How to help your dog when they have seasonal allergies
Damian Battersby, DVM
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Park Animal Hospital, Norwalk and Darien, Connecticut
Similar to people, many dogs suffer from seasonal allergies. This type of allergy most often occurs during the warmer months of the year, usually starting in the spring and ending in the fall. Just like with people, some dogs may be only mildly affected and require no treatment, while others might be severely affected, suffering from secondary problems such as skin infection, eye and ear infections, and in some cases respiratory problems. Unfortunately, in many cases, these pets are presented to us for the secondary problems such as infection. The following are some helpful tips to help during allergy season.
Do know the symptoms
The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies in dogs are inflammation (i.e. redness) and associated scratching of the skin, including ears and eyes. Most tend to become itchy around their head & ears, feet, tails and other skin folds. If gone untreated this can progress to more serious hot spots, hair loss, and skin infections.
Do look for seasonal trends
If your dog is itchier or has chronic ear, eye, or respiratory infections recurring seasonally, year after year, he may be suffering from seasonal allergies. Your veterinarian will have medical records documenting past visits, and once they recognize the troublesome times of the year, they can work towards managing and trying to prevent these seasonal flair-ups.
Do catch things early
As with most health problems, treating allergies is easiest when diagnosed and understood early in life. Know the signs, and seasonal trends, so you can be prepared when allergy season hits. Most of the time, if allergy symptoms are caught early, like when your dog just starts to get itchy, then we can intervene and prevent the allergies from getting out of hand. By doing this we can help keep our dogs more comfortable and happy.
Do work with your veterinarian
Your veterinarian is there to help you. Animals are individuals, so what might work to treat one pet may not work with another. Symptoms may also vary from pet to pet. In addition, there are many ways to treat allergies, and treatment options will vary depending to the severity and the secondary problems present. Your veterinarian is available to work through these problems with you.
Do not ignore the symptoms
Although typical symptoms of allergies can vary from pet to pet, if your dog is suffering from chronic conditions affecting the skin, eyes, ears or respiratory system, the underlying problem may be an allergy. This especially true if your dog is suffering from these problem during the same time of year, every year. If you see any of these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian. Not only will you get your four legged friend some relief, but you will prevent secondary problems, such as infection.
Do not blame the food
There is a common misconception that allergies are mostly related to the food pets are eating. Although there are pets that suffer from food allergies, the overall percentage of food allergies compared to seasonal allergies is small. Some pets may be highly allergic and suffer from both food and seasonal allergies.
Do not skimp on flea control
Flea allergy dermatitis is another very common type of allergy that can have similar symptoms to seasonal allergies. In many parts of the country fleas are seasonal, and that season coincides with allergy season. By keeping your dog on an appropriate flea control year round, then you can avoid fleas and the allergic reactions caused by flea saliva. In addition it will help your vet properly diagnose your pet’s condition.
Do not get frustrated
Allergies, whatever the cause, can certainly be a very frustrating problem for pet owners. Seasonal allergies can vary in severity and duration from year to year. Sometimes they can get worse with age, too. Allergic pets, just like their human counterparts, may suffer from allergies for their entire lives. In most cases, we cannot cure these allergies, but we can try to prevent them from causing secondary problems, such as infection, hair loss, and an unhappy companion.
Most pet owners are surprised when vets diagnose allergies in their pet but, in fact, allergies are one of the most common problems in veterinary practice. Dogs that suffer from allergies may never be cured of them. The key to treating them is to understand the signs and look for a seasonal trend from year to year to predict and prevent their onset, if possible. If you know the seasonal trends and can detect the early symptoms when they first start to show, then follow your veterinarian’s advice. You will have the best chance of keeping your dog happy and healthy during the allergy season.