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Dog allergies. Could it be as simple as a heat rash? Or is it a yeast infection?

  • July 5, 2016
  • By MaggieLovesOrbit
Dog allergies.  Could it be as simple as a heat rash?  Or is it a yeast infection?

My dog developed a rash at 6 months of age

Right around 6 months of age, Maggie developed a rash.  The first time it popped up it was a few red bumps on her belly.  I got a little concerned so I bathed her in Dr. Bronner’s Lavender scented soap.  Looking back I should have stuck to my dog shampoos.  In any event, the soap felt really strong on my fingers and I remember her skin felt a little too clean, almost tacky clean after.


Big mistake.  Irregardless of all the articles that tout the benefits of this shampoo.   What I later learned is this:

The difference between dog skin and human skin

Dogs have only 7 to 12 layers of skin while humans have 25 to 30.  Product made for humans is slightly acidic and meant to remove 5 to 15 layers of skin to exfoliate and give us beautiful soft skin.  So if we use the wrong human products on dogs, we end up removing skin cells on the epidermis and potentially some more from the dermis (next layer down) and leaving the skin exposed to the elements.

Additionally, you run the risk of throwing off the PH balance.  Dogs have a neutral ph of 6.2 to 7.4 while humans have a PH balance of 5.5 to 5.6.  Using the wrong product can compromise the PH balance.

Wish I knew that sooner.


My dog was diagnosed with Atopic Allergies

So about 10 days pass and Maggie’s rash got worse.  I promptly brought her to the vet.  He gave her a two steroid shot and prescribed steroid pills.

Her rash went away (because of the shots) and but then it came back.  There wasn’t a lot but you could see the bumps come and go.  I was initially given a 30 day supply which I refilled for another 30 days.


During that time I read more about rashes and treatment.  And quickly learned the following:

  1. Dog Allergies were the #1 reason for dog visits in 2014, and #2 reason in 2015.
  2. Steroid therapy is a quick fix but continued use isn’t ideal.  The reason is these drugs turn off the immune system and has a host of side effects with long term use such as blood clots, diabetes, pancreatitis, hair loss, pot belly, increased urination, gastrointestinal problems and Cushing disease).  I read an article by Dr. Becker (click for link) that quickly convinced me I didn’t want to use steroids on Maggie.
  3. Finding the cause of the allergy is like trying to find a needle in the haystack.
  4. Allergies never go away, you just manage it.

I knew for sure we didn’t want to rely on pills for all of Maggie’s life so I was determined to try to find the solution.

Round 1 of trying to solve the rash

I was already home cooking for Maggie, so I switched her to raw food.   Feeding her the highest quality meals would be a way to minimize her exposure to allergens in food.  I later learned that typically young dogs don’t get food allergies – its mostly found in older dogs fed the same kibble day after day.


Other things we tried:

  • Various brands of oatmeal based shampoos
  • Switching to hypo allergenic detergents
  • Removing any suspicious plants in our yard that “might” be causing the allergy
  • With holding all other treats and food except for what we fed her during her meals

The rash didn’t go away and we were prescribed Apoquel after another vet visit due to a bad flare up


Apoquel.  Is it good for your dog?

I’m always researching things.  And I learned that Apoquel is a fairly new drug made available in fall of 2014 by Zoetis (largest pet pharmaceutical and previously owned by Pfizer).

What troubled me is that Apoquel does NOT TREAT THE ALLERGY.  All it does is turn off certain molecules so that the rash, in essence, does not show.  And the long term effects were not yet known for these molecules it was turning off.  Lastly the clinical studies were done for a short period, on a small sample of very healthy dogs.  Three useful articles can be found as follows:

Article explaining Apoquel and how it works: CLICK HERE

Article on Apoquel’s dark side: CLICK HERE

Article explaining why you need to be cautious of Apoquel: CLICK HERE


Needless to say … we were willing to try it even for just a month.  We did see about 25-30% improvement in the “appearance” of the rash.  But I couldn’t unlearn what I learned.  So I continued to do my research and bring Maggie to two other vets.

Conventional vet approach vs. holistic approach

In a conventional visit, you bring your dog to the vet, they prescribe a treatment (pill, ointment, shot, etc) and tell you to come back if the condition doesn’t improve.

This approach never sat well with me. Probably because I wanted to know WHY she had a rash and how we could treat it without pills, sprays or shots.

Also when I saw a third vet that specialized in allergies, she confirmed my lay person’s suspicions about Apoquel.

  1. It was controversial even among vets.
  2. It doesn’t treat allergies – only improved the expression or appearance of the rash
  3. It should NEVER be prescribed to dogs under 1 (which Maggie was at the time)

Round two of trying alternative ways to treat her allergies

So I thought to myself … what if it wasn’t an allergy.  What if it was a yeast infection?  I read an article on Whole Dog Journal so I tried the following:

  • Cut out all sugars from diet (normally gave her snacks of fruit and sweet potato)
  • Started to add a half a teaspoon of unpasteurized raw apple cider vinegar (RACV) to each of her meals.
  • Spray her belly with a mix of RACV diluted 50% with water.
  • Switched shampoo to Phytovet’s Antifungal with the active ingredients: Chlorhexidine 2%, Ketoconazole 1%, Phytosphingosine 0.05%.  Reason for the switch is that if Maggie did have a yeast infection … all of the oatmeal shampoos we were using FED her yeast infection.  Another pet owner also reported that the active ingredient chlorhexidine was used by dentists (she was one) and it reduces bacteria and swelling.  She had tried a similar approach with this type of shampoo and had 100% success after washing her dog every other day for a week.

GREAT results with the ACV


Her rash started to go away.  And we would have days were you could barely see it.  We attribute it mainly to the RACV.

And even though we’d have days not seeing the rash – it always seemed to be below the surface.  So we’ve ordered a jar of Doggy Goo designed by a Veterinary Dermatologists formulated for canine allergies.  The thing about Maggie’s rash is that it doesn’t impact the quality of her life.  She barely even scratches it with the exception of her flare ups.  So I have the time to play detective to try to pinpoint what the real issues are.

And if you see a pet dermatologist … they would be guiding you to to do the same.  To be hyper vigilant in documenting potential causes and managing to eliminate those causes.

So these past 6 weeks I’ve spent a lot of time in Los Angeles with siblings where some days found the temperature between 90 and 105 degrees.  As such the AC was on, 24/7.

I noticed Maggie’s rash was almost non – existent.


But when we came back to warm San Diego (average 75 to 85 degrees) her rash started to make a slight appearance.  I’ve started the RACV back up again.  And the doggy goo finally arrived so we’re starting to give that to her.  As well as shampoo her regularly.

But then I also noticed her rash would be more apparent on hot and humid days.

Could this be nothing more than a heat rash?

We went for a walk mid day today.  And her rash got pinker.  After the walk, I took a wash cloth and dampened it in cold water.  I gently placed it over her belly.   Maggie didn’t mind it.  She seemed to even like it and fall asleep.

And best of all the rash’s level of “pinkness” went down.

In any event … the reason I’m sharing all of this is that the path to a rash free dog doesn’t happen overnight without shots, ointments, sprays and pills.  It takes time to try to news and see if it’s effective in minimizing the rash.  Especially true when you want to find out like me, WHY and THE CAUSE for the rash.

Hope you find this article useful.  Feel free to share comments below on your own experiences.

Additional resources:

Great article from the Whole Dog Journal on understanding Canine/Dog Allergies: CLICK HERE

PhytoVet Antifungal Shampoo: CLICK HERE

**** Disclaimer.  I’m not a vet.  I’m just an avid dog parent that wants to provide the best alternative solutions for my dogs.  And I wanted to share my resources and progress here. Please do your own research and consult with your vet for your dog’s allergy/rash ailments.[/fusion_text]

By MaggieLovesOrbit, July 5, 2016
  • 8
  • Amy Karpinski
    July 5, 2016

    My Boston has enviromental allergies. They started when she was 5 months old (she’s now 1 year and 5months). We went to the vet and got prescribed steroids but as you know they are not the long term answer. After almost 8 months and trying MANY MANY treatments and at home remedies we finally opened our wallet and decided to do an intradermal skin test at her dermatologists office. The list of enviromental allergies that she’s allergic to is long. Everything from grasses to tree pollens and dust mites. So hearing that just broke my heart. Both allergens are found in and outside the house.
    The Dermatologist told us that we are lucky we found her allergies while she’s young because the quicker you find them and do something about them the better of an outcome you will have. People who don’t treat their dogs allergies are only making the problem worse because as they age they developed more severe allergies and it becomes harder and more expensive to treat.
    I hope you find answers and ways to help out Maggie and her allergies. ?

    • ILoveBostons
      July 6, 2016

      Thank you so much Amy. I’m so glad to hear she is better and you invested in finding the answer.

      Good advice on treating her early. We talked to the vet and we’re going to try these holistic approaches first but if her rash doesn’t go away 100% we will be starting the dermatology route with the test.

      In regards to your Boston …. how do you manage the outside? I put shirts on Maggie she’s got them in every color when we’re out and about but it doesn’t seem to help. And then now that you know what she’s allergic to … do you have to do pills or shots at all anymore?

      Like you it breaks my heart to see her with rashes since she can’t communicate how she feels. Luckily she isn’t scratching them.

      Thank you so much for your feedback.


  • Amy Karpinski
    July 6, 2016

    I totally agree with your decision to go holistic right now. We were trying that but her allergies got so bad we had to go back to medicine. She is taking the immunotherapy shots once a week. It’s supposed to be life long but with time we may get it down to just once a month shot.
    As for dealing with the outdoor aspect of it…it’s been hard. She loves to chew on sticks..the very thing she’s allergic to. We try to steer her away with bones and chews but she’s a dog and just wants to eat on trees. Haha we give frequent baths with a specially formulated shampoo and I try to wipe her paws off with a pet wipe after coming inside.
    Since the allergy shots can take UP TO A YEAR to fully kick in I will still giver her a benadryl on her bad days.

    • ILoveBostons
      July 6, 2016

      My heart goes out to you. I know our dogs just want to be dogs. And it’s so hard when they are allergic to all the things they love about being outdoors!

      Will be sending you good thoughts that she gets better and takes to the therapy.

      As you know allergies are just so mind bending because you can’t keep your dog in a bubble. I’m sure you’ve spent countless hours trying to figure it out.

      Thank you again for sharing

      ps I’m trying to figure out how to put my photo on the gravatar. lol. I noticed you have yours. Watching a tutorial now … (something to learn every day)!

  • Jim
    May 2, 2017

    Dear Boston lovers, my puppy is only 5 months old and started breaking out with rashes few weeks ago with a bad yeasty smell. I went to 3 different vets and spent so much money giving temporary relieves… I would love to learn what’s worked for you guys so my puppy doesnt suffer any more… he is not a happy dog he used to be. He likes to hide and sleep… otherwise scratching his skin off.. Please help me … I do not want to give him any more medication or shots that might harm him in the long term. I am washing him with apple cider vinegar water morning and night …

    • ILoveBostons
      May 2, 2017

      Hi Jimin,

      A few things we have tried which seemed to work for Orbit who has yeast.
      1. Raw diet consisting of protein 80%, organ meat 10% and veggies 10%.
      2. No grain whatever. Google up “yeast starvation diet” by Dr. Karen Becker. So no treats, fruit, carbs.
      3. Yeast is a fungus – you have to eliminate it. For her paws I spray Tinactin (the stuff for athlete’s foot).
      4. For her belly I wiper her with Hydrogen Peroxide – it kills any fungus.
      5. I rinse her off when we go to the beach or hikes.
      6. She has yeast tear stains – so I put some hydrogen peroxide on a baby wipe and wipe her tear stains (only on the white fur).
      7. She has yeasty ears – so I have this ear solution from the vet I use.
      8. When I shampoo/condition – it is a product that had chlorohexidine – 3% active
      It takes a while. I don’t know were your dog’s rash is. I get it locally but it’s here on this website too:
      9. It seems to get worse when it’s warm and they get sweaty – so at night I’ll dust their bellies with Gold Bond Medicated powder – the one in the green bottle. Basically keeps them dry.

      Yeast and allergy rash is very easy to confuse with each other. Maggie tends to have allergy and Orbit has yeast. It takes about 60 days to be completely clear but you have to stay up on it.

      Hope this helps.

    • ILoveBostons
      May 2, 2017

      Also … I stopped doing apple cider – I used to do that too but if there is any apple in that – it turns into sugar – so with the whole “no sugar contact internal or external” I stopped that too.

      The two supplements I added was Hemp Seed Oil (Omega 3, 6, and 9) and custom collagen (bone broth replacement).

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

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