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Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

Did you know that dogs can experience seasonal allergies, similar to humans? Seasonal allergies can cause a variety of symptoms in your four-legged companion, affecting their quality of life. In this article, our Portland vets outline the signs of seasonal allergies in dogs and discuss available treatment options.

Your Dog's Seasonal Allergies

If a certain substance (known as an allergen) triggers an overreaction in your pet's immune system, it can lead to allergic reactions in dogs. While these substances are generally harmless to most pets, some dogs are hypersensitive, resulting in allergies and associated symptoms.

The immune system typically defends against infections and diseases. However, it mistakenly identifies the substance as a threat when it comes to allergies. It generates unpleasant symptoms like sneezing, bald patches of skin, itchy eyes, and more in an attempt to expel the perceived threat.

Seasonal allergens are a common cause of allergic reactions in dogs. After the initial exposure to an allergen, your pup's immune system becomes hypersensitive, triggering an inflammatory response whenever they encounter the same allergen in their environment.

Seasonal allergy triggers are only present at specific times of the year, such as spring, summer, or fall. Some common causes of allergies in dogs include:

  • Mold spores and mold mites
  • Fresh grass
  • Dust and dust mites
  • Fungus
  • Weeds
  • Saliva from flea bites
  • Pollen
  • Hay fever

While most allergies are incurable, several options can help to manage and treat them to improve your pet's quality of life and well-being.

Symptoms of Canine Seasonal Allergies

Mild cases of seasonal allergies can significantly discomfort a dog. Therefore, it's crucial to identify potential symptoms, which may vary in severity and reaction depending on the irritant.

For instance, hay fever in humans typically leads to runny noses, sneezing, and itchy eyes. However, hay fever can result in skin irritation, extreme itchiness, an irritated throat, and sneezing in dogs.

Dogs experiencing seasonal allergies often exhibit the following common symptoms:

  • Skin infection or irritation
  • Scratching or biting at the skin due to itchiness or irritation
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Respiratory issues (e.g., coughing, wheezing, issues breathing)
  • Shedding and hair loss
  • Irritated throat
  • Rash on face or paws
  • Rubbing face on floor or furniture
  • Scooting (dragging butt across the ground) and/or licking rear
  • Ear infections, waxy ears, reddened ears
  • Shaking head– This is a widespread allergic reaction for dogs with floppy ears, such as basset hounds.

These conditions could be painful and even dangerous, so seek veterinary care sooner rather than later.

Diagnosing Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

Your dog's veterinarian will be able to diagnose seasonal allergies by discussing your pet's history with you, performing a physical examination, running a number of diagnostic tests (including blood work) in our in-house diagnostic vet lab, and monitoring your dog's treatment response to therapies.

Your vet may also suggest consulting a specialist veterinary dermatologist for accurate skin testing if necessary. During this testing phase, your dog will be closely monitored for reactions to microdoses of different allergens to pinpoint the specific allergy responsible for their symptoms.

This data will be used to formulate an allergy shot serum, which can help manage your dog's reaction to allergens and gradually reduce their severity over time.

What to Give Your Dog for Allergies

When discussing the treatment of your dog's seasonal allergies with your vet, consider the allergy serum prescribed by a veterinary dermatologist. This serum involves a series of allergen injections, gradually increasing in dose over time.

With professional guidance, you can administer these injections at home using a small needle. Fortunately, allergy injections typically have minimal side effects, making them effective for dogs with moderate to severe allergies.

For mild seasonal allergies, your dog may respond well to at-home or over-the-counter remedies like antihistamines.

Alternatively, you can explore options such as oral prescription medications and fast-acting anti-itch medicine, which can be discontinued without adverse effects. Some of these medications regulate the immune system's response to allergens. Your veterinarian at Portland can prescribe them after conducting a physical exam and running blood work.

Remember that some prescription medications may have side effects, so consult your vet to understand how they may impact your dog's health. We always recommend speaking to your vet before administering any medications, including over-the-counter ones, to ensure the best dosage for your dog's specific needs.

Using Nutrition to Manage Your Dog's Seasonal Allergies

Now, specially formulated therapeutic dog foods are available to help manage skin allergies in dogs. These may be used to supplement or replace the requirement for more costly medications. Ask your veterinarian about nutritional options for your dog and how to integrate or transition to a new food if the vet recommends you should do so. 

Limiting Exposure to Allergens

From fall through summer, allergens can expose your dog to various risks. To ensure your pup's happiness and health, take proactive steps to manage their exposure. After your dog plays outside, use a baby wipe to remove allergens from their paws, legs, and underside.

Give your dog weekly baths using oatmeal shampoo and lukewarm (not hot) water. The use of lukewarm water is crucial to prevent skin overdrying and irritation. You can also explore medicated shampoos containing steroids or antihistamines and prescription-strength sprays and lotions.

For dogs with allergies, effective treatment, and proactive prevention measures can significantly reduce the impact of seasonal allergens on your dog's overall health and well-being. Although it may require some experimentation, these steps can make a noticeable difference.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog might be suffering from seasonal allergies? Contact our vets in Portland. They can diagnose and treat numerous allergic conditions in pets. 

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