Ahhh, springtime. The birds chirp. The air is warm. The flowers are in bloom. The trees sway in the wind.
It's also when pollen levels are high. People start cutting their grass. And dust builds up in your home.
Pull out the Kleenex and Claritin, because you'll need it for the next few months.
While you're suffering in the springtime with your environmental allergies, is it possible that your dog could be too? In fact, you've noticed that your pup sneezes more, has a runny nose, and is experiencing itchy skin around the same time that your allergies are in full force. It just may be possible that he has seasonal allergies, since dogs can get them, too.
The definition of seasonal allergies
Allergies are sensitivities we may encounter in everyday life, such as dust and mold. While some dogs won't react at all to these sensitivities, other may have a mild to very strong reaction. When this happens, their immune system will detect that the allergy is harmful, and it will release histamines that may lead to swelling, itching, and inflammation. Seasonal allergies are those that pop up during various times of the year, but don't occur year-round.
What causes seasonal allergies?
There are a number of things that could be causing your pup to have seasonal allergies. Some dogs are allergic to mold spores, dust, plant and tree pollens, flea saliva, fungi, weeds, grass, and feathers.
Are certain dog breeds prone to allergies?
Some breeds have a higher likelihood than others of being predisposed to seasonal allergies. They include the American Pit Bull Terrier, German Shepherd, Brussels Griffon, Bichon Frise, Boxer, Cocker Spaniel, Bull Terrier, Maltese, Golden Retriever, and Labrador Retriever.
Signs of seasonal allergies in dogs
If your dog has seasonal allergies, he may scratch himself constantly, have itchy, runny eyes, chew at his feet, sneeze, experience hair loss, get ear infections, have diarrhea or vomiting, rub or scratch his face, and lick himself. You may also notice an inflammatory response on his skin – it may be itchy, red, or moist.
Testing for seasonal allergies in dogs
If you believe your dog has seasonal allergies, you can take him to the veterinarian for some testing. Your veterinarian will perform what's called intradermal allergy testing, also known as skin testing. Ideally, you won't give your dog antihistamines or corticosteroids for one to two weeks prior to doing the test, as it can skew the results. It's recommended that you don't feed your dog eight to 12 hours before the exam.
When your dog goes into the vet for testing, he will be given a mild intravenous sedative in order to relax him. It's not an anesthetic, and it's completely safe. Your dog will, in fact, be awake and able to respond to you and the veterinarian throughout the testing process, which only takes about 30 minutes.
Your vet will make a number of injections into your dog's skin to see what he's allergic to. If he is indeed allergic, red hives will appear on his skin.
Treatment and prevention for seasonal allergies
Thankfully, you can make a few simple changes to combat your dog's seasonal allergies. Try out the following to see what works and helps your dog feel better.
Avoid walking at certain times
Don't walk your dog in early morning or late afternoon if he's allergic to pollen, since that's when pollen levels are at their highest. When you get home from a walk, you can wipe your dog's coat and paws down with a moist cloth or a grooming wipe that's fragrance-free, since this is a quick way to rid of the allergens on your dog.
Bathe your dog
When your dog is dirty, make sure you give him a bath to clean off any allergens as well. He may require frequent bathing in the warmer months since he'll be outside more often. To avoid further skin issues, only use dog shampoo – especially a calming one made of oatmeal – or a dog-friendly human shampoo like Dr. Bronner's. Avoid any other kind of human shampoo, since humans and dogs have different pH levels in their skin and can't tolerate the same ingredients.
Invest in flea prevention
If your dog is allergic to flea saliva, use a flea treatment like a flea collar, flea pills, topical applications, and flea shampoo. You should ask your veterinarian for their advice, because some dogs can't handle certain kinds of treatment if they are older, have a medical condition, or are pregnant.
Get over-the-counter medicines
You can also give your dog over-the-counter medicines like antihistamines, Tylenol, and ibuprofen to help with their seasonal allergy symptoms. Just watch out for decongestants or pseudoephedrine, which your dog should never take. Since the dosage for humans and dogs is different, ask your veterinarian how much to give your pup once you recognize the symptoms.
Try fish oil
A more natural prevention and treatment technique is to give your dog fish oil supplements, which contain omega-3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory. The supplements will work to reduce inflammation as well as reduce hot spots and treat dandruff and itchy skin. A few benefits your dog will experience from taking fish oil supplements are having a healthy coat and skin and experiencing less shedding.
Keep the house clean
If your pup is allergic to dust, then make sure you're keeping your house clean. You should vacuum frequently, use an air purifier, dust surfaces, mop, and use natural cleaners that won't further upset your dog.
If your dog has seasonal allergies, there are many ways you can go about treating him. All it takes is some trial and error, help from your vet, and persistence when it comes to figuring out what the exact problem is and how to fix it.