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Dog Allergies

Spring is often regarded as allergy season for people, but did you know that summer is the worst season for dog allergies? These allergies can ruin your pup’s summer. The only good thing about seasonal allergies is just that - they are seasonal.

Can my dog have summertime allergies?

Any dog breed can develop an allergic reaction. It all depends on how the dog’s body reacts when it comes in contact with a foreign substance.

An allergy starts when the immune system mistakes a harmless substance as an invader. When this happens, the immune system makes antibodies to combat the unknown allergen. The next time these antibodies come in contact with it, they will release chemicals which cause an allergic reaction.

Allergic reactions and their severity vary from dog to dog. However, studies show that some pets such as terriers, setters, retrievers, and flat-face breeds (pugs and bulldogs) are more susceptible to them because of certain inbred traits.  For example, terriers tend to be sensitive to certain foods. Setters are prone to skin irritation all over their body and ears.  Dogs with thick double coats, like retrievers, tend to catch and hold allergens in their fur. And pugs, like most flat-faced breeds, have breathing issues which leave them more vulnerable to airborne substances.

What are the symptoms of a dog allergy

Unlike human allergies which generally involve the respiratory tract, dog allergies are more about red, itchy skin and inflammation which can be very painful to them. Some of the more common signs to watch for are excessive scratching and chewing on certain areas of the body and a frequent rubbing up against things. If the allergy is not treated, these problem areas can lead to scabbing, hot spots, and hair loss.

A dog’s ear can be a tell tale indicator of an allergic reaction because the canals become itchy and inflamed. Other symptoms include inflamed orifices and red paws. Finally, as you might expect, pups can experience some sneezing and coughing just like people

What are the sources of summer time allergies?

Organisms that become very active during the summer are the main cause of summer allergies. They include anything from pollinating plants to aggressive insects.

Plant-based allergies are very common to dogs because sprouting vegetation tends to rub against their legs, underside, and face. Because they are low to the ground, they come in contact with certain life forms that we as humans might not.

Pollen from certain plants can also cause allergic reactions in pets. Some of these plants are:  cockleweed, pigweed, sagebrush, ragweed, timothy, bermuda, blue grasses, orchard, red top, and sweet vernal. How harmful each plant may be will vary depending on the dog.  Consult a veterinarian if your pet has come in contact with any of them.   Also, keep an eye out for plants that are toxic to pups – a list can be found here.  

Many insects (bees, wasps, hornets & ants) become more active in the summer and bites/stings from them can also lead to allergic reactions. Check your dog’s underside and face for marks. Symptoms may show within 20 minutes of a bite, while others could take 24 hours.  Again, be watchful.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has a summer allergy?

If you think your dog has a summer allergy, take your pet to a veterinarian. Please do not try to diagnose or treat the condition yourself. It would be very helpful, however, to give your vet a list of the active organisms your pet may have recently been in contact. 

What treatment options are available?

Dog allergies are hard to treat just like people allergies because there are so many variables involved. Because allergies are symptomatic, it takes a long time to find the best treatment regimen. 

Your veterinarian can prescribe medication but keep in mind that treating allergies can be expensive. The average national cost of treating plant allergies in dogs is $400 dollars.

Before going that route, you might want to first try just walking a different route, pulling the weeds in your yard, or giving your dog frequent baths to prevent allergens from being absorbed through the skin. 

You might even try some of these home remedies which have proven to alleviate symptoms:

Oatmeal

Add plain oatmeal to bath water. Oats contain polysaccharides which leave a protective film on the skin that prevents dryness and itching. If you don’t want the mess, trying using a hypo-allergenic shampoo – most contain oatmeal. Be sure to read the label.   

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apply apple cider vinegar to hot spots to help keep them dry or add it to your dog’s food to help clear a runny nose or watering eyes. 

Honey

For pollen allergies, add raw, locally sourced honey to your dog’s food. Do not substitute a shelf-brand because you need a honey that is most likely made with the same kind of pollen that is causing the allergic reaction. Gradually exposing your pet to the allergen like this should help build immunity.

Whatever you do, please do not give your pup any human medication unless your veterinarian prescribes it. While it may work, these drugs have side effects that may ultimately put your pet at risk. When in doubt, ask the professionals. 

As you can see, allergies are difficult to treat. During allergy season be extra vigilant for signs that your dog is in distress. All you can really do is try to alleviate the symptoms so they have some relief. And remember that seasonal allergies are just that…. seasonal. Now, go and enjoy the summer with your best friend! - Dustin Ford

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1. “Allergies: symptoms and causes” Mayo Clinic. 2017.

2. Becker, Karen. “If your dog is itchy or your cat is wheez, you need to read this” Mercola Healthy Pets. 22 Jun. 2012.

3. K. Becker

4. “Summer Season Allergies in Dogs” Vetary Inc. 2017.

5. “Insect Bites on Dogs: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment” Pet Assure Corp. 2017.

6. “Plant Allergies in Dogs” Vetary Inc. 2017.