When my dogs first started exhibiting symptoms of seasonal allergies, I wasn't sure what to think. Despite the thick layer of yellow pollen coating my backyard, I didn't even consider that dogs could get allergies, too. To me, allergy season was a personal struggle marked by itchy eyes, constant sneezing, and the annoying rattle of allergy medication bottles at the bottom of my bag. Inflamed paws, aggressive scratching, and ear infections were completely uncharted territory for me and my dogs.
In the beginning, I noticed increased licking and itching from all three of my dogs, but I wasn't too concerned. A week later, however, my oldest dog's paw licking became so severe that I feared infection would follow, leaving me in a panic to figure out what was causing my dogs so much discomfort.
A hurried trip to the vet confirmed that seasonal allergies were to blame, and I spent the next few days experimenting with different treatments to uncover what the specific allergen was. Fast forward to today, and my dogs are perfectly healthy again thanks to a mix of treatments. If you've noticed similar behavior in your dogs, there are some vet-approved tips you can use to make sure your pets stay safe for all of allergy season.
What Causes Dog Allergies in the First Place?
Dog allergies can be caused by a lot of different things, but most seasonal allergens are environmental. Things like grass, pollen, dust, mites, and fleas are the most common offenders according to Dr. Jessica Kirk, DVM, but seasonal allergies are unique because they only affect dogs during certain times of the year (much like humans). Once the allergen enters or comes into contact with your dog's body, it will then trigger an inflammatory response, alerting your dog's immune system to start defending against the "intruder," Dr. Kirk explained. The physical reactions that follow are a result of your dog's body working to remove the intrusive allergen.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Has Seasonal Allergies?
To tell if your dog has seasonal allergies, Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM and veterinary consultant for DogLab, recommended tracking your dog's symptoms, especially itching, and seeing if they stop once the weather changes. Dr. Kirk said other typical symptoms include irritated skin, red or itchy ears, watery eyes, sneezing, and runny noses. Common areas of irritation include the head, armpits, groin, stomach, and most of all, paws. Should itching and scratching intensify, Dr. Ochoa warned that allergies could result in ear and skin infections, which call for professional medical attention.
What Can I Do to Treat My Dog's Seasonal Allergies?
There are plenty of things you can do to help treat your dog at home, but you should always consult with your veterinarian first. Dr. Kirk said that if your vet thinks your dog has seasonal allergies, they may conduct a few diagnostic tests to find out the specific cause behind the allergies. These may include skin tests, blood tests, allergy injections, or prescribed medications.
From here, your vet may encourage you to take action depending on the exact allergen; they may suggest doing a deep house cleaning for any mites or fleas or avoiding outside contact with grass for a few weeks. For at-home use, Dr. Ochoa suggested giving your dog one milligram of Benadryl per pound of body weight (e.x., a 25 mg tablet for a 25 pound dog) and weekly baths to rinse off any potentially irritating pollen. Vets may also recommend certain anti-itch products from your local pet store to reduce discomfort and help your dog get back to normal as soon as possible.