Ask the Vet Archive

Your chance to ask Dr. Mindy Cohan, VMD, our resident pet health expert, what's on your mind!

Topic: Allergies and Over the Counter Medications

Question from Pam in Newark:
I have a shepherd/chow mix that is approximately 7 1/2 years old. Each spring/summer his belly breaks out with a rash that he constantly chews. We have seen the vet and determined it was probably an allergy. He has previously been on prescription medication. Is there anything over the counter we can give him to help this problem?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
The fact that your dog has the same problem at the same time each year is very suggestive of allergies. Allergies and the symptoms they cause cannot be cured, only managed. The main issue faced by allergic pets is severe itchiness. Concurrent skin infections are common. Dogs with allergies seem to be predisposed to spontaneous skin infections and they can develop them secondary to scratching or licking at themselves.

You mention that your dog has previously taken medication prescribed by your veterinarian. The common medications used to combat allergy symptoms in pets are antihistamines and steroids. Antihistamines are a good initial choice as sometimes they are sufficient to control allergy symptoms and they have few to no side effects. Steroids are considered the "magic bullet" since they rarely fail to help alleviate itchy skin, but they are not without side effects.

Your question regarding over the counter medication is something you should discuss with your own veterinarian. He/she is most familiar with your dog and can make the appropriate recommendation based on your dog's weight. If your dog is suffering from a skin infection, an antibiotic is often needed. Antihistamines which are safe to use in dogs are available at a drug store, but steroids and antibiotics must be dispensed by a doctor. Although purchasing medication at a drug store may save you time and money, you may not meet your dog's needs. A visit to the vet will ensure that the most effective treatment plan is administered.

Posted May 15, 2006

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