Dog Allergy Stories. Clayton, the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Clayton the American Pit Bull relaxing.
Clayton relaxing

Clayton, an American Pit Bull Terrier, was six weeks old when his owner Cassandra brought him home.  Cassandra, a Veterinary Technician, first  suspected that Clayton had allergies when he was four months old and developed Alopecia (a condition which causes hair loss) on his outer thighs.  Cassandra thought that Clayton had Demodex (parasitic mites that can cause hair loss in dogs), but his skin scrapes came out negative.

Shortly after the Alopecia started, Clayton began constantly scratching and chewing at his skin.  This frequent scratching caused the hair on his ears to fall out and the skin under his arms to bleed.  He chewed on his feet and gnawed at his tail from tip to rear. Cassandra placed Clayton on an antihistamine for a month, but found it provided no relief.

Cassandra then asked to be referred to a veterinary dermatologist.  Being in the veterinary field, Cassandra knew how difficult allergies could be for dogs and their owners and she wanted to get Clayton on the right treatment as soon as possible.

Clayton, wearing a t-shirt and socks to prevent chewing and scratching.
Clayton, wearing a t-shirt and socks to prevent chewing and scratching.

The veterinary dermatologist started Clayton on steroids, but the steroids did not end Clayton’s discomfort. For a while, Cassandra also had Clayton on Atopica, a drug designed for dog allergies, but it was also not effective in treating his condition. When the steroids and Atopica did not help, they started Clayton on a food elimination program to try to identify which foods he may be allergic to. They eventually found that Clayton was allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, beef, rabbit and fish. After trying different brands of food, Cassandra eventually found that Nutro’s limited ingredient Venison Meal and Brown Rice food worked. Clayton stopped scratching his ears and chewing on his tail.

Cassandra also made another important food allergy discovery. Many foods and medications contain gelatin, especially many medicine capsules. Gelatin is made from cow parts. Since Clayton and many other dogs are allergic to beef, they can have allergic reactions when they digest gelatin. Cassandra is careful now to avoid gelatins. If a medication is provided in a gelatin capsule, she first opens the capsule and sprinkles the powder on Clayton’s food. She also requests tablet forms of medication when available.

Clayton the pit bull showing hair loss on his ears.
Clayton showing hair loss on his ears.

In addition to food allergies, Clayton also has environmental allergies. Clayton had a skin test when he was seven months old. They found he was allergic to 70 of the 75 allergens, the top three being human dander, wool, and cat dander. He is now on weekly desensitization injections (allergy shots). To eliminate allergens in the home, Cassandra regularly shaves and bathes her cats. She also vacuums each day. Because her dogs sleep in her bed, Cassandra uses a special allergen detergent to wash her bedding.

In addition to his desensitization injections, Clayton receives weekly baths with a chlorhexidine shampoo. He also takes daily Zyrtec and Alaway eye drops. Although Cassandra has Clayton on small amounts of Prednisone, she is hoping to get him off of this steroid treatment soon. Cassandra also purchased a Lycra body suit from K9 Top Coat, which some dog owners use to protect their dog’s skin by reducing irritation.

Clayton the dog in a lycra body suit
Clayton in his new Lycra body suit.

Cassandra’s advice to other dog owners is to not give up. Eventually things will get better for you and your dog, but you will have to be willing to work for it. Think of it from your dog’s perspective, they are itching like crazy and can’t tell you what is making them itch. They need your help to make life more comfortable. Cassandra also recommends that if you find that your dog needs to be on a limited diet, don’t feel bad about not being able to feed them scraps or everyday treats. She suggests using your limited diet kibble as a treat. Your dog won’t know the difference and they’ll just be excited that you are giving them something to eat. Her final word of advice is to join a warehouse membership at a store like Costco or Sam’s Club. Benadryl, Zyrtec and other human medications used to treat dog allergies can be purchased much cheaper at these stores.

After months of trial and error, for the first time since he was a puppy, Clayton is starting to grow some hair on his ears. And, the skin on Clayton’s face and feet is no longer red and swollen. It is likely that Cassandra will always have to treat Clayton’s allergies, but through her efforts, she is giving him a much more comfortable quality of life.

Dog Allergy Stories. Gator the Lab Mix.

Gator - lab mix with dog allergies
Gator resting

Gator is a 13 year old Lab mix. When he was 6 months old, Gator was abandoned along a rural road in South Georgia.  When his owner Catherine rescued him, she noticed that he had severe skin problems.  She assumed that these skin issues were caused by fleas and ticks or that Gator suffered from mange, all common skin problem suffered by abandoned animals. 

After Gator was treated for his ticks and fleas, he was then checked and cleared for mange.  Yet, his skin problems continued. Gator had oozing rashes on his stomach, under his legs, in his groin area and on his muzzle.  He also developed frequent ear infections.  Catherine found that Gator would scratch at his skin until it became raw and bloody. 

Catherine and her family continued to look for other causes for Gator’s skin problems. They began to realize that he was likely suffering from allergies.  Catherine started trying different foods, but found that it had no affect on Gator. They also tried to limit the amount of time Gator spent outside and were careful to wipe him down when he came back indoors. Yet, none of these solutions helped with Gator’s skin condition.     

After about sixteen months of trial and error, Catherine was starting to narrow down the cause of Gator’s allergic reactions.  Catherine discovered that Gator’s allergies were very seasonal, and she believed they were caused by molds and pollen since his allergies are always worse in the Spring and Summer months.  Working with Gator’s vet, they found that the best treatment for Gator’s allergies was through a combination of medication and bathing

To treat Gator’s allergies on a daily basis, Catherine gives Gator a 2.5mg dose of Prednisone (steroid medication), a Claritin tablet and 250mg of milk thistle.  The milk thistle is given to protect Gator from potential liver damage problems which can be caused by continual dosages of Prednisone.  Gator is also given weekly baths.  If Gator is having a strong allergy flare up, Catherine will increase his Prednisone dose up to 10mg daily and his baths are increased to every three days.

Gator has allergies
Gator in his yard

Catherine and her family have found that regardless of where they live, Gator continues to have skin problems.  Their family has lived in Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Virginia, Maryland and Florida and has seen no change in Gator’s allergy problems. 

When asked what advice she would offer to other dog owners, Catherine suggests that owners never assume that their dog is allergic to just one thing.  If the dog has allergies, they are usually allergic to several different elements.  She also suggests that if dog owners decide to use Prednisone, they should go with the lowest dosage available and look into giving them milk thistle to prevent against liver damage.  Owners should be open to trying new medications and therapies and never give up.  It’s important to try everything they can to keep their pup as comfortable as possible. 

Catherine has certainly been keeping Gator comfortable. He is thirteen years old and going strong thanks to her efforts to keep his allergies under control.

Dog Allergy Stories. Opal the Shar Pei.

Opal the Shar Pei

Opal is a five year old purebred Shar Pei and a champion show dog.  She is one of the top dogs of her breed in the country and also a wonderful family pet. Opal’s owner Sarah inherited Opal after she retired.  Opal lives in the same home as Bailey, another of our featured allergy dogs.  

Sarah says Opal never showed signs of allergies until she moved from her kennel into Sarah’s house.  Sarah isn’t certain what the cause of Opal’s allergies is, but she does know that her symptoms started after she moved indoors.  Sarah first discovered that Opal might have allergies when she started scratching her skin until it started to bleed. Opal also suffered from hair loss.

“Even top quality dogs from great breeding can have allergies,” said Sarah.  “The key for owners is to find a way to make their dog comfortable.”

Opal and Bailey - Allergy Dogs

When Opal shows signs of allergies, Sarah has found that giving her a Benadryl once a day does the trick. She’ll give Opal two per day if her allergies are particularly bothersome.  The Benadryl keeps Opal comfortable and stops the itching.

Allergies aren’t keeping Opal down.  Sarah plans to enter Opal in Rally and Obedience next year. Go Opal!

Does your dog have allergies too? If so, we’d love to hear your story. Please email us at to share your dog allergy story.

Dog Allergy Stories. Bailey, the AKC Rally Dog.

Sarah & Bailey at Bailey’s Rally event

Bailey is a stray Sarah took in five years ago.  She is a mixed breed who shows signs of earlier abuse. She has been a wonderful pet and shows in AKC Rally. In fact, Bailey is one qualifying score away from a rally title!

Sarah first discovered that Bailey had allergies when she would frequently get sick after eating.  Bailey’s allergy symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss and itchy skin.  Bailey would sometimes get so sick after eating that Sarah would have to rush her to the vet to treat her for dehydration and lack of appetite.

After much trial and error, Sarah discovered that Bailey had a rice allergy. They immediately stopped feeding her rice formula food and Sarah is now careful to avoid feeding Bailey any foods with rice.

Does your dog have allergies too? If so, we’d love to hear your story. Please email us at to share your dog allergy story.

My Boxer has Dog Allergies – Elsie’s Story

Elsie as a Puppy – trying to stay awake.

Elsie is a four year old Boxer dog and the inspiration for Allergy Dog Central and by book, “My Dog Has Allergies?!“. Before she came into my life I had no idea that dogs could have allergies.

We acquired Elsie through a local family, who could easily be considered to be backyard breeders. I thought I did my research by calling her parents’ veterinarian to ask about the parents’ health, but that call uncovered nothing. After living through Elsie’s health problems, I find it hard to believe that one or both of them did not have allergies as well.

Elsie with her ear-protecting bandage

Elsie started to exhibit allergy symptoms when she was a puppy. It started with her rubbing her chin and graduated to violent scratching, foot chewing, vomiting, diarrhea, skin infections, ear infections, hair loss, and on and on.

By the time she was two years old, my family was spending over $2,000 a year on allergy treatments and vet visits. For over a year, we had her on Atopica, which if taken frequently, can be expensive. Although I hear that others have had good experiences with this medication, for Elsie it helped with the itching, but did not stop the infections.

Elsie in her favorite spot.

We were spending money like crazy yet her health was continuing to deteriorate. Faced with the possibility of not being able to afford our dog, I took to the Internet and tried to figure out how we could “fix” our sick dog.

After much trial and error and the help of a great Veterinary Dermatologist, Elsie is finally living a normal dog life. We had Elsie tested for allergies and we now give her regular allergy shots. These allergy shots have worked wonders and are considerably less expensive than the medication we had her, not to mention the frequent antibiotics and vet visits.

In addition to the allergy shots, I also switched Elsie to a limited ingredient dog food. I chose Natural Balance Sweet Potato and Venison formula. Since we found that she was allergic to feathers (among many other things), I thought it would be best to move her from her original Duck and Potato formula. The dog food change worked wonders for her digestive system as well.

Along with Elsie’s allergy shots and new food, we’ve also found good results from regular baths and ear cleaning sessions.  We bathe Elsie every two weeks using Duoxo Chlorhexidine PS Shampoo.  This shampoo was recommended by our pet dermatologist.   It never dries out her skin and leaves her coat glossy and smooth.   I was amazed at how well it works.  We also have a weekly ear cleaning session using Epi-Otic ear cleaning solution.  This keeps her ears dirt free and smelling good, which prevents excess scratching.

Kathy & Elsie

I’ve learned that no two dogs are the same. The treatments that have worked wonders for Elsie may not work for another dog exhibiting the same symptoms.  And, there are varying degrees of allergies.  Some dogs can easily be treated with a Benadryl or a medicated shampoo bath.  Others, like Elsie, have much more severe cases that require more aggressive treatment.

Although there is no magic solution or cure for dog allergies, there are ways to keep them under control.

Does your dog have allergies too? If so, we’d love to hear your story. Please email us at to share your dog allergy story.

Kathy & Elsie