necessary. You can experiment with different types of essential oils to find out what blend works best for your dog.

Coconut oil: If your dog’s allergies are severe, coconut oil may also help. You can apply it to the areas where he’s itching (it’s OK if he licks it off, although if you can keep him from licking it for a bit so it has time to work, that’s best). You can also feed it so he gets it internally. Before Barkley’s allergies were under control (when we were still flushing out the excess toxins introduced from following conventional practices and rebuilding his immune system), I would use coconut oil internally and externally for him, and it helped a lot.


Finally, remember to keep a positive attitude even though your pet is experiencing allergies. They pick up on our emotions, and when we feel sad or frustrated or disappointed, even if it’s because we’re sad they’re in discomfort, it can depress their energy and their immune system and slow down their healing. Remember their symptoms are a clue something is out of balance, and greet the journey to true health with joy. As they become healthier, the symptoms will begin to subside, and real health will be achieved.





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