What are Oak Pollen Allergies?
The oak tree belongs to the Quercus family of trees and is native to much of the northern hemisphere. The oak tree releases significant amounts of highly allergenic pollen in the springtime, which can aggravate seasonal allergies in those affected by them. Oak pollen can drift over a sizable area, so it is extremely difficult to avoid altogether. Canines with seasonal allergies can develop a runny nose and sneezing symptoms like humans. Canines are more susceptible to skin reactions from the allergens than humans are. Seasonal allergies in dogs will almost always cause itchy inflamed skin which tends to intensify over time.
Many oak trees produce copious amounts of highly allergenic pollen that is likely to aggravate allergic reactions in animals affected by seasonal pollen allergies.
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Symptoms of Oak Pollen Allergies in Dogs
Dogs with pollen allergies, often referred to as seasonal allergies, generally have more noticeable skin reactions rather than the typical respiratory symptoms that you see in humans. Dogs usually develop symptoms of seasonal allergies they are between one and three years old.
- Asthma symptoms
- Chewing on affected areas
- Ear infections
- Hair loss
- Nasal congestion
- Obsessive licking
- Red and itchy eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Thickened skin
- Ulceration of the skin
There are over 600 species of oak tree throughout the northern hemisphere, but they can be broken down into a few general classifications.
- White oak (Lepidobalanus) - Long-lived oak trees native to Europe, Asia, north Africa, North America with light gray bark
- Hungarian oak (Mesobalanus) - Native to Europe and Asia, this variety of tree is specially adapted for acidic soil
- Turkey oak (Cerris) - The acorn cups of the Turkey or Austrian oak have a hairy appearance, this tree is native to Europe and Asia Minor
- Canyon live oak (Protobalanus) - An evergreen oak tree native to Mexico and the western United States, the leaves are a dark, glossy green with sharp lobe tips
- Red oak (Lobate or Erythrobalanus) - This tree is native to the Americas and has nuts that are encased in a papery skin
- Ring cupped oak (Cyclobalanopsis) - An evergreen oak with distinctive acorn cups decorated with rings of scales
Causes of Oak Pollen Allergies in Dogs
Oak trees produce both male and female flowers on the same plant, which is known as being monoecious. Oak pollen allergies are brought about in the canine body by the aggressive response of specialized immune cells to the pollen that is released by the male flowers. The specialized immune cells are called mast cells, and they are designed to protect the dog’s body from invaders. When the immune system is stimulated by particular allergens, it produces a protein that causes these specialized mast cells to release histamine. Histamine has an inflammatory effect on the tissues it comes into contact with, which can result in the itchy and inflamed skin conditions characteristic of an allergic reaction in canines. When the cells in the sinuses and eyes are affected by the irritant, the symptoms of a runny nose and sneezing are activated.
Diagnosis of Oak Pollen Allergies in Dogs
The condition of the skin will generally prompt your veterinarian to take a skin scraping which is a sample of the skin for cutaneous cytology. Cutaneous cytology is the microscopic examination of the skin cells and the organisms found with them. In combination with the general tests to rule out disorders like hypothyroidism, chronic bacterial illness, or blood chemistry imbalances, this method can be used to identify biological organisms that might be damaging to your pet’s overall health, such as mites, fungi, or bacterial infections. The results of this test, combined with the seasonality of the symptoms, will suggest a preliminary diagnosis of seasonal allergy.
At this point an intradermal skin test, more commonly known as a patch test, is likely to be ordered. Tiny amounts of the suspected antigens are injected under the skin in a precise pattern in order to induce a localized reaction. If the intradermal test is unable to be administered, either due to skin damage or other unusual circumstances, blood may be drawn to check the response of the allergens directly to the blood.
Treatment of Oak Pollen Allergies in Dogs
Antihistamines are effective for only twenty to thirty percent of canine’s to start, and they often develop a tolerance to the antihistamine, causing the medication’s effectiveness to fade. Hydrocortisone shampoos and salves may be utilized to relieve the discomfort of the skin, but an effort should be made to keep your pet from ingesting any of the medications by licking it off of themselves. If these treatments are unable to alleviate the symptoms, then corticosteroid injections or oral tablets will generally be recommended. These medications are usually quite effective in reducing the signs of allergy, but they do come with some serious side effects. Seasonal allergies in dogs have a tendency to worsen over time, eventually causing your pet to show signs of allergic reactions year-round. In short-term therapy with corticosteroids, the symptoms are mild, ranging from diarrhea to increased thirst. The long-term side-effects can contribute to more serious disorders such as diabetes and liver dysfunction, so monitoring of the blood chemistry levels is strongly recommended in situations necessitating long-term use. These side effects are dose dependent so the lowest effective dose should be employed.
Immunotherapy is another option for animals affected by allergens that they are unable to avoid, especially in reactions that occur for at least four to six months of the year and are resistant to antihistamines. After an intradermal test to confirm the actual allergen, an injection is prepared with the correct altered oak pollen antigens. This personalized formula is injected into the patient either weekly or monthly, which desensitizes them to the allergen. This method of treatment is time consuming and expensive, however, it has a very high success rate, especially in younger dogs.
Recovery of Oak Pollen Allergies in Dogs
If your dog is afflicted with seasonal allergies to pollen, the pollen from the oak tree is very likely to provoke those allergies. There are some actions that you can take at home during a flare up of seasonal allergies as would be produced by the pollen of the oak tree. Keeping the coat short and keeping your allergic dog indoors on high pollen count days are good steps to take in reducing your pet's reactions. Bathing your dog in fresh water may also remove allergens such as pollen that cling to the dog’s coat, which will ease the discomfort of itchy swollen skin. Oatmeal baths are also especially soothing to the inflamed skin. Many weather apps also give a daily pollen count forecast which can help you to determine which days are high and low pollen count days.
Oak Pollen Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog has thinning hair on her lower back and scratches often by rubbing on carpet or under chairs. Has only had this condition for the last year,however we have lived in the country with many trees since last year.
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