This post originally appeared on the CocoTherapy blog back in May 2017. We've updated it with new information about coconut oil for dogs with allergies so you can take better care of your pets!
As the weather gets warmer during spring and summer, many of us are enjoying the sunshine outdoors. But allergies are at their peak at this time of year, causing misery for millions of people – and their pets.
That's right, it's not just people who suffer from seasonal allergies. Your dog or cat can have allergies, too.
So, how can you tell if your dog has seasonal allergies, and what you can do to relieve their discomfort? In this post, we'll explain why pets get allergic reactions and look at the three main types. We'll also highlight common symptoms of allergies and explore the role of coconut oil for dogs with allergies.
What Is an Allergic Reaction?
Generally speaking, an allergic reaction is an unwanted side effect, which may be caused by a misguided immune system. Pets can develop allergies to various substances such as pollens, molds, insect bites, certain foods or food compounds, drugs, and chemicals.
Exposure to these allergens triggers a reaction, such as itching, sneezing, tearing, or GI upsets like vomiting or diarrhea. In order for an animal to develop an allergy to something in their food or the environment, they must be exposed to the substance at least two or more times.
Types of Allergic Reactions in Pets
It's important to recognize which type of allergic reaction your pet is suffering from so they can receive the best course of treatment. There are 3 main types of allergies in pets: food allergies, flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), and environmental allergies.
Food allergies occur when your pet develops sensitivity to a food ingredient. Sometimes, after your pet has consumed a particular ingredient over a long period of time, their immune system starts to overreact to it.
Pets with food allergies often suffer from symptoms such as frequent ear infections and chronic itchiness and skin irritation. Other common symptoms include gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, pets with food allergies may display more generalized symptoms. These include weight loss, lethargy, and behavioral changes.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is sensitivity to flea saliva. Both dogs and cats can develop the condition. The saliva of just one or two fleas can cause terrible itching for your pet. FAD can also lead to symptoms such as hotspots, hair loss, and changes in skin texture.
Eliminating fleas from the environment is the best way to protect your pet against FAD. Make sure to comb and bathe pets regularly and use all-natural pest repellants around your home and yard. Check out our DIY recipes for coconut oil flea and tick repellants for your pets.
Environmental allergies are reactions to a wide variety of outdoor allergens such as grasses, pollens, and ragweed. Reactions to indoor irritants like dust mites, mold, or chemicals around your home are also included in this category. Environmental allergies often lead to atopic dermatitis, an itchy skin disease that occurs when an animal inhales or ingests a substance to which they are sensitive.
Generally, if your pet exhibits symptoms during spring, summer or fall, they may be allergic to seasonal outdoor allergens. If their symptoms are year-round, they may be allergic to something inside your home.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
At this time of year, it's important to keep an eye out for signs of seasonal allergies in your pets. Here are 4 common symptoms to look out for:
1) Skin Irritation
Pets with seasonal allergies often develop itchy skin which leads to a cycle of scratching, rubbing, and biting in an attempt to relieve the irritation. As skin is scratched and damaged, it can become red, inflamed and tender. In some cases, open sores, hair loss, and scabbing can occur.
As we mentioned earlier, allergens in the environment can lead to skin diseases like atopic dermatitis. Pets may also develop bacterial pyoderma when skin becomes infected with bacteria or fungal organisms. Seborrhea is another common skin condition in pets with seasonal allergies. It is characterized by symptoms such as flaky skin (dandruff), accumulation of flakes or crusty plaques, and greasy skin and hair.
Hotspots are areas of skin that become infected and inflamed by bacteria. They are most common in dogs and are very painful and tender. Hair loss and bleeding often develop in the infected area.
3) Ear Problems
Ear problems also usually affect dogs. Symptoms include inflammation and itching in and around the ear, often accompanied by a foul odor. Ear problems can be caused by allergens in the environment or yeast and bacterial infections.
4) Cold-Like Symptoms
Just like humans, pets can develop cold-like symptoms in response to seasonal allergies, such as sneezing, a runny nose, irritated eyes, and a cough.
Coconut Oil for Dogs With Allergies
So, now you know which symptoms to look out for, let's take a look at why coconut oil is so effective for managing allergies.
Coconut oil is an all-round super food that has many health benefits. Coconut oil in your pet's diet has a wide range of health benefits including the power to manage allergies, protect the skin and coat, and keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy.
Let’s take a closer look at how coconut oil helps dogs with allergies:
Lauric Acid – Fights Infection and Inflammation
The primary "super ingredient" in coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) called lauric acid. When consumed, lauric acid converts to monoglyceride monolaurin, a beneficial substance that's proven to be antibacterial and antimicrobial. Coconut oil, with its high content of lauric acid, has been scientifically demonstrated to significantly improve overall health in humans.
When it comes to allergies, the lauric acid content in coconut oil contains anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-virus, and anti-yeast properties that can clear up allergic reactions – fast. Coconut oil is particularly good at soothing itchy and inflamed skin and promotes the rapid healing of painful conditions such as hotspots. It also boosts the immune system, preventing infection and disease.
Caprylic Acid – Effective Yeast and Fungal Killer
Aside from lauric acid, coconut oil for itchy dogs is also a good source of caprylic acid. Research has shown that caprylic acid is effective against yeast growth. It is believed to kill yeast by destroying its cell membrane and denaturing proteins. This means that coconut oil can be added to your pet's diet and applied topically to their skin to prevent and treat yeast infections.
Powerful Antioxidant and Immune Modulator
Coconut oil is chemically very stable and is not prone to oxidation. Because it is a fully saturated fat, it is resistant to free-radical attack and acts as a powerful antioxidant. When taken orally, coconut oil can help reduce oxidative stress, which in turn supports a healthy immune system.
We know that allergies can be a result of an over-active immune system. When the immune system is under stress, it is unable to effectively fight microbes or become overly aggressive towards its own defense systems, which will in turn exacerbate an allergic response. Medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil helps the body defend itself against harmful microbes, allowing the white blood cells to function more efficiently so the immune system doesn’t need to over-react.
Many vets treat seasonal allergies in pets with steroids like prednisone – which is bad news for your pet! These powerful drugs actually turn off your pet's immune response to allergens. This reduces symptoms, but can come with some very dangerous side effects. Instead of using steroids, give CocoTherapy Virgin Coconut Oil orally to support and balance the immune system.
Using coconut oil for itchy dogs is a safe, natural alternative to steroids that's both effective and easy to use at home. Coconut oil can be applied both topically – straight onto the skin, or orally – in your pet's food.
For more information about using coconut oil with your pets, check out our previous post, How to Use Coconut Oil With Your Pets.
If you're a regular reader of our blog, you may be familiar with Violet's story. But it's worth repeating here as it's such a great example of how coconut oil can combat allergies.
Our CocoTherapy co-founder Charisa's Yorkie Violet began to show serious signs of allergies before she was a year old. She scratched incessantly and would bite her sides and under her arms until she bled. She was miserable and Charisa was horrified. She wondered what she did wrong...and what was making Violet so itchy.
When Violet had her first severe allergic reaction, Charisa brought her to a dermatologist vet who promptly put her on prednisone. This worked in the beginning, because prednisone suppressed Violet’s overactive immune system and addressed her visible symptoms. However, it did not address the root of her allergic reactions, which was her out-of-balance immune system.
In due time, Charisa worked closely with a wonderful holistic vet to manage Violet’s allergies. She fed Violet a raw, species-appropriate, grain-free, single protein diet and rotated through three or four protein sources over a three-month period. She also bathed her once a week with a gentle antibacterial shampoo, got rid of all chemicals in her home, and switched to non-toxic, natural cleaning products.
In addition, Charisa titer tested Violet instead of automatically vaccinating her every year. In a nutshell, she did everything by the proverbial allergy handbook in a constant effort to keep her allergies under control. But Violet was always a sensitive, slightly pink-skinned, delicate Yorkie, waiting for the next allergen to taunt her system.
After seeing Charisa's holistic vet, Violet was weaned off prednisone. As mentioned above, her food and environmental issues were also addressed, and she was put on a holistic regimen with all-natural supplements and virgin coconut oil, which helped modulate her immune system. The results? Within three months, Violet was off prednisone for good!
Choosing the Right Coconut Oil for Dog Allergies
When it comes to coconut oil, not all oils are created equal. The difference is in the grade of the oil. Cooking-grade coconut oils, like those you'll find on supermarket shelves, are used primarily for cooking. These cooking-grade oils are typically high in moisture and low in lauric acid; the "super ingredient" responsible for coconut oil's amazing health benefits.
CocoTherapy coconut oil is different.
CocoTherapy virgin coconut oil is a therapeutic-grade oil – sourced from our USDA-certified organic family farm in the Philippines and made in our own facility. Our oil is high in lauric acid and has low moisture levels, which makes it very effective for managing allergies in your pet. So, if you want a coconut oil that will help your pet’s health issues, choose a therapeutic-grade oil, such as CocoTherapy.
Learn what makes CocoTherapy Virgin Coconut Oil different and check out our reviews from happy veterinarians and customers explaining more about the benefits of CocoTherapy coconut oil. You can also visit our product pages to learn more about how to use coconut oil for dog allergies and other common health issues.