Can You Give A Dog Claritin For Itching – Looking for everything you need to know about dog allergy medicine? Help is here. Integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Busby guides you through the signs, symptoms and treatment options for dog allergies, including the latest on newer allergy medications like Apoquel® and Cytopoint®.
While allergies are a very common problem in dogs, it doesn’t make it any easier for you or your beloved canine companion to suffer.
Can You Give A Dog Claritin For Itching
Fortunately, veterinary medicine now has more to offer our itchy canine companions beyond Benadryl® and Prednisone, the “allergy” canine allergy medications of decades past. There are newer veterinary medications such as Apoquel and Cytopoint that can quickly relieve itching.
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By the end of this article, you’ll have a comprehensive list of nine solutions for dogs with allergies that includes Benadryl, Apoquel, and Cytopoint. Continue reading or jump to a specific topic by clicking on any of the headings in the table of contents below.
Before we talk about some strategies for treating allergies in dogs, we must first define the types of allergies that dogs suffer from. Allergies to dogs fall into three main categories:
Environmental allergies, also known as seasonal allergies, atopy or atopic dermatitis, are exactly what the name would suggest – allergies to ingredients in your dog’s environment. The most common environmental allergens include:
Food allergies, also known as an adverse skin reaction (CAFR), occur when your dog’s immune system sees a food or ingredient as an allergen. There are a variety of foods that have been implicated in food allergies in dogs. The most common culprits are beef, chicken, lamb and wheat.
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Dogs with flea allergies are not allergic to the presence of fleas themselves, but to the flea saliva deposited on the skin when it bites the dog. This means that it only takes a few flea bites to cause significant itching in a flea-allergic dog.
To further complicate matters, a dog may suffer from one, two or all three of these types of allergies. The symptoms of these allergies have a cumulative effect, which is why your vet may treat your dog with a combination of dog allergy medications, especially if your dog has more than one type of allergy. Unfortunately, there is no “magic bullet” that works in all cases all the time.
Dogs with moderate to severe allergies often scratch constantly, lick their paws obsessively, and fight an ear infection or skin infection. In short, the quality of life decreases for these itchy dogs. They are too busy scratching and licking to fully enjoy the simple pleasures of a dog.
I recently met Zachary – a 65 pound food mix who had allergies. In addition, he was frail, suffering from back pain, lower back weakness, and intervertebral disc disease in his neck.
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His mother wisely realized that contorting his body into unnatural positions to scratch himself all day was the last thing she needed to do. She knew he needed relief from his environmental allergy symptoms, which were at their worst in the spring.
Mom would take him to the vet for a steroid shot. (More to come on how steroids can produce wonderful results, but the body pays a price.) In Zachary’s case, his liver enzymes were elevated and he was now taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
NSAIDs and steroids should not be used together because of possible damage to the digestive system (ulcers) and kidneys.
So even though my little one came to me for his neck acupuncture, I was excited to discuss new, better, and safer options for treating his allergies. We worked with his regular vet to select and administer Cytopoint. Zachary’s shot (dosed by body weight) was expensive. However, unlike some alternatives, it should keep him symptom-free for about a month.
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Fortunately, Cytopoint will not interfere with his other medications and has worked beautifully for him! Mom described it as a huge relief for both of them.
Remember, there are solutions! But before we jump into treatment options, it’s important to understand why allergies happen in the first place.
In humans, allergy-mediating cells—called mast cells—are located primarily in the upper respiratory tract, which also happens to be where most of our seasonal allergy symptoms are centered. However, for our canine friends it is not so.
In dogs, mast cells that mediate allergy live in high concentration in the skin. (Remember, the ears are just an extension of the skin.) Therefore, dogs are more likely to have seasonal allergy symptoms centered around the skin and ears.
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Mast cells are a type of white blood cells that form in the bone marrow and then move to the tissues of the body (skin, digestive system, respiratory tract, etc.). They help protect the body from foreign invaders.
Mast cells look very clear under a microscope. They are full of small granules containing several active substances, the best known of which is histamine. Don’t forget histamine as it will come up when we look at allergy treatments – namely antihistamines.
Allergens, such as pollen – they are activated and begin to “degrade”. This is the process of dumping the contents of the granules (histamine and other immune system molecules) into the surrounding tissue. A chain of events unfolds that signals the rest of the immune system army (also known as enhancers) and triggers allergy symptoms.
Now that we’ve established the role that mast cells play in dog allergies, let’s discuss dog allergy medications and supportive treatments.
Can You Use Claritin For Dogs?
(Zyrtec®), and hydroxyzine, are commonly taken by humans to treat allergy symptoms and can also be used in dogs. These drugs work by preventing histamine from binding to cells and exerting its effects.
The advantages of antihistamines are that they are inexpensive and can help with mild environmental allergies in dogs. The downside is that they are generally not as effective for the most important environmental allergies in dogs. therefore, they
For the full story on possible side effects and contraindications for Benadryl in dogs, read Benadryl for Dogs: How It Works, When It Works, Why It Works.
Oclacitinib (Apoquel) is a relatively new drug for treating allergies in dogs. (The FDA approved it in 2013.) Apokali works by blocking the action of JAK1 and JAK3, molecules that are normally used to transmit the “itch and inflammation signal” created in response to an allergen. This translates into less itching and inflammation for your allergic dog.
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Like the dog in the before and after photos below, most allergy sufferers react very quickly to Apocal. It is very effective in soothing itching as well as in the long-term management of allergies.
This dog suffered from long term chronic allergies. He was treated with Apocal for allergies and antibiotics
The dog’s skin is less red and inflamed after treatment with Apocal and antibiotics. Photo: Dr. Julie Carroll
Initially, the medication is given twice a day for two weeks and then reduced to once a day for maintenance. Some dogs experience an increase in symptoms when switching from a twice-daily dose to a once-daily dose. If you notice that your dog is itching again, talk to your vet for guidance on how to proceed.
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Like any medicine, there is a risk of side effects. However, the number of dogs that experienced side effects (such as vomiting and diarrhea) was very low compared to other drugs.
Since Apocal blocks a chemical signal in the immune system, there is a risk of immune system suppression at high doses. However, because Apocal has a more specific target than other drugs such as cyclosporine or steroids, there is a relatively low risk of immunosuppression.
In the interest of full disclosure, there have been concerns that because of the way Apocal works to alter the immune system, it may be linked to the development of cancer in dogs.
A study was recently published that compared the occurrence of skin cancers and masses in allergic dogs treated with Apocal with allergic dogs of a similar age and breed that never received Apocal. This study determined that there was no significant difference in the incidence of cancer and skin masses or the mean age of death between the groups, which is reassuring.
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However, the Apoquel product insert continues to warn that it may exacerbate (worse) cancerous conditions and that the risks and benefits should be weighed before it is used in dogs with a history of cancer.
Personally, I think this is a valuable remedy that has dramatically improved the quality of life for many dogs with allergies. Although the data does not show that Apocal increases the risk of cancer, I still prefer to play it safe and use other allergy treatments in dogs with documented or suspected cancer.
By the way, if you want to learn more about cancer in dogs, please listen to my podcast interview with my friend and colleague, Dr. Sue – Cancer Vet: Canine Cancer Myths and Misconceptions.
Finally, Apoquel is indicated for the treatment of allergies in dogs over one year of age, which means it cannot be used in young dogs with allergies.
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Bottom line: Apocal is a vet favorite
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