Does your dog seem to be constantly scratching an itch? Maybe your buddy licks his paws and bites a lot. It’s possible your dog has allergies and might need some help to alleviate that pesky itch.
Allergies are a very common issue for dogs. There are a number of different treatments currently being used to help treat this however the use of CBD is becoming more and more popular.
This article will take a look at skin allergies for dogs, how it affects your dog, common treatments and how CBD can help relieve your dog’s allergy symptoms.
Skin allergies are a type of allergic reaction. This is very common in dogs and does tend to affect some breeds more than other (German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are said to be extra sensitive to allergies).
Dog skin allergies, like with humans, are caused by an overactive immune system. The immune system is designed to protect from disease and infections by attacking harmful agents in the body. However, when the immune system is overactive it also attached non-harmful environmental substances, mistaking them for biological threats. Essentially this is what creates an allergic reaction.
One of the most common skin diseases affecting dogs is atopic dermatitis which is a chronic inflammatory disease that is associated with allergies. Usually the symptoms become worse during certain seasons (like spring when there is more pollen in the air).
Constant itching is a sign that your dog may have an allergy. Dogs that have skin allergies are known to scratch, lick and chew parts of their body. They may even do this to such an extent that they damage the skin. Some common areas that are affected include:
There are two main sources of skin allergies in dogs: Food and Environmental.
Food Allergies in Dogs
A food allergy can cause skin reactions for dogs. The common factor that triggers this is when the dog’s body misidentifies certain proteins as a threat.
Just like humans dogs can be allergic to different foods like beef, chicken, fish, soy, and carbohydrates just to name a few. In fact dogs need diversity in their diets just like humans. Over time and repeated exposure dogs can become sensitive to the single source of chemically-laced protein they have been getting (often times the meat in their food is loaded with antibiotics and hormones which can cause immune system over-reaction). Providing variety in your dog’s diet can be important to avoid them developing sensitivities to highly processed dry food products.
An average, healthy dog can grow sensitive to certain allergenic ingredients in their food (typically grains and other carbohydrates).
If your dog has a food allergy he may have one or many of these symptoms:
- Digestive upset (gas, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.)
- Inflamed ears
- Nasal discharge
- Red, irritated eyes
- Coughing, sneezing, asthma
- Excessive scratching or chewing areas of the body
- Swollen paws
- Itchy or oozing skin
If your dog does have an allergy to food it is important to determine what it is they are allergic to and remove it from their diet. If you don’t want to pay for an allergy test then you will want to try a process of elimination. Remove something from your dog’s diet, like chicken, for a week or two and see if they get better. If not then remove something else and so on until you find the cause.
Do keep in mind that this can be difficult at times as the dog could be allergic to more than one ingredient. We had a German Shepherd that was allergic to chicken but also pumpkin and a few other ingredients found in many foods. Using the process of elimination became difficult as we thought it was just chicken. We ended up doing an allergy test to determine the cause of the problem.
Environmental Allergies in Dogs
Some dogs have sensitivity to their home surroundings that can manifest into a hyper-sensitivity to certain environmental factors. These dogs can develop a chronic allergic reaction to common household products like cleaners, solvents, pesticides and herbicides.
When dogs have an allergy to a specific allergen, just like humans, they will develop acute symptoms or an allergic reaction. This can affect them all throughout their life. Some common environmental allergens include:
- Dust Mites
- Mold spores
- Pollen from grass or plants
- Animal dander
If your dog is scratching, biting and licking a lot it may be due to an environmental factor rather than food. If your dog has an environmental allergen you may need to make sure you keep things clean and tidy. If they are allergic to dust mites for example keeping up with the dusting can help keep your dog more comfortable.
However, there are some environmental allergens that are harder to keep away such as pollen and animal dander. This is likely when the vet will suggest some medications.
Our German Shepherd I mentioned earlier was also allergic to dander (dog and people – hard to keep that away) as well as grass and he loved to lay in the grass no matter how much we tried to keep him off it. We adjusted his food to remove any allergens in his diet and kept a clean house but there were just some factors we could do little about. He was constantly scratching and ended up with a number of sores as a result.
Current Common Treatments for Dog Allergies
If you believe your dog may have allergies it is important to take him to a vet. Early detection and treatment can be very important in reducing your baby’s symptoms. When undergoing treatment your dog will have regular check-ups with their vet to ensure they are responding to treatment.
Skin allergies are usually treated with:
- Medications: Common allergy medications for dogs include antihistamines (like Benadryl), corticosteroids (like Prednisone), and cyclosporine (like Atopica).
- Antihistamines: These tend to be less effective however do help with reducing the itching. They are usually used in conjunction with corticosteroids.
- Corticosteroids: These have been found to be very effective in treating skin allergies and dermatitis in dogs (in fact this may be the most effective) however they are not recommended for long-term use.
- Cyclosporine: In most cases these medications are effective however they can cause stomach upsets.
- Allergy Vaccines: These can help gradually reduce allergy symptoms over time however this can become rather costly over time.
- Topicals: This includes special shampoos, conditioners, rinses, creams and sprays which can help to reduce the symptoms of allergies and dermatitis. These can make up an important part of the treatment.
Skin allergies can be treated but they cannot be cured.
It is important to note that these treatments are used to help relieve the symptoms but do not address the source of the problem and therefore this is a short-term fix that can lead to a lifelong health problem for your dog. Additionally, the treatments listed above can have significant, potentially very serious side effects.
What is CBD?
Dogs (and humans) have an endocannabinoid system or ECS and this system has one goal: to maintain balance in the body despite whatever is going on outside of it. The ECS has two different kinds of receptors that are found all over the body including the immune system, organs, glands and tissues.
Our bodies (and dog’s bodies) naturally create chemicals that stimulate these receptors. These receptors also respond to phytocannabinoids which are chemicals created by plants like cannabiniol (also known as CBD).
CBD is one of a number of different compounds that can be found in the cannabis plant. This plant produces both the marijuana plant and hemp plant. CBD, sourced from industrial hemp, became legal in the U.S. in December 2018 with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill.
CBD (from hemp) contains a minimal to no amount of THC (legal CBD contains < 0.3% THC). THC is the property in marijuana that has the psychoactive properties and gets you high. As CBD does not have this your dog (or you) will not get high from using CBD.
CBD has gained a lot of attention recently as research has thus far shown it to be a safe and natural chemical that helps to promote positive responses from our bodies (and dog’s bodies).
How CBD Oil Can Help With Dog Allergies
A research paper published in 2009 reviewed the relationship between the ECS (endocannabinoid system) and skin health. The study concluded that the activation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors (in the ECS) could cause specific reactions in a range of skin cells.
Additionally it was found that these CB1 and CB2 receptors were found directly in keratinocytes which is the main element of the epidermis (outer layer of skin). Basically, they found that the ECS was found in parts of the skin which shows that the ECS could be a strong target for skin treatments. The study also discovered that the ECS actually has a main role when it comes down to maintaining the skin’s homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the term used to describe the state of balance which actually supports the health and well-being of the cells. Studies have suggested that the ECS can help to maintain this balance by regulating skin cell growth and survival. Some additional studies have suggested that the ECS is key when it comes to encouraging healthy skin development and growth.
CBD oil affects many canine biological pathways thru the ECS and works to optimize cellular interactions involved in the repair and restoration of whole body systems to maintain normal homeostasis.
There have also been studies completed in 2005 and 2013 that researched the effects of CBD on the skin (the 2005 study was specific to atopic dermatitis). Thru these studies and others it has been found that CBD has beneficial effects on the skin. It has been shown to help relieve skin dryness and itching and people were able to reduce the use of other medications as the CBD provided enough relief. Researchers believe this relief may be due to the high amount of omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids that were found in the oil. The 2013 study also showed that CBD can help the healthy growth of skin which can be helpful in repairing those raw patches of skin from all that scratching.
There have been a number of other studies done as well and thus far the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Most of the studies that have been performed have been on humans rather than dogs however thru additional research it has been found that the human ECS is very similar to the canine ECS and they do behave in a similar fashion with very similar results. Based on this the way CBD effects a person is how it is expected to affect a dog.
CBD has been found to help modulate the inflammatory response of the dog’s cells. CBD acts as a signaling molecule for the communication between the organs, tissues and cellular structure that is involved with allergic responses and inflammation. CBD can help ease the inflammation by suppressing the infiltration and functional activity of T-cells and macrophages at the site of inflammation.
This helps prevent the cascade of the allergic and cellular immune responses which cause the itching and scratching in our furry friends.
Using CBD for Dog Allergies
As I have mentioned before you should always consult with your vet before beginning a CBD treatment as you want to ensure your furry companion does not have a more serious ailment and that the CBD will not cause any complications with any medications they are currently on.
When it comes to allergies you do want to try to find the source and work to remove it for your dog’s diet or environment if you can. In some cases you will not be able to do this (such as an allergy to pollen).
After working to remove anything you can from your dog’s diet and environment and consulting with your vet CBD can be used as a way to help combat the symptoms of the allergies. CBD will not be able to cure the problem as skin allergies cannot be cured however it can help provide some relief to your miserable pup.
I have previously stated that the tinctures (oils) can be the best way to start using CBD for your dog as it allows a better ability to start with a lower dose and adjust up as needed providing a better way to administer and monitor. However, when it comes to skin allergies a spray or topical balm may work best for your dog.
A spray and/or topical balm allows you to apply the CBD directly to the affected area. Many of these products may also have some additional ingredients such as aloe to help soothe the area and promote healthy skin growth.
If the spray or topical does not appear to work then I would try the oil. You can put the oil in your dog’s food, in their mouth or even apply the oil to the affected area directly.
Always start with a lower dose and work your way up to a higher dose as needed. I have found that for many dogs (and humans), depending on the issue and how severe it is, a smaller dose is often sufficient. It is also important to note that as with other herbal medicines CBD may not have an immediate effect on your dog’s condition.
Research is showing that CBD may be a potent new therapy to positively influence the inflammatory response and help reduce (or eliminate) the painful symptoms of allergies in our buddies. However it is far more effective when used in conjunction with dietary and environmental improvements in order to avoid needless exposure to external allergens.
If you have any questions, comments, insights or stories to share please leave a comment below.