How to Tell if Your Dog has Seasonal Allergies
Dogs are just as susceptible to seasonal allergies as humans. Specific allergens in the environment tend to increase at certain times of the year, specifically during spring and/or fall, triggering an onslaught of allergy symptoms in hypersensitive dogs. However, with drastic changes in the weather patterns brought about by climate change, vets have seen cases of seasonal allergies throughout the year. So, how do you know if your dog has seasonal allergies? Keep reading to find out!
What is my dog allergic to?
There are so many types of environmental allergens that it’s really difficult to prevent your dog’s exposure to them. The most common allergen triggers in the environment include:
- Environmental pollutants
When a hypersensitive dog is exposed to an allergen, the immune system of the animal responds by releasing histamine and other chemicals. These substances bring about itching, swelling, and inflammation. The intense itching and discomfort can also bring about distinct changes in the behavior of affected dogs.
Pollen hypersensitivity in dogs is associated with canine atopic dermatitis (CAD). A study that linked skin allergies in dogs to problem behaviors found that the severity of the itch in dogs with atopic dermatitis was directly linked to more frequent problem behaviors - such as mounting, chewing, hyperactivity, eating feces, begging for and stealing food, excitability, attention-seeking, and excessive grooming - which could suggest a link between the severity of the itching and psychological stress in dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Scratching, chewing, licking, biting, and rubbing parts of the body against surfaces are common behaviors of dogs suffering from seasonal allergies. Eventually, the scratching frenzy can cause the skin to become raw and inflamed.
Affected dogs may also excessively lick itchy areas, particularly on their bellies, paws, and around their behinds.
Because of the intense itching, you may notice your dog rubbing his face against the carpet, furniture, and other surfaces to find relief. For some dogs, itching seems to be all over their bodies, causing them to rub their entire bodies across surfaces.
Hives and Rashes
A dog can react to an allergen with rashes and hives. Hives can develop anywhere on your pet’s skin, though you can easily spot them on parts of the body with sparse hair, such as the belly. There may also be hives on the head, face, or legs, and raised bumps on your pet’s body. These bumps are actually raised tufts of hair that may persist for a few days or even weeks. The occurrence of the rashes and hives tend to be on and off depending on your pet’s exposure to the allergen(s).
Persistent scratching can break the skin surface, and this can create avenues for secondary bacterial and/or fungal infections. The skin around the dog’s mouth, paws, neck, and belly appear red and inflamed. The licking and the biting can also increase a dog’s risk of hot spots which can add to the dog’s pain and discomfort.
Some dogs may not exhibit many allergy symptoms but will have increased skin sensitivity. Touching, petting, or scratching their backs cause their skin to twitch or crawl. These dogs try to find ways to get their owners’ attention and have their backs scratched.
Puffy or Itchy Eyes
Some dogs have puffy or itchy eyes during an allergy flareup. There may also be patchy areas of baldness around the eyes.
The eye discharge may be watery or may turn pus-like in consistency and have a greenish or yellowish color.
As the dog continues to suffer from itching and skin infection, there will eventually be hair loss. Dandruff is also a common effect of seasonal allergies. Dogs with allergies can have extremely dry skin that flakes. Hair loss is often prominent on the dog’s belly, legs, and tail area.
Licking and Chewing Paws
The itching brought about by seasonal allergies can cause compulsive paw licking in dogs.
Itching in their rear ends can cause dogs to scoot or drag their behinds across the ground or floor. They may also lick their rear ends to ease the unpleasant itching. Anal gland inflammation and infection is common in dogs with seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies in dogs have also been linked to chronic ear infections. The problem is particularly common among canine breeds with floppy ears such as the Beagle and Basset Hound.
Allergic dogs suffer from ear infections over and over again. Prominent symptoms of ear infections in dogs include frequent head shaking and the buildup of ear wax along the ear canals. The dog shakes his head to try to get rid of the irritation in his ears. The inflamed ears may also have a strong stinky odor. An ear infection can cause your pet a significant amount of discomfort and pain.
Although less prevalent, a dog with seasonal allergies may also develop respiratory issues. Sneezing and reverse sneezing may be seen in affected dogs.
Food Allergies vs. Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Determining whether your dog has food or seasonal allergies can be pretty tricky. Dogs can react to nearly anything. The process of diagnosing the problem will involve a lot of trial and error to identify the allergen culprit.
According to Ekaterina Mendoza-Kuznetsova, a veterinary dermatologist at Cummings School of veterinary medicine, most dogs with environmental allergies have otitis (ear infection) that is chronic and relapsing. But something like a flea allergy alone usually doesn't cause the condition.
Some distinct features can help indicate which type of allergy your dog has. First, the location of the lesions provides an important clue. Symptoms of food allergies are usually found on the dog’s hips, ribs, knees, and just about anywhere else on your pet’s body. There may also be recurring ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea. On the other hand, a seasonal allergy is suspected when the flare-up of symptoms usually occurs at certain seasons of the year. Generally, seasonal allergies tend to occur around the same time or season of the year.
How Seasonal Allergies are Treated in Dogs
There’s no miracle cure for seasonal allergies in dogs. Even if the allergen culprit has been identified, you cannot totally prevent your pet’s exposure. In most cases of seasonal allergies, the treatment is aimed at managing the symptoms to provide relief and improve your pet’s quality of life.
Over-the-counter antihistamines such as cetirizine, loratadine, and diphenhydramine have been used to ease itching and inflammation. Even if you can easily buy any of these allergy medications without a prescription, you should consult your vet before giving any medication to your dog. Side effects are always a possibility, particularly when the dosage is not accurate. Take note that the dosage of allergy medications for humans is different from that for dogs.
In dogs with severe allergic reactions, prescription drugs, such as prednisone and Apoquel, may be needed. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics and/or antifungal medications if there are secondary infections.
On the home front, there are also natural remedies that are known to help relieve allergy symptoms in dogs. These include:
- Bathing dogs that are suffering from allergy symptoms using hypoallergenic shampoos, such as oatmeal shampoo, to help get rid of allergens on your pet’s body.
- Supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids have a soothing effect on skin that’s irritated and itchy.
Common Myths About Allergies in Dogs
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