Antihistamines for Dog Allergy Treatment

When you begin to discuss dog allergy treatment options with your vet, it's likely that you'll hear quite a bit about antihistamines. The same term is also used to describe human allergy treatments of various types as well. In order to fully understand why antihistamines are a good class of drugs to use to help your pet deal with certain types of allergic reactions, it's important to first understand what histamines are in general.

Allergies and Histamines

If your dog is allergic to a particular substance or allergen, and if he makes contact with that substance in some way or another, his body will begin to produce a type of chemical called a histamine. This chemical then travels throughout his bloodstream until it locates a histamine receptor cell. When these two cells join up, the reaction produces a number of the common symptoms of allergic reactions in pets. These include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Skin inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive panting

Therefore, histamines and, in particular, the combination of histamines with histamine receptor cells throughout your dog's body, are what cause the symptoms of a reaction to an offending allergen in the atmosphere.

How Antihistamines Work

Antihistamines are medicines which spread throughout your dog's bloodstream and interact with histamine receptor cells. In so doing they prevent those receptor cells from being able to combine with the histamines that are naturally produced as a result of contact with the offending allergen. The histamines will then not be able to produce the symptoms of the allergic reaction that they typically are responsible for.

Antihistamines vs. Corticosteroids

Antihistamines are commonly used in veterinary medicine and particularly in dog allergy treatment. They are a generally effective way of putting a stop to mild or medium allergic reactions. For more serious reactions, other types of medicines are typically more effective. The only type of medicine which is used as frequently or, in some cases, more frequently than antihistamines is the corticosteroid.

Corticosteroids are more effective at eliminating allergic reactions than antihistamines, and few vets will disagree. However, corticosteroids have a wide range of potentially serious side effects and are typically deemed not safe for long term use with your pet. For this reason, they are usually only prescribed in cases of extreme and acute allergic reactions. If your pet has a long term or recurring negative reaction to some type of allergen, an antihistamine is a more moderate and safer way of reducing the scope of that reaction throughout his body.

If your pet suffers from an allergic reaction, or if you suspect that the symptoms he displays may be part of an allergic reaction to some element in the atmosphere, his food or elsewhere, it's a good idea to take him to the vet. A vet can help you to properly diagnose your pet's reaction and can then recommend antihistamines or other drugs to moderate the reaction.