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Did you know?

Spring has finally arrived! We and our dogs can begin to enjoy the outdoors again!  It’s time to feel the warming sun, sniff fragrant flowers, and hear the birds sing.  We revel in abounding pleasures that delight our senses during this time of year.  Yet, hand in hand with the many plusses of spring, come the discomforts of seasonal allergies for some people … and, you might be surprised, for some dogs, as well.

Just like a portion of the human population, many canines possess immune systems that react to certain environmental substances as if they were ‘dangerous.’ These substances–triggers–thus become allergens that effect a range of reactions in the body.

Your pup might experience allergic reactions to environmental substances via inhalation, ingestion or contact with the skin.  In attempts to rid the body of these perceived irritants, doggies’ immune systems consequently attack, typically on the skin or within their digestive or respiratory systems.

In fact, a pooch’s allergies can arise at any point during his lifespan. Allergies of spring are often elicited by many of the same allergens that effect humans.  Similar again to people, seasonal allergies symptoms in dogs can vary from simple nuisances to occasionally extreme reactions, the latter cause for immediate veterinary attention.

Seasonal spring triggers:

Following are some common doggie allergens prevalent during spring and summer: Tree, grass and weed pollens; plant fibers; mold spores; flea bites and flea-control products or insecticidal shampoo; or fertilizers and other outdoor chemicals. (Of course, pooches can also be sensitive and react to year-round allergens, such as house dust and dust mites or dust: dander; cigarette smoke; food ingredients; cleaning products; fabrics and more.).

Seasonal Symptoms:
  • Frequent itching/scratching –Allergic reactions on the skin can cause redness, irritation or inflammation (atopic dermatitis)
    • Repeated chewing or licking of paws or areas of effected skin
    • Excessive rubbing against carpeting, furniture or wall
    • Secondary infections, which may cause hair loss, scabs or crusts on skin
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Itchy back or base of tail (frequent area for flea allergy)
  • Itchy ears, ear infection, waxy discharge, odor or redness–Your dog might paw at his ears
  • Sneezing, sniffling, runny nose
  • Gastrointestinal distress – Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Snoring—as a result of throat inflammation
Prevention and Relief:    

The best way to treat allergies is to remove the insulting substances from the environment or, at least, as soon as possible after your dog is exposed.  In other words, bathe your pup regularly to eliminate materials like pollen, even using specially formulated shampoos for inflamed or sensitive skin. Each time your pooch comes inside, wipe or wash his paws carefully so irritants do not spread throughout the house or on his body.  Frequently clean and vacuum those chairs, beds, and areas of the floor where your dog spends time. Even better, try to find non-toxic cleaning formulas, which are much more available these days. For additional indoor prevention, make sure to clean air conditioning filters monthly; change them if/when needed.

For skin irritation or inflammation, warm baths (with oatmeal) can be soothing, just as they are with human sufferers. Fatty acid supplements can also aid in reducing your dog’s itchy skin. When your precious pooch exhibits mild to moderate allergic reactions, a vet can advise on over the counter hydrocortisone creams or allergy medications such as antihistamines at appropriate dosages. He can also determine if allergy injections or, in some cases, an immune modulating drug would be beneficial.  In the event of extreme and/or extended allergic reactions, your vet might resort to the more extreme measure of oral cortisone (steroid) treatment. Vets can also conduct allergy testing for certain types of allergies in order to identify specific culprits to make prevention easier and more targeted.

In terms of fleas and related allergies, prevention is key.  Maintaining monthly flea and tick control treatments is paramount, not to mention checking your canine for signs of infestation. There are numerous safe products on the market such as foggers and sprays that can help rid your yard of fleas and mosquitoes and sometimes ticks.

Since allergies are effects of the body’s immune system responses it would bode well to ensure that your pup’s immune system is optimally healthy. Your pooch depends on you to provide nutritious, balanced meals, free of unhealthy fillers and by-products. (Some dogs are more susceptible than others to allergies during spring and summer. For them, a diet low in grain/carbs can help prevent or reduce inflammation.)

Moral of the Story…

Our doggies, like so many of us, might be prone to seasonal allergies that can occur while spring blooms and flourishes. Nevertheless, the irritations and sniffles that come along with the lovely weather are manageable by a loving owner and the resources he/she utilizes, like excellent veterinary care, modern toxic-free products. As with so much else, attention and prevention first; treatment and belly rubs next.