By Leslie Ingraham
Published: 01/04/2022, edited: 01/06/2022
Most pet parents are familiar with allergies in dogs caused by pollen, leaf mold, and other outdoor allergens, commonly present in the spring, summer and fall. But did you know your pup might also suffer from winter allergies? This doesn’t necessarily mean your pooch is allergic to snow, but they may react with skin irritations from being out in the cold. This hypersensitivity to cold air can cause itchy skin and lesions that may result in secondary infections.Winter allergies in dogs most often result from indoor environmental allergens, however. Fibers like wool, chemical cleaners, and allergens like mold, dust mites and even fleas can make pups itchy in winter. Some dogs are so allergic to fleas that one bite will cause widespread skin rashes, and unfurtunately, fleas can live through the winter. They may be in your home, but you’re unaware until Fido gets bitten and starts to scratch.
Let's take a look at other symptoms of winter allergies in dogs to look out for.
Winter allergies can be caused by a host of things, including dust mites in the home, mold, fiber allergies, chemical allergies, skin and mucous membrane dryness, and flea contact. Signs your dog is experiencing an allergic reaction to any of these include:
While some winter allergies can be relieved by getting rid of the cause, that may not be practical if the culprit is a woolen wall-to-wall carpet or hidden mold. In those cases, there are other methods of making your doggo more com-fur-table, with the help of your veterinarian. Check out the following tips to help reduce your dog's allergic reactions.
If the cleaning solution you’re using on your floors or the detergent you’re using to wash dog bedding is causing symptoms of itchiness, coughing, and sneezing, the cure is relatively simple: remove them from use, and try a hypoallergenic product instead.
While we’re talking about cleaning and laundry, it’s important to note that frequent house cleaning and laundering of doggy beds and clothes reduces the volume and frequency of allergens attacking your dog’s skin or respiratory tract. The fewer allergens in your dog’s environment, the fewer allergic reactions. Vacuuming with a HEPA filter-equipped machine will remove dust mites and other airborne allergens.
Not only is it important to make sure your fur baby has enough water to drink through the winter, but it may also be a good idea to consider getting a humidifier to disperse moisture throughout the air. Dry air, skin, and mucous membranes allow allergens to be more mobile and to attack the dog’s skin and respiratory systems with ease. Humidifiers also make heating systems more effective at heating a room by adding moisture to the air.
You may want to consider using an air purifier to filter out allergens floating around in the environment. Not only do purifiers reduce allergens, but they can also filter out many microorganisms that cause infections in both dogs and humans. An effective air purifier will use a HEPA filter.
Be sure to change filters on heating systems, vacuum cleaners, humidifiers, and purifiers regularly to reduce particles in the air, including allergens. Instead of waiting for a reminder from the machine, set a schedule for this to keep filter debris at a minimum. Cleaning your vacuum cleaner’s canister after every use, or discarding the filtered bag, is also helpful.
If outdoor exercise is a priority for you and your pupster, be sure to protect both of you with warm clothes and short adventures. Dog boots to keep irritating ice melt and other chemicals out from between Fido’s toes are a good idea, as is a heavy sweater or good coat to protect their skin from dryness and cold contact dermatitis. If wool is an allergy cause, opt for washable synthetics like fleece.
Lots of restorative, slightly humid warmth upon arriving home will help with dry noses, eyes, skin, and throats.
While it’s wise to limit the number of winter baths for Fido, when it is bath time, use a hypoallergenic, moisturizing shampoo. When toweling off, use cotton towels that haven’t been washed or dried with fabric softener. Be gentle with any irritated spots, and dry your pup thoroughly.
After bathing, treat your dog to a hypoallergenic moisturizing balm or spray made for dogs, like Skin Soother or Burts Bees for Dogs Itch Soothing Shampoo and Spray, to soothe itchy areas. Use cautiously the first time to determine whether your pupster is allergic to any of the ingredients. Your veterinarian may prescribe something similar with a medication like a corticosteroid or other anti-inflammatory ingredient in it.
Daily brushing will help spread Fido’s natural oils over dry, irritated skin, remove dead hairs that can hold allergens, and detect fleas if there are any. Brushing also stimulates blood flow to the fur baby’s coat, which can become dry and coarse, or shedding. Remember to keep Fido’s brush clean to avoid re-depositing allergens on their skin and hair.
If your pup displays any of the symptoms listed, a visit to your veterinarian is a good place to start to figure out if their misery is from an allergy or something else. They will ask for a history of the symptoms, such as when they started, how long they’ve gone on and allergens they may have come into contact with. It’s a lot to remember and recite, so try keeping a record to take to the vet office with you.
As mentioned earlier, fleas can live through the winter in your home. Many dogs are highly allergic to flea saliva, and one bite can cause an itchy rash on your dog’s body, and not just in the area of the bite. Whether or not you actually see fleas or their droppings, it’s best to ensure that there are none. Continue treating your dog for fleas and ticks throughout the year instead of just seasonally. A good flea treatment for the home is recommended as well, as the critters may be hiding out in upholstery, bedding, or rugs.
Whether they’re over the counter or physician-prescribed, there are medications known to be effective against allergies in dogs. Benadryl may be effective, although it sometimes fails to do the trick. Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oils have been shown to help keep the skin healthy and to fight inflammation.
Your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines, corticosteroids, or newer drugs like Apoquel, which has oclacitinib as its main ingredient. Atopica, which is a modified cyclosporine, or Cytopoint, an injectable antihistamine, may work in cases where it’s impossible to rid the environment of all allergens.
The bottom line is that your pup need not suffer from their allergies in the wintertime. There are preventative and treatment remedies that can help. Your vet is your partner in keeping Fido com-fur-table all year long.
Got more questions? Chat with a vet now to find answers and solutions to your dog's winter allergies.
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