For some of us, allergy season can be miserable. Itchy eyes, running nose, and sneezing fits can all drive us further inside our homes while our friends enjoy the good weather outside. But it’s not just us that suffer from seasonal allergies. It’s estimated that around ten to fifteen percent of dogs suffer from seasonal allergies too.
Just like us, our dogs can be sensitive to allergens in the environment and food, and their bodies respond in exactly the same way that ours does. So how do allergies affect our dogs, and what can we do when dogs’ summer allergies kick in?
Types of Seasonal allergies
Seasonal allergies in dogs tend to fall into three distinct categories; food allergies, flea bite allergy, and environmental allergies (contact or inhalant sensitivities) known as atopy.
While food allergies can affect your dog all year round, seasonal allergies are more common in spring, summer, and autumn. That’s not to say that environmental allergens can’t cause issues at other times of the year. Allergens are extremely varied, so allergic reactions depend on what your dog is sensitive to.
In fact, it can be challenging to work out whether it’s an environmental problem or a food-related item that is causing the allergy. The symptoms of both are very similar, so it’s always useful to keep an allergy diary to help pinpoint the trigger. However, some clues assist us in determining whether a dog is suffering an allergic reaction due to a seasonal trigger or not.
What causes allergies in dogs?
Unfortunately, like humans, almost anything can cause an allergic reaction. It’s not entirely understood why some dogs are affected by allergies while others aren’t. However, genetics are thought to play a part, as allergies often run in families.
What we do know is that when the immune system detects something in or on the body, it decides as to whether it is a threat or not. If a substance like pollen, for example, is deemed dangerous, the immune system produces antibodies to fight the foreign invader.
These antibodies release chemicals to combat the pollen, and this results in an allergic reaction. The symptoms of this reaction are most often experienced on the skin, in the nose, eyes, lungs, throat, ears, and stomach.
Although there are many potential triggers, here are a few of the most common,
- Pollen; tree, grass, and weeds
- Stings or bites
- Dust and dust mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Fleas, flea bites, and flea treatment
- Cleaning products
Although seasonal allergies in dogs are more likely to be caused by something outside of the home, such as pollen, chronic allergies can be caused by irritants within the home, like cleaning products.
Signs of an allergic reaction in dogs
While it’s not uncommon for dogs to react to allergies with symptoms like runny noses, streaming eyes, and sneezes, it’s much more likely that they will take the form of irritated skin.
Dogs with allergies often have very itchy skin (allergic dermatitis), particularly on their face and feet. Unfortunately, the itchiness causes dogs to chew and lick their feet and this causes more severe health issues as the skin then becomes inflamed, red, sore, and prone to infection.
Other symptoms to look for include;
- Head shaking
- Itchy ears/Ear infections/ Ear discharge
- Red skin
- Hair loss
- Puffy and/or watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Coughing or wheezing
- Chewing, scratching, or licking paws
Although any dog may develop allergies, some breeds are more susceptible than others. Flat-faced dog breeds like Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, and Retrievers, Setters, German Shepherds, and Bichon Frise, are all breeds that are prone to seasonal allergies.
What’s more, as allergies in dogs are thought to have a genetic link, a dog with parents that suffer from allergies is more likely to be sensitive to allergens.
Seasonal Allergies in dogs, how to help
If you suspect your dog has an allergy, visit your veterinarian, who can assist in determining the cause. The longer the allergy goes undetected or untreated, the more likely it is that your dog will scratch and create more severe problems.
There are several options that your vet may offer to treat your dog if a seasonal allergy is suspected. These include prescribing antihistamine medications, allergy shots, cortisone, and allergy shampoos.
There are also things that you can do at home to help minimize allergies in dogs and keep our pets comfortable during allergy season.
Washing your dog’s feet after each walk will help keep allergens at bay. Not only will it wash away most of the environmental allergens from your dog’s paws, but it will also prevent the allergens from being walked through the house. Choose a shampoo that’s gentle on your dog’s skin and helps prevent itching and always dry dogs’ paws thoroughly.
In the same way that washing a dog’s paws will help minimize allergens, a full bath will remove any allergens on your dog’s fur and help soothe their skin. Although over bathing can remove essential oils, it can be a lifesaver when allergy season hits. Choose a mild shampoo and rinse well.
Wash dog beds and favorite sleeping places thoroughly. Vacuum regularly and choose cleaning products that are natural and non-toxic.
Change your dogs walking routes to minimize common allergens like grass, trees, and weeds. Changing where your dog walks can have a huge impact. If possible, keep well away from high pollen areas until the pollen count goes down.
Food allergies are sometimes tricky to identify, but if your dog suffers allergy symptoms all year round and the allergen can’t be identified, it could be something that your dog’s eating. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best way to alter your dog’s diet to attempt to identify the culprit.
Finding the root cause of an allergy is challenging but vital. As the more, your dog is exposed to the irritant, the more sensitive your dog becomes.
Dogs summer allergies
It can be miserable watching your dog suffer from allergies. Constant scratching, sore and inflamed skin, and regular head-shaking all make the summer months uncomfortable for our pets. But early detection and treatment can lessen the symptoms and help your dog get through this time of year with minimum suffering.
While allergies can’t be cured, with some careful management, you can support your dog by reducing the number of triggers your dog is exposed to lessening the symptoms. Combined with veterinary treatment there’s no reason why your dog can’t enjoy the summer months and make the most of the warm weather.