Pet Allergies

Pet Allergies

Written by Melissa Magnuson, DVM

Greenland Veterinary Hospital

Proud Supporter of Project Pawsitive

QUESTION: I think my pet has allergies, is there anything I can do to help him/her?

Understanding allergies and managing clinical signs of allergies can be very difficult and frustrating for a pet owner. Ear infections, scratching at armpits, inguinal area, belly and paws, and runny eyes are some of symptoms of allergies. Sometimes allergies also cause diarrhea and vomiting. The three biggest clinical signs of allergies are itching (so much that it keeps the owner up at night), shaking the head, and incessant licking at the body and paws. These steps will help minimize these clinical signs.


 Step 1: Decrease the allergen load

Diet: Decrease the allergen load from the food.

Choose a food that supports your pet’s natural dietary needs which is mostly proteins and fat, and only some carbohydrates.  Most pet foods have too much grain, making carbohydrate the highest percentage. This can make pets overweight very quickly, as well as trigger allergies.  Also chose diets without MEALS in them. Chicken meal, bone meal, and corn meal are all processed and artificially preserved forms of food that make the body work harder and can also trigger allergies. The four biggest food allergens are CORN, WHEAT, BEEF and CHICKEN; please avoid these ingredients. Feel free to add raw vegetables and cooked proteins like turkey, pork or fish. These help add natural vitamins and minerals to the diet.

Never feed onions, grapes or raisins.  Best choices of vegetables are green/leafy vegetables or yellow/orange vegetables.  Examples are spinach, green beans, carrots and squash. Also add a probiotic to the diet when feeding. The intestinal tract is an extension of the skin. By adding probiotics you add “good bacteria” to the gut and make it more healthy. The skin and the intestinal tract are the biggest immune organs in the body. The more we support them, the better they work.

Bathing: Decrease the allergen load on the skin.

Bathe once a week. Castille soap or a medicated shampoo is recommended. A veterinarian will make the recommendation depending on the skin issues. Castille soap is very mild 

and can be used weekly. Make sure you rinse all shampoos very well.

Wipe down with a damp cloth daily. This also decreases the allergen load on the skin and can significantly reduce pollen loads on the skin.


Step 2: Boost the immune system

Vitamin E and fish oil both help boost the immune system as does a whole food vitamin and mineral supplement. Please check with your veterinarian for recommended dosages for your pet.



Manage the clinical signs with antihistamines, steroids and antibiotics if necessary. Your veterinarian can let you know what works best for your pet. Never give antihistamines over the counter to your pet. Some contain harmful medicine that can make your pet sick. Some are safe but it is best to check with your veterinarian to make sure the one you chose is appropriate.



Dr. Melissa Magnuson is a native of southern Minnesota where she grew up on a small pig and cattle farm. Ever since she can remember, she wanted to be a veterinarian and fulfill her life-long passion of helping animals.

With a degree in Biology and Philosophy from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, she went on to work on a Masters Degree at Southern Mississippi University. From there, she completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota in 1998. Her internship in small animal medicine, surgery and emergency medicine brought her to the east coast.

Melissa has a special interest in surgery, emergency medicine and avian and exotic animal care. Melissa is married to her best friend Andy, and they have 3 beautiful daughters. Her pets include 4 dogs, 3 cats, 2 birds, one hamster and a chameleon named “Steve”. In her spare time she enjoys being with her family outdoors, biking, hiking, swimming, and reading. Dr. Magnuson never feels like she is at work because she absolutely LOVES veterinary medicine. She feels very lucky to have found her passion.