What are Kikuyu Grass Allergies?
Determining whether your dog has an allergy to kikuyu grass can be difficult, but you and your veterinarian can narrow down the possibilities through elimination and observation of the symptoms. If your dog is allergic to other things, such as dander or fleas, the chances are good that there will be other allergens that trigger an attack. In addition, since kikuyu grass allergy is really about the pollen, so you will have to work with your veterinarian to figure out a way to reduce the symptoms associated with it. It is not easy to do this because pollen can be transferred from you to your dog, even if you keep your pet mainly inside during the spring and summer. The spores are absorbed into your dog’s skin and produce an allergic reaction which can range from itchy skin to hives.
Kikuyu grass is considered a weed in some places but is an excellent lawn grass for high traffic areas. No matter what you want to use it for, if your dog is allergic to grass pollens then kikuyu grass is not a good choice for your yard. You may not know that your dog is allergic to grass, because many times the symptoms (itching, redness, and sneezing) are mistaken for something else, like dry skin or fleas. The easiest way to determine if your dog is allergic to this grass (pollen) is if the symptoms only happen during spring and early summer. If your dog is not sneezing and itching during the cooler months, then this fact could point to an allergy to kikuyu grass pollen. The problem is that it is really just the pollen your dog is allergic to and not the grass, so symptoms will continue even if you get rid of your kikuyu grass because the pollen can float hundreds of feet from other lawns.
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Symptoms of Kikuyu Grass Allergies in Dogs
The symptoms of kikuyu grass allergy are different for each dog, just as they are with humans, but the most reliable way to tell if it is an allergy to kikuyu (or any grass) is whether your dog is having respiratory symptoms like sneezing as well as itching. Since most other conditions that cause itching (fleas, dry skin) do not include sneezing, it is a pretty good indicator that your dog is allergic to something in the environment. Especially if your dog only has these issues in the spring and summer (during allergy season). The most common kikuyu grass allergy symptoms are:
- Excessive licking
- Moist or crusty skin
- Red and watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Snoring because of an inflamed throat
Any dog can be allergic to kikuyu grass no matter what their age, sex, or species. However, it is most often seen in:
- Dogs over 12-weeks old
- Specific breeds
- German Shepherds
- Miniature Schnauzers
Causes of Kikuyu Grass Allergies in Dogs
Kikuyu grass allergies in dogs are caused by grass pollen which occurs during the spring and summer. It is a yellow powder with microscopic spores and can affect your dog if exposed:
- Breathed into the lungs
- From owners, guests, and their belongings
- Licking and chewing on fur and paws
- Through the skin
Diagnosis of Kikuyu Grass Allergies in Dogs
Getting a diagnosis is not always easy because the symptoms can be mistaken for many other ailments. You can help with the diagnosis by recording when the symptoms started and where your dog has been on walks, or travelled of late. Let the veterinarian know if the symptoms go away during the winter but return in the spring. The veterinarian will do a physical examination including skin and coat condition, overall health, and vital signs. A urinalysis, complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry panel, electrolyte and glucose levels will be done next. A serum allergy test and intradermal allergy test are also effective for kikuyu grass allergy diagnosis.
Serum Allergy Test
A blood sample will be viewed under a microscope for signs of an IgE response. If the test is positive, the veterinarian may send you to a veterinary dermatologist for a more definitive diagnosis. The dermatologist can perform an intradermal test, providing an more in depth analysis.
Intradermal Allergy Testing
For this test, your dog will need to be sedated and the dermatologist will shave an area on the side of the abdomen to be tested. The specialist will use a small needle to inject your dog with different allergens and wait to see if there are any symptoms. It will only take a few minutes and can show many different allergens that your dog needs to avoid.
Treatment of Kikuyu Grass Allergies in Dogs
The most effective treatments for a kikuyu grass allergy in dogs are antihistamines, corticosteroids, and a skin cream or ointment, such as cortisone. In addition, a special shampoo may be prescribed to decrease the itching and an antibiotic to prevent infection. If your veterinarian thinks immunotherapy shots are the best answer, she will show you how to perform the procedure yourself at home because it has to be done daily. Daily, you will give your dog a shot with a small amount of the allergen (grass), adding a little more each day. This will desensitize your dog gradually, which is usually effective in eliminating the allergic reaction completely. Unfortunately, sometimes it can take several months before your dog is fully desensitized and in rare cases, it may never work.
Recovery of Kikuyu Grass Allergies in Dogs
It can be six months to a year for your dog to become desensitized, so you should continue to use the skin cream and immunotherapy until you get the desired results. If the immunotherapy shots do not work, you will have to take special precautions during allergy season such as allergy shots that the veterinarian can administer as doctors do for humans. Continue to be vigilant with the immunotherapy shots as long as you can and call the veterinarian or veterinary hospital if you have questions or concerns.