Sampson scratches, sneezes and stinks

  • Published
  • By Dr. Jemma Pipkin, DVM
  • Offutt Veterinary Treatment Facility

Allergies are annoying, especially when Sampson starts licking obsessively at his feet in the middle of the night in your bedroom. Sampson is also annoyed by the itch he can’t seem to get rid of. Fortunately, we’re here to help with knowledge, experience and products during this blooming time of year.

Pet allergies have many similarities with human allergies as they can manifest at any age and can be caused by food or environment, and often made worse by the body’s reaction. Histamine is released by white blood cells in response to whatever an individual’s (human or pet) immune system determines to be an allergen. These histamines can cause inflammation, itching, hives, congestion, fatigue and digestive issues. Factors that affect pets more so than their owners include exposure, bacteria, yeast, and skin and hair coat types. Sampson doesn’t wear shoes, likes to roll in stinky things and grass, and doesn’t bathe regularly like his human counterpart.  This means if Sampson is allergic to a specific weed that grows in the yard then he can carry that weed with him for weeks and weeks without anyone knowing. 

I always think of the tiny needle in the big hay stack when I’m trying to treat an animal with allergies. Allergies are complex and not exactly the same as human allergies so I always recommend talking to a veterinary professional before changing multiple things in Sampson’s life to combat allergies. We have developed techniques, testing, medications and products to help manage allergy symptoms in pets.  And wow, some of the newer medications are awesome!

In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help Sampson feel better more immediately instead of waiting for a vet appointment.  To combat hives, hotspots, and generalized itchiness, give him a good lathered bath with an oatmeal or gentle pet shampoo.  Be sure to dry him off well as excessive moisture can lead to bacteria and yeast growth on the skin or in the ears at lightning speed.  If Sampson is a medium to large dog then give him an over the counter, 10 milligram Cetirizine (Zyrtec).  He can have one a day just like his owner can.  If Sampson is a small dog or cat then give him half a pill.  Another useful over the counter medication is Diphenhydramine (Benadryl).  This is great to have in an allergy emergency, and dogs and cats can take 1 milligram per pound every 8-12 hours.  This antihistamine is a little faster and more powerful than Cetirizine but can cause some major drowsiness.  Otherwise, both these medications have few side effects when used at appropriate doses on generally healthy cats and dogs.  Don’t use either of these medications without checking the ingredients first.  Make sure they don’t contain other medications like pseudoephedrine, aspirin, etc. 

Helpful information?  I hope so, pets and allergies can be expensive, frustrating, and painful.  As always, let us know if you need anything!


Dr. Jemma Pipkin is a veterinarian working for the Offutt AFB Veterinary Treatment Facility. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article, or if you would like to schedule an appointment for your pet, please call the clinic at 402-294-6141. The clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (closed from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. for lunch). Appointments are available for any active duty or retired military personnel.

We hope to see you and your furry friend soon!