Ah, spring! The birds are chirping, the blossoms are blooming, the grass is greening, and the dog? The dog is sneezing every five minutes.
According to Dr. Bryan Gelman, DVM, dogs of all ages and breeds are susceptible to seasonal allergies, just like the rest of us. The uptick in free floating pollen at this time of year can cause our dogs all sorts of discomfort, from itchy paws and runny eyes to irritating skin infections.
We sat down with Dr. Gelman to get the deets on our sneezy best four-legged friends.
What are the signs your dog has seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies, also known as environmental allergies or atopy, affect all breeds of dogs and dogs of all ages. Signs can vary greatly, but are best described as an "itchy dog."
Signs your dog has seasonal allergies include:
- Licking or chewing of the paws
- Chronic ear infections
- Red, runny eyes
- Chronic skin infections. Atopy is normally seasonal, but as the disease worsens, can become year round.
How do canine seasonal allergies compare to human seasonal allergies? Is it worse for them when it's worse for us?
Symptoms can be similar, but generally the severity of symptoms correlate with the amount of exposure to the underlying allergen. So in short, if you are having a bad allergy day and you and your pup are allergic to the same things, then yes, allergies might be as bad for them as they are for you.
Another similarity between dog and human allergies is that like us, dogs can develop an allergy at any point. It is not an age specific disease.
How do you treat dogs with seasonal allergies?
- Medicine, including OTC antihistamines and stronger prescription options.
- Immunotherapy, includes allergy shots as well as a new treatment called Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT for short). SLIT is an alternative way to treat allergies without injections. The dog is given a small dose of an allergen orally to boost tolerance to the substance and reduce symptoms.
- Medicated shampoos and conditioners.
- Topical treatments that can help, usually available by prescription only, so consult with your vet to find the right one for your dog.
Reducing exposure to any allergen is the key to decreasing the symptoms, but with environmental allergies, it can be very tough, or nearly impossible to remove the exposure to the allergen altogether. No one type of pollen or plant is more likely to cause allergies, as each individual is sensitive to his or her particular allergens. There are allergy tests that will help identify the specific causes, which include a blood test and a skin test. An allergy skin test is the gold standard.
Are there any foods that help treat or reduce symptoms?
In general, food can not be used to treat atopy or seasonal allergies. However, when determining what your pup is reacting to, your vet might also want to rule out food allergies.
At Ollie, we use single animal protein sources in our recipes. This allows us to help pet parents support their pups dietary needs while avoiding common allergens. For pups who are allergic to chicken (a common dog allergy) we offer Recipes made with Turkey, Lamb or Beef. None of our Recipes contain corn, wheat or soy which are also common food allergens for dogs. Since our food is gently cooked and shipped frozen we can also avoid using preservatives that some pups are also allergic to.
What breeds are most at risk for developing seasonal allergies?
While any breed of dog can experience allergies some are more prone than others. Dogs like Pit Bulls are especially prone to skin allergies and boxers are prone to both skin and food allergies. This is especially true of diets high in soy, wheat and corn.
Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, Maltese, Golden Retrievers and Labradors are all breeds that are also prone to allergies. As allergies can be costly to treat, do your research before adopting or purchasing a pup if you are concerned about cost.
Often, if you have health insurance for your dog, these costs may be at least partially covered. Check with your insurance plan if you aren't sure.
Are there any dangers or warning signs related to seasonal allergies that warrant urgent care?
In general, environmental allergies are a chronic disease that rarely require emergency treatment. An allergic reaction resulting in swollen eyes, swollen tongue, raised welts on the skin (or any other fast, dramatic physical change) is more likely due to a bug bite or direct exposure to a plant. If this happens, contact your vet immediately to determine the best treatment and to relieve symptoms.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.