Helping your dog to cope with their seasonal allergies
Whilst most of us may all love the warmer weather and the sight of everything coming into bloom, for some people it means the onset of seasonal allergies caused by a rise in pollen from flowers, trees and grass – and just like humans, our dogs can get seasonal allergies too. Although they might not react in the same way, they are generally triggered by the same allergens as we are.
So how do you know if your pooch is having an allergic reaction, and how can you help them through it?
Flower dog photo by Celine Sayuri Tagami on Unsplash
Signs of seasonal allergies in dogs
Itching and Scratching
Unless you already know that your dog has an allergy, this may be difficult to determine at first, as the onset of spring will also cause biting insects such as fleas to flourish and your dog may be scratching because of that. If you have treated them for fleas and they continue to scratch – and it may be mild - then look out for these additional signs of an allergy:
- They are especially itchy in their armpit, chest and paws.
- They may also be licking these areas excessively with no clear sign of the cause
- If left untreated, these areas may become raw, and this could become infected
They lic their paws because, when your dog’s immune system is defending them from an allergen, their body creates histamines in their bloodstream, causing them to itch and they are directed to their paws.
Again this might be difficult to spot at first because depending on their breed, your dog may start to moult at this time of year anyway. However if you notice that they are shedding more hair than usual, this could also be a sign of allergies at play. They could be losing hair in one place, such as the base of the tail, in patches or all over. They may chew some hair off it they are licking and scratching too – and these can also be signs of other problems such as anxiety or distress - so it’s important to get your dog to a vet for a correct diagnosis rather than attempting to treat any symptoms yourself.
Sneezing and Watery eyes
One of the clearest signs of hay fever or other springtime allergies in humans are watering eyes and this is no different for your dog. Their eyes may become itchy and irritated and they may rub them excessively, causing them to become inflamed or even infected. Sneezing as an allergy symptom is less common in dogs, but it can still happen so get them to the vet for a check up if they are coughing, wheezing or sneezing more than usual.
Shaking their head
If your dog has uncomfortable, irritated, or itchy ears you may find that they shake their head often. All dogs shake their head occasionally (mine does it to get my attention when he wants to get under the duvet at night!) but if they are doing it a lot and scratching at their ear then you should get them to the vet to find out what the problem is.
Collie photo by Dominik Kempf on Unsplash
Causes of springtime allergies in dogs
Just like any other allergy, seasonal allergic reactions develop when your dog’s immune system overreacts to things in their environment, and obviously a change in season will bring on a change of potential allergens in your home, garden or anywhere else you like to hang out with your pet. Common triggers include:
- Pollen – from trees, grass, flowers and shrubs
- Mould spores
- Plant or animal fibres
Your dog may inhale any of these things or they could be absorbed into their skin, when they come into contact with them.
Retriever photo by Angel Luciano on Unsplash
Preventing and treating seasonal allergies in dogs
So now you know what the causes are, how can you prevent or treat springtime allergies? First of all, make sure that whatever sort of discomfort your dog is experiencing that it is actually being caused by an allergy. Unless you already know they are allergic, get them to the vet for a diagnosis. They will also be able to talk you through the different treatments available too.
Once you have established what is causing the problem, if possible, try to limit your pet’s exposure to the allergens. For example, walk them somewhere away from pollen or exercise them in the evening when the pollen levels are lower. Steer clear of long grass, try getting them to the beach or somewhere with less shrubs and trees.
Wash their bedding, blankets and toys regularly, hoover more frequently, work on keeping their space as free of allergens as possible. If mould is causing the problems, keep affected surfaces clear. Use anti-mould cleaning products and paint and consider getting a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air too.
Wash your dog more frequently and use some dog-friendly wipes to clean their paws and fur. Wipe gently around their eyes and face too. Especially after a walk.
Supplements such as omega-3 and omega-6 can help to strengthen your dog's skin barrier and improve the overall condition of their skin too, in order to reduce any itching and other allergic reactions.
Does your dog have a seasonal allergy? If you have any tips for helping your dog at this time of year, please share them in the comments section below.
Main photo by Ralu Gal on Unsplash