If you think only humans suffer from seasonal allergies, think again. Many pet parents don't realize that pollen and other environmental allergens can also affect their dogs. Just like people, dogs can have reactions that range from mild to severe, and it's essential to be aware of the signs so you can help your best friend feel better. Here are a few things to know about seasonal allergies in dogs and what you can do to help.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Dogs that suffer seasonal allergies experience symptoms that may differ depending on what they're allergic to. The most common sign of seasonal allergies in dogs is skin irritation, but other signs might include:
- Scratching at the skin
- Excessive licking, particularly of the paws and abdomen
- Chewing at paws and skin
- Hair loss
- Red, thickened, or dry skin
- Recurrent skin and ear infections
- Shaking their head and pawing at ears
- Excessive rubbing of their face
- Sneezing more than usual
Seasonal skin allergies can affect your dog anywhere on their body, but the most commonly affected areas are the:
- Paws and toes
Causes of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Food allergies, environmental allergies, and flea allergies are the most common allergies in dogs. Seasonal allergies in dogs are most commonly related to ecological allergens and fleas. Dogs often have skin symptoms because allergen protein molecules mix with antibodies in their blood and cause local inflammation.
Common environmental allergens that affect dogs include:
- Dust mites
How to Treat Seasonal Skin Allergies in Dogs
Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for seasonal allergies in dogs since they are caused by environmental allergens that will always be present in the air outside. But there are treatment and maintenance options. The best treatment will depend on your dog's age, medical history, and what is causing the allergic reactions. However, there are a few things you can do to help your best friend manage their symptoms.
Treatment options for seasonal allergies in dogs include one or a combination of the following.
The best treatment for relieving your best friend's allergies is to avoid triggering them whenever possible. This is only sometimes possible, especially if your dog is allergic to pollen or other airborne allergens that are hard to avoid. However, there are some things you can do to limit exposure to allergens in your home, including:
- Vacuum soft surfaces like couches and carpeting often.
- Vacuum all floors weekly.
- Use washable area rugs.
- Don't open windows during pollen season.
- Use a vacuum with a high-efficiency air (HEPA) filter.
- Invest in an air purifier for your home.
- Avoid giving your dog plush toys that can absorb allergens, and opt for hard or rubber, washable toys instead.
- If your dog loves plush toys, wash them regularly in hot, soapy water.
- Use a dehumidifier to decrease humidity and prevent mold in damp areas of your home, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
- Set your air conditioner to recirculation mode to reduce humidity throughout the house.
Histamines are chemical compounds your dog's body releases when their skin comes into contact with an allergen. These compounds are responsible for the inflammation and itching associated with allergies, and antihistamines help to reduce the production of histamines. Giving your dog an antihistamine can help to reduce their symptoms. However, it's important only to provide them with the type and dose your vet recommends.
If your dog has environmental allergies, allergy shots, also known as allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT), can effectively reduce their symptoms. This type of treatment focuses on restricting your dog's immune system, and it works best in young dogs.
Your dog must be allergy tested to determine which allergens they are allergic to before your vet creates a custom allergy shot. This injection will be repeated with gradually higher doses over time until the maintenance dose is reached.
The downside of this treatment is that it can take up to a year to improve your dog's symptoms, but if you stick to it, it can be very effective in reducing the severity of their allergies.
Steroid treatments prevent allergic reactions, quickly and effectively reducing your dog's symptoms.
Some examples of steroids your vet might prescribe are:
Steroids can cause adverse side effects in your dog, including a rise in blood sugar, extreme hunger, extreme thirst, upper respiratory and urinary tract infections, and a weakened immune system. The longer the treatment lasts and the higher the dose, the more likely your dog will experience side effects. For this reason, anti-inflammatory steroids shouldn't be a permanent solution for your best friend.
A hypoallergenic shampoo can help soothe your dog's itchy, irritated skin. Bathing them frequently and wiping down their skin and coat helps remove the problematic allergens, stopping them from creating symptoms.
Follow the advice from your veterinarian regarding how often to bathe your dog and which shampoo to buy. Some require a prescription from your vet, while others are available over the counter.