A few years ago, Greg and I noticed our dog, Remy, chewing at his paws and scratching his face and ears. The scratching and paw chewing got so bad he was hurting himself, so we took him in to our vet. Eventually he was diagnosed with allergies, which made sense because he always seemed to get itchy at the same time my own seasonal allergies were flaring up. Today I’m sharing my experience with dog allergies.
This post is just my personal experience, and not meant to be taken as medical advice. If you think your dog may be struggling with allergies, please consult your vet. I think it’s always reassuring to have a sense of what to expect with things like this, though, so I hope this post is helpful if you’re worried your dog may need allergy treatment. I’m going to include cost information where I can as well, because budgeting can sometimes be one of the most overwhelming parts of a unknown situation like this.
Identifying Remy’s Allergies
We first noticed something was off when Remy started chewing at his paws a lot. We could tell they were really itchy because every once in a while he would find a spot and start thumping his foot while he was chewing-like how dogs do when they’re really enjoying some good scratches. He was also scratching at his ears and face a lot. He was getting ear infections from the allergens, and his paws had reddish stains in the fur-like some dogs get around their eyes.
Our vet figured it was probably allergies. They told us the first step would be to rule out the possibility of food allergies. According to our vet, if dogs have food allergies it’s usually from chicken or beef. Our vet put Remy on a prescription food specifically designed to test for food allergies, and we avoided any other food and treats for a month while we let any traces of potential allergens work their way out of his system. If I remember correctly, the prescription food was around $100 for a month-Remy is a big dog (87 pounds) so his needs a lot of food! The food trial didn’t show any food sensitivities, so the next step was to test for environmental allergies.
Dog Allergy Testing
We were referred to a dermatologist for the additional allergy testing. From there, the dermatologist informed us there are two ways to test for dog allergies-one is a blood test, and the other is a skin test. The blood test is less conclusive than a skin test, but it was also cheaper and less involved. The skin test is similar to what humans go through when getting allergy tested. The vet pricks the dog’s skin with known allergens and tracks what reactions occur to understand what the dog is allergic to and how severe it is. The dog has to go under anesthesia to do it, though. Because of that and the cost, we started with a blood test.
The blood test was about $400. When we got the results back, it turned out Remy is allergic to…basically everything. Just like me. Ha! We talked about doing a skin test at that point to try to understand the severity of the allergens, but weren’t able to because of some other health conditions he has. The dermatologist recommended giving Remy allergy shots, so that’s what we did. It’s very similar to the process of humans getting allergy shots-you start with small doses every few days. Then you gradually increase to larger doses with longer times in between. Now Remy gets his shots every ten days. Because he’s allergic to so many things he needs to vials of serum, so he gets two shots. Each vial costs about $250 when we need a refill, and they usually last six months. One thing that I found interesting-our vet told us that dog allergies manifest in skin issues, not respiratory issues like in humans. We have to keep an eye on his itchiness after giving him the shots, but we don’t have to worry about his lungs closing like I do when I get my own shots.
Throughout all of this, Remy has been on Apoquel, which is an allergy medicine for dogs. It costs $200 to buy 100 Apoquel pills from our vet, and he takes one every day or every other day depending on the allergy season. Eventually he will hopefully be able to stop taking the Apoquel, but our vet advised us it will probably take several years of consistent treatment with shots to get to that point. We’ve noticed a huge improvement in his allergies since starting the shots almost a year ago. His itching throughout most of the year is gone. Even during the peak allergy season in Austin (which is brutal), he wasn’t scratching so badly that he was hurting himself. We’re calling that a win! Plus, the peace of mind we get from knowing he feels better is priceless.
I hope this helps give some information to anyone who may be worried their dog has allergies. If you are concerned, though, please check with your vet for a diagnosis and treatment plan. This post is just my experience, not meant to be medical advice.