what pet parents should know about fall allergies in dogs
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Is your pet under the spell of autumnal allergies? Seasonal allergies might make it ruff for your dog to function in the fall––which can be a real struggle when you’re trying to enjoy walks together under the changing leaves. So what’s a pet parent to do for their dog’s seasonal allergies?
Knowing which allergens are present in the fall can help along with knowing proper grooming tips, preventative measures, and effective dietary supplements to best manage the fall flare!
Why do dog allergies get worse in the fall?
- Curly Dock
- Lamb’s quarters (pigweed)
- Marsh elder
- Russian thistle
- Yellow Dock
Symptoms of seasonal allergies in dogs
When our dog’s immune system encounters an allergen, it produces histamines to fight the foreign invader. Histamines move to nerve cells in the top layers of the skin, sending an ‘itch trigger’ to your dog’s brain. The goal is to get your dog to scratch the allergen off the skin and away from the body! In most cases, itching will be one of the first signs of fall allergies in dogs.
2. Red, inflamed skin
In addition to making your dog itch, histamines will also flood affected areas with blood in an attempt to flush out the allergen leading to redness and inflammation.
3. Chronic ear infections
Your dog’s ears are one of the areas most affected by seasonal allergies. The same allergens that affect the skin on the body will also cause inflammation on the skin that lines the inside of the ears creating inflammation and skin infections.
4. Excessive shedding
Excessive shedding can be a sign that your dog’s allergies are wreaking havoc on their skin and coat. Abnormal shedding, bald patches, skin flaking, and even dandruff may all happen over the course of an allergic skin reaction. In extreme cases, hair loss can also be caused by self-trauma or infection caused by excessive scratching.
Yes, that adorable sneeze from your dog might be due to seasonal allergies––especially when wind and pollen counts are high or when windows or doors are left open. In fact, the air quality inside most homes mirrors the air quality outside! So if pollen levels are high outside, chances are pollen levels inside the home are also elevated.
Be on the lookout out for rapid-fire sneezes, which might mean your pup has something stuck up their nose that needs to be removed.
When in contact with an allergen–either from ingestion or direct contact with the rear end–your dog’s anal glands can become inflamed. If the inflammation goes unchecked, the anal glands can become obstructed. As a result, your dog may scoot across the floor as they try to relieve anal gland pressure or quell allergy-related itching.
7. Musty smell
During an immune response to allergies, sebaceous glands in your dog’s skin will overproduce sebum–a waxy substance designed to moisturize the skin. As sebum builds up on the skin’s surface and dust and debris get stuck in it, your dog might take on an unpleasant odor.
If your dog is doing a lot of scratching because of allergy inflammation, body odor can also occur after bacteria and yeast overgrow on the surface of the skin. This makes regular bathing an important part of addressing fall allergies in dogs––and keeping your pet smelling fresh!
Dog breeds prone to seasonal allergies
Dog breeds with atopy (atopic dermatitis) will be more sensitive to changes in seasonal allergies–when certain weeds or flowers are pollinating–making itchy skin and other symptoms something to gear up for.
So which dog breeds are prone to allergies especially as seasons change? Take a look at this list:
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- Basset Hound
- Boston Terrier
- Bichon Frise
- Bull Terrier
- Cocker Spaniel
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Lhasa Apso
- Wire Fox Terrier
What can I give my dog for fall allergies?
If your dog's allergies are mild, there are plenty of home remedies you can utilize to combat symptoms before needing to seek veterinary intervention.
First, it’s important to know that–no matter how hard you try–there’s no way to completely remove all allergens from your dog’s environment. However, regular household dusting and changing their bedding more frequently can help alleviate symptoms. Moisturizing and improving the barrier function of the skin can also help improve your dog’s skin allergy symptoms over time.
For mild to moderate allergy symptoms, one (or more) of the following treatments could be the relief your dog needs from seasonal allergies:
Seasonal allergy supplements for dogs
Whether your dog suffers from seasonal or year-round allergies, a daily allergy supplement can help manage their symptoms. Nature produces its own version of Benadryl called Quercetin, which is sourced from a variety of fruits and vegetables and is an effective antihistamine that can help manage your dog’s allergy symptoms.
Other ingredients that support a healthy inflammatory response and skin barrier health are Omegas 3-6-9, Bromelain (often found in pineapple), and Licorice Root.
Prescription allergy medication for dogs
Not all dogs suffer from severe allergies, but some need advanced support for seasonal allergy symptoms. If your dog suffers extreme symptoms of seasonal allergies, they might need medication; your veterinarian can help you find the best allergy medication for dogs with moderate to severe seasonal allergy symptoms.
Topical anti-itch spray for dog allergies
Some dogs prefer a more hands-off approach to allergy treatments––especially if seasonal allergies leave their skin feeling itchy or tender! For itchy skin patches that seem to be causing your dog extra discomfort, use a medicated anti-itch spray to help them find relief.
Just spray it onto your dog’s dry skin, rub it in if you can, and reapply a few times per day for quick numbing and anti-inflammatory relief.
Anti-itch allergy relief shampoo & wash
Keeping your dog’s skin and coat clean can help relieve itchy allergy symptoms. A thorough wash can help remove environmental allergens and soothe inflamed skin.
For dogs struggling with seasonal skin allergy symptoms, an anti-itch pet shampoo could be beneficial. Pet-safe medicated ingredients like Pramoxine can relieve inflamed skin with a mild numbing effect. Look for pH-balanced, soap-free dog shampoos to avoid stripping your dog’s skin of essential moisture.
Cleansing face and skin wipes
If your allergic dog can’t help but love the outdoors, you may need to do damage control after they come inside from outdoor adventures. Use dog-friendly cleansing wipes to wipe down high-contact areas like their face, paws, ears, and underneath the tail, to help keep environmental allergens like pollen and grasses from causing further irritation and reduce the risk of secondary infections.
How long do fall allergies last?
Wondering how long you’ll be watching your dog scratch behind the ear and sneeze into their paws? Experts advise that if your dog has seasonal allergies, the worst symptoms will occur at the beginning of the season or during the transition into the following season. But beware, most dogs who start out seasonal will develop year round allergies with time.
If your dog’s allergies flare up in the fall, you can help them adjust by giving a daily allergy supplement in the weeks before the seasonal transition begins. You can expect most fall allergies in dogs to lessen by the first frost, which can happen as early as October in some climates. For more arid regions, the first frost can come as late as December or January.
Even as pollinators like ragweed dwindle with the first frost, keep in mind that allergens like mold and dander will still be present––so stay vigilant, pet parents of allergic canines!
If your dog or cat has allergies, it can really put a damper on their mood and behavior. Identifying your pet’s specific allergy triggers is the first step in creating a comfortable environment for them to thrive. But keep the Kleenex handy, just in case! And if allergy symptoms are severe, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for more advanced treatments.
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DR. JOYA GRIFFIN, DVM, DACVD
Dr. Joya Griffin is an Ohio native and graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has a special interest in fungal and immune-mediated skin diseases as well as feline and equine dermatology. Dr. Joya always strives to care for her patients as if they are her own pets and loves building long-lasting relationships with their pet parents. Dr. Joya also stars in the Nat Geo WILD television series, “Pop Goes the Vet with Dr. Joya,” which highlights the challenging and mysterious cases she encounters in veterinary dermatology.