Spring pollen and seasonal allergies in dogs

Spring pollen and seasonal allergies in dogs - puppy in a flowerbed

Dogs, like people, can experience unpleasant allergy symptoms with the arrival of spring. However, the symptoms of allergies and recommended treatments are different from allergies in humans. Read on if you have ever asked:

  • What are allergies?
  • Do dogs get spring allergies?
  • What are environmental allergens for dogs?
  • What are the signs and symptoms of allergies in dogs?
  • How does a vet treat allergies in dogs?
  • How can I help my dog’s allergies?

Allergies can bring unpleasant symptoms. While pet owners can treat their own allergies by visiting the local pharmacy, dogs require more specialized care to diagnose and treat their allergies. Seasonal allergens can be especially difficult to pinpoint in dogs due to fluctuation in flare-ups and symptoms. Fortunately, most dogs respond well to symptomatic allergy treatment so identifying specifically what your dog is allergic to isn’t usually necessary.

What are allergies?

All mammals, including dogs, have highly effective immune systems that fight foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. Sometimes, the immune system has a response to harmless invaders which causes irritation. When this happens, it is referred to as an allergic reaction, and the harmless invaders that triggered the response are called allergens. Common allergens that affect dogs include fleas, pollen, and certain foods.

What seasonal allergies can my dog have?

Some dogs’ allergy symptoms are consistently present throughout the year. When allergy symptoms follow a seasonal pattern, they are referred to as seasonal allergies. When spring arrives, it brings more flower and tree pollen, fleas, and time spent outdoors on walks, hikes, and at dog parks. This results in even more exposure to environmental irritants that can cause allergy flare-ups in dogs.

The two most common environmental allergens in dogs are pollen and flea saliva. Both of these allergens arrive in full force with the onset of warmer temperatures in spring and surge again in the fall. Dogs can also experience seasonal allergies in the winter if there is a seasonal uptick in the presence of their allergens during colder months.

How do I know if my dog has allergies?

Itchy skin is the most common symptom of allergies in dogs, especially around the face, paws, anal area, and base of the tail. Scratching can also lead to red, irritated skin and hair loss.  It is important not to assume your dog is itchy because of allergies. Many other conditions can cause excessive scratching, including mange, flea infestations, and ringworm. Veterinarians rely on diagnostic testing to rule out these other conditions before concluding a dog has allergies.  Once a dog has been diagnosed with allergies, allergy testing can help identify specific allergens, but this usually isn’t required since most dogs respond well to symptomatic treatment.

Other symptoms of allergies in dogs can include:

Allergies can result in secondary infections, such as hot spots and ear infections. LIfe threatening, anaphylactic allergic reactions to environmental allergens are extremely rare in dogs. If your dog suddenly has facial swelling or difficulty breathing, it’s important to call the nearest veterinary ER hospital right away.

How are canine allergies treated?

Seasonal environmental allergies cannot be cured, but symptoms can be managed. Most pets require a combination of treatments to achieve itch relief and prevention of secondary ear and skin infections. The treatment plan usually includes avoiding exposure to allergens, itch relief, and flea prevention, since flea saliva is such a common allergen. Itch relief and allergy treatment options include:

  • Medicated shampoos
  • Topical medications
  • Oral medications
  • Essential Fatty Acid supplementation
  • Steroids
  • Immunotherapy

Treatment of any secondary infections in the skin or ear infections will also be needed to keep your dog comfortable and healthy. Veterinary guidance for diagnosis and treatment is the best way to help your itchy dog be comfortable, avoid ear infections, and have a healthy coat of hair.

Do over-the-counter allergy treatments work?

Over-the-counter allergy treatments fall into two categories:  supplements and antihistamines.  Supplements aren’t subject to the same regulations as medications, so they can be sold without any proof they are effective.  Similarly, there is little evidence to support that over-the-counter antihistamines provide the same relief to animals as they do in humans. Dr. Jo Myers, a Vetster veterinarian, cautions, “The most effective anti-itch and allergy relief products are available by prescription from your veterinarian.” Giving over-the-counter medications, such as Benadryl, without your veterinarian’s guidance can result in toxicosis from added ingredients that aren’t dog-safe or doses that are too high. It’s best to take the guesswork out and visit your vet to ensure your pet receives the correct medication for their allergies in the proper dosage.

What should I do if my dog shows signs of allergies?

First things first, visit your vet. They will be able to rule out other causes of the symptoms and provide the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. In difficult cases that don’t respond to typical treatments, they can also help discover what the specific allergen is and if it is an environmental or food allergy. To assist the process, note when and where the symptoms began and if the symptoms improved by staying indoors or changing your dog’s daily routine.

Follow your vet’s advice on relieving the symptoms and avoiding the allergen. Do not give your dog any additional medications or supplements without consulting a vet. Finally, continue the allergy treatment as instructed even when symptoms go away. If the symptoms subside, this means the treatment is working. If you believe your dog is experiencing seasonal allergy symptoms, you can discuss the diagnosis and treatment process with an online vet at Vetster.

FAQ - Spring pollen and seasonal allergies in dogs

When do seasonal allergies occur in dogs?

Seasonal allergy symptoms wax and wane with a seasonal pattern. This can happen in any season, though the spring and fall months are the most common due to an abundance of the most common canine allergens (flea saliva and pollen) during this time of year. Dogs allergic to dust mites and mold spores may experience seasonal allergies in the winter.

What is the most common sign of allergies in dogs?

Itchiness is the most common sign of allergies in dogs, especially around the face, ears, paws, and base of the tail. A dog may scratch or excessively lick or bite at the itchy areas. While humans usually experience sneezing and itchy, irritated eyes in association with allergies, these are less common symptoms of canine allergies. The symptoms of allergies can occur with other illnesses, so it’s important to see a veterinarian for a diagnosis prior to assuming your dog’s symptoms are due to allergies.

What are the most common things dogs are allergic to?

The most common canine allergens are pollen and flea saliva. Certain types of mold and dust mites are common as well, and dogs sometimes experience food allergies.

The Vetster Editorial Team is comprised of seasoned writers and communicators dedicated to elevating stories about Vetster, pets and their owners.
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