- Some allergies are year-round — Seasonal allergies all depend on exposure. If dogs are exposed to an allergen that’s typically seasonal, they can have a reaction regardless of the time of year.
- Dogs can be allergic to other pets — Allergic to cats? Your dog might be too, along with other animals, like birds or ferrets.
- Finding the cause can take time — Depending on what your dog is allergic to, narrowing down the cause of their reaction may involve a few visits to the vet, or a visit to specialists.
Sniffling and sneezing are normal annoyances for humans during the spring and fall seasons, but your dog may be bothered by seasonal allergies, too. If you notice your four-legged friend is scratching more than normal or suffering from a runny nose, it’s possible that seasonal allergies are to blame.
Here’s how to identify seasonal dog allergies and help your pup manage their most annoying symptoms, like sniffles, sneezes, and itchy skin.
What are dog seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies in dogs happen when pups inhale or come into contact with something they’re sensitive to. Allergies are caused by the immune system’s hypersensitivity to an allergen. When your dog comes into contact with an allergen in their environment, they experience a reaction that then triggers other reactions throughout their body, kind of like an alarm system.
Seasonal allergies are caused by environmental allergies. Some, like dust and mold, are year-round concerns, while others are only present during certain seasons.
Most often, your pooch’s allergies can be traced back to either tree pollen or flea and tick saliva , both of which can cause your pup to experience an allergic reaction. Pups that are allergic to fleas and ticks suffer from a condition known as flea allergy dermatitis, which can be fairly common. But seasonal dog allergies can also be brought on by other factors, too, like plants, weeds, and fresh grass.
In dogs, symptoms of allergies can range from mild to severe. Some pups might sneeze more often than usual while others might require immediate medical care.
Itchy skin is the most common and obvious sign that your pet is experiencing an allergic reaction. You’ll often see your pup either itching all over their body or in one area, like the armpit, groin, or muzzle. Some dogs might also chew on their paws.
Cause of seasonal allergies in dogs
Just like people, dogs can have allergies. Typically, symptoms flare up a few times a year as seasons change and introduce allergens into your dog’s environment, or changes in your lifestyle that impact their environment. For areas without well-defined seasons (like Florida or other southernmost states), “seasonal” allergies may be year-round!
- Grass and weed pollen. Most people are allergic to ragweed, and the same may be true for your dog.
- Tree pollen. Numerous trees cause allergic reactions in both people and pets. Some very common tree allergies are ash, cedar, oak, and hickory, to name a few.
- Mold and mildew. While this allergy may not be as obvious, dogs can be allergic to mold and mildew as well. During winter months when dogs spend more time inside, this allergy may be more apparent.
- Dust mites. Every home has dust, and some dogs have dust allergies. Like mold and mildew, this one may not be evident until your dog spends a prolonged amount of time around dust mites.
- Other pets. Just like how people are allergic to some pets, dogs can be allergic to other pets, too!
Dr. Erica Irish
Seasonal allergies/contact allergies are a common presenting complaint for most patients that I see. The intensely itchy pups can be so miserable without treatment.
Signs and symptoms of seasonal allergies
As in humans, the symptoms your pup experiences will depend on the extent of their allergy and what they came into contact with. A few of the most common signs and symptoms include the following:
- Red, watery, or swollen eyes
- Runny nose or a swollen muzzle
- Trouble breathing
- Itchy, flaky, red skin
- Fur loss
- Biting, excessive licking
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Chronic ear infections
According to one study , dog allergies have been linked to problem behaviors like mounting, hyperactivity, begging, attention-seeking, and excessive grooming. This research suggests that more intense allergy symptoms can create psychological stress for dogs.
The Merck Veterinary Manual also states that about 15% of dogs with allergies develop inflammation inside their nose. Sometimes, dogs experiencing this inflammation also develop asthma as a comorbidity.
Allergies can also lead to secondary infections like staph. As your dog licks or scratches, they can break through their skin. This damage can leave them vulnerable to a variety of yeast and bacterial infections.
👉 These symptoms could be a sign of an underlying condition. Always speak to your veterinarian to get a diagnosis.
Dog breeds that are susceptible to seasonal allergies
Dogs of any breed, age, and background can experience allergies. Some pups can even inherit certain allergies. A few breeds that are most susceptible include:
- Chinese shar-peis
- Pit bulls
- Golden retrievers
- Fox red Labrador retrievers
- Shih tzus
- Scottish terriers
- West Highland white terriers
Other common types of allergies in dogs
In addition to seasonal allergies, dogs can experience reactions to things like medicine and food. Many kinds of dog allergies can be challenging for their owners, and the symptoms of different types can overlap. Below are some of the most common types of reactions to watch out for in your pup:
- Skin atopy. This type of allergy is extremely common. Skin allergies are also known as atopic dermatitis and, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual , affect about 10% of dogs.
- Food allergies. Dogs that have food allergies tend to be sensitive to one of the protein sources most commonly found in dog foods like beef, chicken, or pork. These allergies can even affect your dog’s digestive system and can develop spontaneously, even if they’ve been on the same food for a long time.
- Medical allergies. Dogs can be allergic to certain kinds of medications. It’s also possible that the symptoms you think are allergies can be attributed to an underlying medical concern.
When to see a vet
If your dog has an allergic reaction, you need to take them to the vet. Your veterinarian is the only person who can diagnose your dog and get them the help they need. It’s always best to check in with your vet so they can help your canine companion feel their best.
A vet will be able to identify the underlying cause of your pet’s symptoms. Seasonal allergies may be to blame, but general dog allergies can also be caused by food, fleas, and more.
Always see your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your dog’s health.
👉 If you notice that your pup is extra itchy or has dry skin or open wounds, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Dogs can experience anaphylactic shock
The most worrisome part of any dog allergy is the possibility that your canine companion could go into anaphylactic shock. This severe allergic reaction is extremely life-threatening since it affects your dog’s airways. A few symptoms to watch out for include excessive drooling, seizures, vomiting, sudden diarrhea, and shock.
This kind of reaction can happen after your beloved pup is stung by a bee on a walk. Thankfully, anaphylactic reactions are rare.
If your dog experiences anaphylaxis, it’s a medical emergency. These reactions can be fatal if left untreated, but as long as you seek treatment immediately, your dog should experience a full recovery.
👉 If your dog experiences an anaphylactic reaction, get them to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital immediately.
Diagnosing seasonal dog allergies
Your veterinarian has a variety of methods they can use to determine if your dog is experiencing a seasonal allergy and natural treatments, like these for fleas, aren’t working.
- Rule out other causes. To begin, your vet will rule out other causes for your dog’s allergy first. Be prepared to have a conversation with them about your pet’s history, any recent incidents, and when you first noticed their symptoms.
- Physical examination. Your vet will check for any fleas, mites, or bugs that could be causing the problem. Depending on their findings and your dog’s current medication, they may recommend flea and tick medication.
- Skin testing. Your vet may perform skin cytologies (skin testing) to determine what your dog is allergic to by testing their reaction to different allergens.
- Allergy testing. If your dog’s allergies are still a mystery, a referral to a dermatologist may be necessary for intradermal skin testing and certain chronic cases.
Keep in mind that dogs can be allergic to several different allergens at the same time. Your veterinarian knows best, so chat with them about a course of action.
How to treat seasonal allergies in dogs
Managing seasonal allergies in dogs is very similar to managing them in people, and there are several techniques involved in managing allergies. Allergy management should always start with a vet visit, but here are some things you can do at home.
Change your daily routine — Avoid taking walks together early in the morning or late afternoon when pollen in the air is at its peak. If you can, avoid fields, parks, and other outdoor spaces that tend to have more allergens.
Clean your home — The surfaces of your home can trap allergens. Vacuuming and dusting regularly can help prevent dust and other allergens from building up, as can replacing your air filters.
Remove allergens after walks — When you get home from a walk, remove any pollen on your pup’s fur and face with a hypoallergenic pet wipe or gentle dish soap on a wet washcloth.
Check your pup for bugs — When bugs are most active, it’s easy for your dog to accidentally bring them inside. If you find ticks, remove them immediately. If you find fleas or flea dust, you’ll likely need to pick up some veterinary-grade products or even a prescription. Always keep your dog updated on their flea and tick medications.
Give your dog a bath — Scrubbing your pooch down with dog shampoo can wash away any built-up pollen on your pup’s skin and fur. Make sure the water is warm but not too hot so as not to dry out or irritate their skin. Medicated shampoos can also be a great option, and some even include antihistamines.
At-home and proactive care
Your goal is to at least alleviate, if not eliminate, your dog’s symptoms. Aside from limiting environmental exposure, you can also be attentive.
Moisturize their skin — After that luxurious bath, try using a natural moisturizer or DIY anti-itch spray to give your dog’s dry, itchy skin some relief. Coconut oil can be particularly beneficial to hot spots, and dog paw balms can help soothe dry, cracked paws.
Try a probiotic supplement — Probiotic supplements don’t cure allergies, but pet parents report that a multivitamin like this option from Natural Dog Company helped control their pup’s allergy symptoms. While more study is needed to confirm this, the vitamins they contain (like zinc) may help soothe your dog’s hot spots or itchy skin.
Try an over-the-counter medicine — Dogs can take oral medication like Zyrtec and Benadryl for allergies, but you’ll need to speak to your vet first. Keep in mind that allergy relief medication helps control symptoms but doesn’t cure allergies.
Talk to your vet
If reducing their exposure and at-home treatments aren’t working, it’s time for another vet visit. Ultimately, some dog allergies cannot be managed without prescription medication.
Try medications — Vets may prescribe your pup an allergy relief medication — such as Apoquel and Cytopoint — to ease their pesky symptoms. For severe allergies where secondary infections develop, they may prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal medication. For more extreme allergic reactions, they may prescribe steroids.
Talk to your vet about steroids — If recommended by a veterinarian, steroids can help manage allergies. However, steroids can come with side effects, so they aren’t used long-term. Vets can also prescribe anti-itch medications like Apoquel and Cytopoint that have fewer side effects.
Ask about an allergy serum — If your dog is experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of seasonal allergies, a veterinary dermatologist may decide to prescribe an allergy serum as part of immunotherapy. This treatment will require at-home injections or sublingual drops, which your vet can show you how to administer.
👉 Many prescribed and over-the-counter medications have side effects, so always talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog something new.
How to prevent an allergic reaction
There’s no cure for seasonal allergies, so you can’t prevent your dog from experiencing an allergic reaction. The best you can do is try to avoid allergens and pay attention to your dog’s symptoms.
While seasonal allergies are an unavoidable occurrence, you can try to increase your dog’s overall well-being. Implementing these prevention techniques, working with a veterinarian, and treating your dog’s symptoms at home will keep them comfortable and help them live a long and healthy life.
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Frequently asked questions
What can I give my dog for seasonal allergies?
Dogs can take over-the-counter medications like Zyrtec and Benadryl. Your pup may also benefit from an allergy supplement that can help treat and soothe their itchy skin. If you’re looking for a more natural solution, coconut oil can sometimes be applied topically to a dog’s hot spots if they aren’t severe. As with any treatment, it’s best to always check with your vet to determine what might work best for your pup.
When is allergy season for dogs?
Seasonal allergies in dogs are commonly caused by tree pollen or flea and tick salvia. Both tend to be most active during the spring and summer, which is when your pup is most likely to experience a reaction. That said, a dog can have an allergic reaction at any time of year.
How are allergies in dogs treated?
In order to treat your dog’s allergies, your vet will first need to find and treat the cause. Once your dog is no longer exposed to their allergen, their symptoms should stop. That said, if the cause can’t be identified or avoided, your vet may turn to a number of treatments. A few of the most common include over-the-counter medications, steroids, supplements, and allergy serums.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies in dogs?
The most common allergy symptom in dogs is itchy skin. In addition, some dogs may experience a runny nose, red eyes, loss of fur, chronic ear infections, and more. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s best to head to the vet to determine what might be going on.
What is the best remedy for a dog with severe skin allergies?
The solution to your dog’s itchy skin will likely depend on what’s causing it. With severe skin allergies it’s important to first consult with your vet and seek their guidance on medication, whether it’s a medicine administered every day, or a medicated shampoo.