Summer is here which means one thing for seasonal allergy sufferers – uncomfortable symptoms such as watery eyes, itchiness and constant sneezing. Just like human hay fever sufferers, dogs experience their fair share of seasonal allergies which often result in irritation or inflammation of the skin, known as allergic dermatitis.
At this time of year, common allergens include pollen, grasses, dust mites, and even mildew and mould. In humans, seasonal allergies usually affect respiration, whereas in dogs, they tend to affect the skin. Allergic dermatitis causes itchiness which is often so uncontrollable that it leads to aggressive itching that damages the skin and coat. Because the itch-scratch cycle is self-perpetuating, it can be difficult to bring under control.
If your dog continues to itch itself, the skin can quickly become raw and inflamed. Eventually, this may lead to hair loss and open sores that aren’t given time to heal. Hot spots are areas of inflammation that are repeatedly aggravated, whether through excessive licking or scratching, and they can be difficult to manage once they’ve appeared. Sometimes the aggravation can be so severe that bleeding occurs.
Seasonal allergies can also affect the delicate skin in the ear canals, which leaves room for secondary infections to form. If you notice your dog shaking his head or pawing at his ear, there is probably a problem that needs your attention. Discharge or a strong odour will be present if infection has taken hold.
Dogs with seasonal allergies can also display generalised redness, including around the eyes, paws and gum line. Puffy eyes and typical signs of sinusitis/bronchitis may show if your dog suffers with allergies particularly badly. Before self-diagnosing an allergy or associated skin complaint, take your dog along to the vet for a thorough check-up.
What can I do to help my dog?
Obviously, seasonal allergies are worse when the weather is warmer and the allergens are out in force. If your dog has pollen sensitivity, for instance, it will be more susceptible outdoors where pollen is abundant in the air and can attach itself to the paws and coat. Without knowing it, your dog then tracks this pollen inside to its sleeping and play areas, where it experiences the same allergic response every time it re-visits them.
Dermatologists recommend frequent baths, taken noon and night, to wash away allergens and help keep your home a safe environment. It is important not to over-bathe your dog though, as this can dry out the skin and exacerbate existing problems. Ideally, try and use a grain-free, non-aggravating shampoo.
Your vet may be able to prescribe something more suitable, including medicated shampoos and antihistamine creams.
Regular foot soaks can also help by removing allergens before your dog has chance to carry them inside. Clean and vacuum as much as possible, especially if you suspect certain areas are harbouring allergens. Diet is another big factor to consider in managing allergies and skin conditions as, often, poor quality diets loaded with cheap fillers like cereals, grains and meat meal, are to blame for perpetual problems that don’t clear up.
For more information on the benefit of feeding a natural, nutritious diet and choosing the right commercial diet, check out our related articles. Alternatively, feel free to contact me directly with your questions: [email protected]
Written by: Hannah Dyball