What are Pollen Allergies?
Many of our canine companions feel allergy symptoms as the warmer weather begins to surface and plants spring back to life, but they can also be felt in the summer and fall. Pollen can come from many sources, such as trees, bushes, weeds and more. An allergy symptom can manifest in many ways and the most common for dogs is itching. Allergy symptoms may also occur from food sources, flea bites, dust mites, mildew or molds and can present in ways which can be similar to a reaction to pollen. A pollen allergy is considered an inhalant allergy which is referred to as atopy by veterinarians.
An allergy is defined as an immunological response to substances which do not usually cause a response from an average individual. These responses commonly materialize as things like sneezing, difficulty breathing, itching or skin rashes. This means that a dog’s immune system attacks pollen or other allergens because it sees it as a threat to its body.
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Symptoms of Pollen Allergies in Dogs
Symptoms of atopy can include one or more of the following:
- Chewing at the paws (be on the lookout for reddish brown coloring on your dog’s feet; this comes from their saliva and is a sign that they are grooming an area heavily)
- Licking of their flank (sides)
- Rubbing their face (you may notice your dog taking a paw or both and rubbing their muzzle with it)
- Recurring ear infections or inflamed ears, look for redness, waxy discharge, and odor
- Hot spots
- Respiratory problems or asthma-like wheezing, though rarely seen in dogs
Causes of Pollen Allergies in Dogs
Pollen allergies are caused by your dog’s body trying to protect itself from a harmful substance. Just like with humans, your dog’s immune system detects a foreign body which in this case is pollen. The immune system deems the pollen particle unsafe and sends out antibodies to attach itself to the antigen to flush it out of the body and keep it from doing damage to your pet’s system. Unfortunately, pollen is all around us and can’t be avoided. Your veterinarian has multiple options to stop your dog’s seasonal suffering.
Diagnosis of Pollen Allergies in Dogs
Your veterinarian will ask you multiple questions to determine what is causing the symptoms, such as “Do these symptoms occur during a particular time of year?” Your veterinarian may check for yeast overgrowth in between the toes, or inside of the ears. She may ask about changes in diet or routine, as well as if your pet has been exposed to anything out of the usual. If the skin is particularly irritated and sore, a skin scraping (for observance under the microscope) may be ordered to rule out parasites, or to check for a secondary infection that may result from the allergy.
If you notice that your pet becomes more uncomfortable at certain times of the year, you can consult your veterinarian and ask about medications to help calm symptoms and help heal any wounds or rashes that may have surfaced. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to stop a pollen allergy, and so veterinarians can only treat the symptoms and calm the reactions. There has yet to be a permanent solution to this allergy, but there are a few things that can be done to help keep allergens at bay.
Treatment of Pollen Allergies in Dogs
Just like with humans, allergies can’t be stopped but they can be treated. There are few options, but the ones available usually work very well. There are also a few things that can be done by you as the owner to help calm and soothe symptoms.
Your veterinarian will recommend an antihistamine such as Benadryl or Zyrtec to help keep allergies under control. Always consult your veterinarian before giving a pet any new medication, and never give a dog anything with a decongestant.
Shampoos and Medications
Your veterinarian may use a medicated shampoo or ointments to relieve your pet’s skin of the itchiness and discomfort that can accompany an allergy. If the shampoo is not treatment enough for the skin condition, the veterinarian may suggest corticosteroid injections or oral tablets formulated to clear the skin.
In some cases, the veterinary team may recommend a series of injections whereby the allergen is introduced to the body on a weekly or monthly cycle in an attempt to desensitize your pet to the pollen.
The clinical team can give suggestions as to the care of your pet at home. Wipe off your dog’s paws after a trip outside with a clean wet washcloth to remove some pollen. Alternative treatments may be suggested, such as soaking your dog’s fur with a spray that contains oatmeal and aloe. Canine fish oil caplets, due to their omega-3 fatty acids can lower inflammatory responses.
Recovery of Pollen Allergies in Dogs
Once diagnosed, your veterinarian will treat any wounds that may have occurred and recommend or prescribe a medication to help prevent inflammatory responses to seasonal allergies in the future. Make note of the time of year in which your pet begins to show symptoms of allergies and keep allergy medications available to prevent symptoms progressing. If you have begun giving medication to your pet, and you continue to see symptoms such as hot spots or over-grooming of any area of the body, consult your veterinarian.
If you follow the directions of your veterinarian, the risk of the medications used is minimal. Allergies are easily treated and once under control can be fought off with the help of the veterinary team. Your pet should begin to feel relief quickly from the medication given for the allergy itself. Medications given for hot spots, yeast overgrowth, or other symptoms may need to be administered for as long as 3 weeks.
The main downfall to allergy medications is drowsiness, your dog may feel more tired on the days that it has to receive its allergy medication. In rare cases, upset stomach or lack of appetite have occurred, consult the clinic if your pet has this reaction, as a different approach may be recommended. There is little to be done after treatment to prevent further occurrences, there is always the option of an allergy test to find what kind of pollen (ragweed, grass, etc.) your pet is reacting to. Once found, you can attempt to limit exposure and possibly bring relief to your dog.