5 Best Dog Allergy Medicine and Treatment Options · The Wildest

Skip to main content

5 of the Best Ways to Solve Your Dog’s Allergies

Here’s what works (and what doesn’t)

by Marisa Meltzer | expert review by Dr Sam Wheelwright BVSc MRCVS
31 October 2023
Cute weimaraner dog lying on lawn and scratching its back
Alberto Bogo / Stocksy

Dog allergies can be mystifying. Your pup can’t tell you what’s wrong, but it’s agony to watch them itching non-stop. Don’t worry, there are several ways to stop a dog’s scratching and get them back to normal. 

Dr Millie Rosales, a Miami-based veterinary dermatologist who specialises in skin and ear problems in dogs and cats, has some answers for you. Her Instagram account, aptly named @gotitchypet, not only has close-up pictures of inflamed paws, ears and snouts for reference but also witty Reels about flea prevention and the proper use of medication.

In vet school, Dr Rosales felt restricted by the general curriculum. “I felt like I could only take my knowledge so far. If a case got complicated, I had to send it out to a specialist. I felt like I needed more,” she says. “I realised I always liked dermatology and I feel like I’m really good at one thing.”

We asked Dr Rosales for her opinion on a few popular allergy treatments for dogs. Just like she does on the ’gram, she has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Until our pets can tell us what’s bothering them, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Five best allergy treatments for dogs

There’s plenty you can do to improve your dog’s allergy symptoms. Here, Dr Rosales shares her recommendations for dog allergy treatment options that should help bring your pup relief.

1. Apoquel

“It’s a pill that helps with itchiness. Itchiness can mean a lot of different things: scratching, licking, chewing, biting, rubbing even shaking their heads. It’s for allergy-related itchiness rather than mange or other skin conditions. And yes, light-coated dogs tend to get allergies more.

“Apoquel is great for itchiness, but you’re not getting to the source. I think there is no point in keeping a dog on Apoquel for the rest of their life with no consideration of preventing the source of the itch.” Speak to your vet about whether this is a good option for your pup.

2. Cytopoint

“A lot of dogs with environmental allergies have skin infections. Cytopoint injections are in a class of drugs called biologicals. It’s an antibody – a dog antibody – that neutralises a cytokine, which is a protein in a dog’s body that causes itchiness. It’s nice for people who don’t want to medicate daily because it lasts an average of four weeks. The downside is that it’s dosed by weight and comes in individual vials, so it may be expensive for big dogs.” Speak to your vet about whether this is a good option for your pup.

3. Diet

“There’s no one diet out there that will prevent your dog from allergies. There’s this sense of, ‘if I do grain free…’ but grain isn’t the most common thing dogs are allergic to – it’s a common misconception. There are food allergy blood tests out there that are totally unreliable, too. If a dog has a food allergy, the only way we can assess that is through a diet trial. Your vet will either prescribe a diet or recommend a home-cooked diet.

Basically, we need to feed your pet a protein source that they have not been exposed to prior. I see a lot of dogs with chicken allergies, but that’s because chicken is in a lot of dog foods, treats and even toothpaste. They are exposed to a lot of chicken. For prescription diets, I do a lot of rabbit and potato. I think raw food diets for dogs are controversial – I’m not a fan of them personally. My issue with them is bacteria and GI problems.”

 4. Immunotherapy (aka allergy shots)

“Immunotherapy is for environmental allergies. It’s similar to people getting a skin-prick test. It will tell you what exactly is making your pet allergic. Is it tree pollen or weed pollen? Then they will formulate a vaccine, oral or injections, based on the exact allergies. Immunotherapy is one of the best long-term management methods for dogs with environmental allergies. It gives your pet’s body a chance to develop a tolerance and changes the way their immune system reacts to allergens. Maybe it will get a pet off medications entirely or allow them to not have to take them as often.”

5. Topical skin balms and natural remedies

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt but I’m not sure it’s going to work. If they had steroids in them like prescription topicals do, that might help with itchiness.”

Editor’s note: dogs with allergies are more prone to skin conditions such as ringworm and dermatitis caused by bacteria, fungi and yeast (since scratching leaves open wounds on the skin). Prescription and medicated topicals such as antifungal and antimicrobial shampoos, wipes and sprays are recommended for the treatment of these issues.

How do dog allergy treatments work?

“An allergic reaction occurs in dogs because their immune system overreacts when it defends the body from pollen and other allergens. Often, veterinarians will prescribe antihistamines and corticosteroids to reduce allergy symptoms. Antihistamines reduce allergic reactions in dogs by blocking the release of histamine within mast cells, which is the source of that incredibly itchy effect. Steroids, on the other hand, lower the immune system’s response and inflammation in reaction to allergens. But there are downsides to these treatments. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness and even, in some cases, hyperactivity. Steroids can cause increased appetite, weight gain, infection susceptibility and organ damage.”

Common allergy symptoms

“Dog allergy symptoms include the obvious increased sneezing, running eyes, itchy skin and rashes. But you may also notice your pup rub their face on the ground or with their paws, or they may begin scratching their ears or licking their paws.”

Marisa Meltzer

Marisa Meltzer has contributed to The New York Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and is the author of This Is Big: How the Women Who Founded Weight Watchers Changed the World (and Me). She lives in New York City with her dog Joan.

Related articles