Dogs can have seasonal allergies, just like people. While itchy skin is a common symptom of dog allergies, there are also others. Today, our board-certified veterinarians in Lexington list types of seasonal allergies, signs and potential treatment options.
Your Dog's Seasonal Allergies
Just like their humans, dogs can experience seasonal allergies. That said, your pup's reactions to an allergen may differ slightly from yours and may include anything from mild or intense itchiness to sneezing and bald patches of skin.
When dogs inhale or interact with something they're sensitive to, seasonal allergies can develop. These allergies occur when the immune system has an intolerant reaction to an allergen.
After that first time coming into contact, the immune system will go haywire, resulting in an inflammatory response any time that same allergen is encountered again in your pup's environment.
Factors that influence seasonal allergies will only be present at specific times throughout the year. Think grass and tree pollen, mold and mold mites, flea bites, fresh grass, dust and dust mites in the spring, summer or fall.
Signs of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Reactions to seasonal allergies can differ depending on the irritant. For example, while hay fever often triggers itchy eyes, sneezing and runny noses in humans, symptoms of hay fever often appear in a dog's skin, causing extreme itchiness along with frequent sneezing, irritated throat and sore or bald patches of skin due to excessive itching.
You might see a rash develop on your dog's face or paws, or notice they are biting or itching at their skin frequently. They may also rub their face on furniture or the floor.
Diagnosing Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
One of our board-certified veterinarians in Lexington can give your pet a physical exam, assess their medical history, perform laboratory tests (such as blood work) and at our in-house diagnostic vet lab and monitor your dog's response to therapies.
It may also be necessary to visit a veterinary dermatologist to have your dog's skin tested for seasonal allergies. During this testing, your pet will be monitored for reactions to microdoses of different allergens to determine the specific allergy that's causing their symptoms.
This data will be used to develop a serum for allergy shots to help manage your dog's response to allergens, making them less intense over time.
What to Give Your Dog for Allergies
When it comes to discussing how to treat your dog's seasonal allergies with your vet, the allergy serum mentioned above (and prescribed by a veterinary dermatologist) may help. It will mean a series of allergen injections, gradually increasing in dose over time.
These injections can be done at home with a very small needle, and some professional guidance. Fortunately, allergy injections tend to trigger low levels of side effects, which can make 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 such as antihistamines.
Other options include oral prescription medications and fast-acting anti-itch medicine that can be discontinued without negative side effects. Some medications control the immune systems response to allergens. Your Lexington veterinarian can prescribe these after conducting a physical exam and running blood work.
Some prescription medications may have side effects, so ask your vet how taking them may affect your dog's health. We always recommend speaking to your vet before giving your dog any medications, including over-the-counter ones - so your vet can provide advice on the best dose for their specific needs.
Using Nutrition to Manage Your Dog's Seasonal Allergies
There are now specially formulated therapeutic dog foods 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, your dog may be exposed to any number of allergens. One key to keeping your pup happy and health is managing exposure. After your dog comes in from playing outside, you may want to use a baby wipe on their paws, legs and underside to remove allergens from the skin.
Weekly baths with oatmeal shampoos and lukewarm (not hot) water may also help. It's important that the water be lukewarm to prevent overdrying and skin irritation. Medicated shampoo containing steroids or antihistamines can work well, as can prescription-strength sprays and lotions.
When it comes to dogs and allergies, proper treatment and active prevention measures can often reduce the impact of seasonal allergens on your dog's health and well-being, though it may take some experimenting.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.