Guide to Understanding Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

yellow lab in a field of wheat

If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer, you know how miserable certain seasons can be. Year-round allergy sufferers, even more so. Did you know your dog may similarly suffer from environmental allergens like ragweed, pollen, and mold too? As a human, you have remedies available that lessen your symptoms, allowing you to go about your day. But what about seasonal allergies in dogs? Do our canine companions have treatment options? Managing your pet’s allergies can be the difference between a happy dog and a miserable dog. Here’s the scoop on seasonal allergies and what you can do to help.

Do Dogs Get Seasonal Allergies?

Yes, dogs can have seasonal allergies. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the onset of seasonal or environmental allergies occurs between six months and three years of age. Although any dog can be allergic, certain breeds that have a predisposition to allergies include:

Can Dogs Have Pollen Allergies, Like Humans?

Yes, dogs, like humans, can suffer from pollen allergies. Although symptoms can develop any time of the year, they usually show during the spring, summer, and fall. If you notice your pet has symptoms year-round, it might indicate your pet has multiple allergies, and your vet should see them.

What Is the Worst Allergy Season for Dogs?

The spring season tends to be the worst for humans and dogs alike. Why? During several weeks during the spring, many plants and trees release pollen. The highest pollen polluting trees include:

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Cedar
  • Chestnut
  • Cypress
  • Elm
  • Juniper
  • Oak
  • Poplar (aspen and cottonwood)

In addition to pollen, spring welcomes the return of stinging insects, including bees and mosquitoes, which can trigger an allergic reaction in some dogs. Although spring may present the most significant number of allergens, other seasons can still wreak havoc on your pet’s immune system. Here’s a quick look at the remaining three seasons and what they bring:

  • Summer: Pollen from weeds, grasses, ragweed, and other summer plants may cause your dog issues because, unlike the trees in springtime, these plants are low to the ground, where your dog plays and walks. If your pet has allergies to stinging insects, summer can be challenging with hornets, wasps, fire ants, and yellow jackets.
  • Fall: This season has plenty of allergy triggers, including ragweed, mold, and pollen from plants such as curly dock, lamb’s quarters, goldenrod, and sagebrush.
  • Winter: Because your pet will most likely spend its time indoors, watch for allergies to dust mites and mold.

Signs of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

If you notice your pet compulsively licking its paws, sneezing, or scratching a lot, your pet is likely an allergy sufferer. Similar to humans, dogs can react to many environmental or seasonal allergens, suffering many of the same symptoms. Here are a few more to watch for:

  • Redness on or near ears
  • Watery (sometimes swollen) eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Hives
  • Excessive licking (belly, paws, and private regions)
  • Head shaking (due to ear irritation)
  • Eye discharge (green or yellow mucous)
  • Face rubbing (against surfaces like the couch, pillows, carpet)
  • Red, irritated skin (typically around the mouth, chin, neck, paws, and belly)
  • Eczema or hot spots (often around the tail or sides of the belly)
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive scratching of the ears
  • Respiratory congestion

Seasonal vs food allergies

Unfortunately, many seasonal and food allergy symptoms are the same, so it can be difficult to discern which type of allergy your pet is suffering from. So how do you tell if it’s seasonal or food allergies? Paying attention to when they occur can help pinpoint the type.

Although seasonal allergies tend to occur during a particular time, like spring or fall, many pets suffer from them year-round. Food allergies occur year-round with a sudden onset of symptoms. If you notice immediate symptoms in your dog after eating and you haven’t changed their food, it may be that the manufacturer changed its ingredients. It’s best to have your dog examined by a vet when you first notice any of the above symptoms to prevent a possible life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Seasonal vs skin allergies

Allergic dermatitis (skin allergies) is a common issue for dogs. The three causes of skin allergies are flea allergy dermatitis, food allergies, and environmental allergens. Dogs with an allergy to flea saliva may suffer from a skin rash (flea allergy dermatitis) from fleabites. If food allergies are the culprit, your dog may have itchy skin, most commonly on the ears and paws. In addition to itching, your pet may experience gastrointestinal issues with food allergies or sensitivities. Environmental allergens can lead to atopic dermatitis, causing your pet to itch around the paws, ears, eyes, muzzle, wrists, ankles, underarms, groin, and in between the toes.

Treating Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

You have several options for treating your dog’s allergies. A dog dermatologist may prescribe a series of allergen injections, similar to allergy shots humans can get. These shots introduce the allergen in small amounts and increase in dose over time to improve your dog’s immune response, possibly eliminating a reaction to the allergen.

If your pet has mild seasonal allergies, over-the-counter antihistamines may prove effective, whereas oral and topical prescription medications may help reduce symptoms. Ask your veterinarian for antihistamine recommendations.

Try treating your pet’s seasonal allergies through nutrition for a more holistic approach. Therapeutic dog foods and supplements offer vitamins and minerals that provide nutrients your pet’s diet might lack. To help minimize your dog’s allergies, the best thing you can do is limit their exposure to allergens. Wipe down your pet’s paws, legs, and belly with a baby wipe when they come in from outdoors. A weekly bath with oatmeal or medicated shampoo can be helpful. Be sure the water is lukewarm because hot water can dry and irritate the skin.

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