There are four main types of allergies in dogs: flea, food, contact, and transdermal or inhalant allergies, also known as atopy or atopic dermatitis. Atopy essentially means environmental allergies; where a dog has a surplus of histamine due to high concentrations of pollen in the air, leading to pesky symptoms that include itching, scratching, biting, and chewing.
Just like humans, environmental allergy indicators pop up seasonally, however sometimes symptoms cross-over from food allergies or other catalysts, so consult your vet before dosing your dog. (If you’re concerned about food allergies, talk to your vet.)
1. Over-the-counter antihistamines: Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec
These over-the-counter choices work well for environmental allergies but come with many side effects, and vets even claim that they’re only effective in 30% of dogs. Furthermore, while they may work in the beginning, they may lose effectiveness over time. More than a few sites also called attention to the fact that Collies and other herding breeds may have a genetic mutation that makes certain OTC drugs very dangerous. So, always check with your veterinarian before administering human medications.
Side effects include sedation, especially in pets who are already on central nervous system depressants, certain pain relievers and seizure medications. Note that the dosage is never the same as it is for humans, and cost is anywhere from $5-$20 depending on your retailer and quantity purchased.
This not-messing-around option is much stronger. Corticosteroids (also called “allergy shots” unless they’re taken orally) are much more effective at treating allergy symptoms but can come with risky side effects. They cannot be used without the direction of a vet, and you will have to have your pet tested.
The good news? Allergy shots have up to an 80% success rate. The bad news? It can take 6 to 9 months to start seeing results. However, the ultimate pro is that your pet will eventually see relief. A prescription for oral meds administered at home may cost around $40 for a 30-day supply, whereas vet visits for an injection may cost $50 to $150 each time.
Surprisingly, Apoquel is not a steroid, cyclosporine or antihistamine. Instead, it belongs to a class of drugs called “Janus kinase inhibitors,” which work on the brain signals that result in itching and inflammation and suppress the overactive immune system. The official side effects: “Apoquel may increase susceptibility to infection, including demodicosis (mange). It may also exacerbate neoplastic conditions (growths). Adverse reactions reported in a masked field study included diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, new cutaneous or subcutaneous lumps, and lethargy.” The capsules are easy to administer, and for a medium to large size dog, this will cost approximately $3 per pill (Rx of 28 pills comes to a total of $84).
This post is brought to you in partnership with Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, the no. 1 customer-rated provider of insurance for dogs and cats in the U.S. As a pet health insurance company, Healthy Paws sees firsthand the claims that come through for common accidents and illnesses as well as serious chronic conditions. By insuring your pet, you can say "yes" to many quality of life-boosting treatments. It’s one preventative measure that will help in the long run.