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Seasonal Allergies: How Do They Affect My Dog?

by Trevor Venegas

If you’re one of the millions of people that suffer from seasonal allergies, you know how difficult they can make daily life. All year you look forward to the winter months where you can escape the constant sneezing and sniffling because, for most of us, seasonal allergies are most prevalent during the spring, summer and fall months.

Humans are not the only mammals affected and dogs can also succumb to seasonal allergies, though their symptoms may not be as easy to spot.

  Here are a few tips to help you spot if your dog is having an allergic reaction and how to address it:

First, it is important to determine what category of allergy your dog is suffering from. If they only exhibit symptoms during certain parts of the year, your dog may have seasonal allergies. However, if they seem to exhibit symptoms year round, he or she may be allergic to something in their environment, like their food or a cleaning agent used around the house.

Atopy, the most common form of allergy in dogs is often seasonal and, during the fall months, can be caused by increased growth of Ragweed in your area. The most common symptoms atopic dogs suffer are excessive scratching, licking or rubbing and inflamed ears or ear infections. Of these symptoms, the most detrimental is scratching, as they can begin to remove hair and skin over time. Look for signs of hair loss, red or scabbed skin and discolored hair on the face, ears or paws as these areas are most commonly affected.

To relieve your dog’s allergies, one of the best things you can do is bathe them using a soothing shampoo. Arenus’ Sore No-More Massage Shampoo is great for this because it is free of sodium lauryl sulfate and contains a liniment component as well.  The sulfate free formula won't strip the hair of oils, allowing the skin to retain much needed moisture, and the liniment base provides a soothing, mild, anti-inflammatory quality.  Bathing is an easy way to remove excess dry skin while calming symptoms and helping to avoid any bacteria build-up due to scratching or licking. 

If you're not in a position to bathe your dog regularly, being diligent about washing your dog's paws and legs regularly when they return to the house from outside can be a good way to help alleviate some of the symptoms as well.

For persistent symptoms, your vet can provide valuable insight into underlying or alternative causes.  They may suggest starting your dog on antihistamines, which can relieve allergy symptoms but are usually only effective in only 30% of dogs according to California Veterinary Dermatologist, Dr. Nicole Eckholm. Many vets, like Dr. Eckholm, also suggest using corticosteroids in small doses for short periods of time if the antihistamines are ineffective. Steroids have proven to work well in controlling allergy symptoms and can provide much needed relief to an itchy pet, but can cause irreversible side effects if used too often or for extended time periods. 

Watch this great video for more information on how to spot seasonal allergies in your dog:

Seasonal allergies in dogs are not typically life threatening but can lead to more serious skin disease and infection if left unattended. Excessive scratching, biting, licking or inflamed ears can all be signs your dog is suffering from allergies. Your veterinarian is a wonderful resource for developing a plan to help you and your pet deal with their frustrating, seasonal allergy symptoms. More often than not, a multi-faceted approach is used which may include allergen testing in an attempt to narrow down the allergy symptom trigger(s).

While home and medical management can help relieve some of the symptoms, like humans, canine allergies can be chronic and may worsen over time. Pay close attention to any behavior changes, regularly inspect your dog’s skin and coat and don't hesitate to visit your veterinarian if the issue does not improve.