Did you know that dogs can be allergic to almost anything, just like us? They can! This includes seasonal allergies like we get in the spring and fall. That means that our dogs can feel those same feelings that we do when there’s extra dust, pollen, or mold in the air.
Diagnosing Your Dog’s Allergies
Dog allergies in Monroeville, PA can be difficult to diagnose because there are so many factors and types of allergies to consider. There are skin allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies so pinpointing the exact cause can be a hard task. That’s why it’s important to work with your veterinarian on discovering what’s causing your dog’s allergies. When your dog is exposed to the allergen, his immune system becomes highly sensitive to it and over-reacts. Instead of just fighting off an infection, the immune system attacks the foreign substance. The attacks can come in many forms, but common ones are inflammation like redness, swelling, and itching. These misguided reactions cause your dog pain and some suffering. The science is that protein molecules combine with antibodies and attach to a mast cell. Then, when the antigen and antibody react with the mast cell, histamines are created. These histamines are what cause the symptoms we know as allergies.
For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of either your spring, summer, or fall being ruined by allergies, here’s a little more about what they are. The symptoms of allergies are caused by your body’s immune system having a hyper reaction to a specific allergen. Examples of seasonal allergens are tree pollen, grass pollen, ragweed, mold, and mildew. So, if your dog is allergic to ragweed, he will sneeze, cough, and show symptoms during the fall.
Types and Symptoms of Dog Allergies
Dogs can get all sorts of allergies including food, inhalant, and contact allergies. The inhalant variety are the ones that are usually considered seasonal. If you live somewhere that doesn’t have a hard freeze, your dog may experience these seasonal allergies year-round. The tricky thing with allergies is deciphering exactly what your dog is allergic to. Work with your veterinarian when you start to see symptoms. Some of the symptoms for a dog experiencing allergies is coughing, sneezing, runny nose or eyes, itchy skin, redness or swelling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
It’s key to treat allergies as quickly as possible so that an infection doesn’t set in. When your dog is constantly scratching and biting at one site, they can create a hot spot. Essentially this means that the skin has no time to heal and is full of moisture, so bacteria develop and spread. The hot spot will become an open wound that won’t be easy to treat.
Dog Allergy Treatment Options
Allergies are very common in dogs, although what they are allergic to and to what extent does vary from pet to pet. Usually your dog will experience symptoms from about the time they’re about six months old. Some might be inherited, but there isn’t enough evidence to support that at this point. The most difficult part of your dog’s allergies is discovering the actual cause of them. It’s important to work with your veterinarian to determine what is causing the allergies. That way, together you can come up with the best dog allergy treatment plan for your pet. They will often check to see if it could be anything else before starting allergy testing, but once they’ve determined it’s allergies, it will take additional tests to discover the actual cause.
Adjust Timing of Walks Outside
One way to deal with seasonal allergies in your dog is to adjust your walking and outside routines. Try to go for walks when the pollen count is at its lowest and choose locations that aren’t as allergen filled. For example, try a dog park with artificial grass or a city route rather than a big field. Then, when your dog comes in, wipe her down with a wet cloth. You can also use a fragrance-free grooming wipe from your local pet store. Focus on her undercarriage and paws, but wipe all of the body. This will help remove pollen or any allergen from her fur. Another natural remedy is to soak your dog’s paws in 2 parts of water and 1 part of apple cider vinegar. This helps draw out the allergens from the paws.
Give Your Dog a Bath Regularly
Wiping down is a good preventative for in between baths, but you should also regularly bathe your dog during allergy season. There is a fine line between under-bathing and over-bathing so tread carefully. Over-bathing your dog leads to dry, itchy skin and we don’t want that either. Start with weekly baths and see how your dog reacts since each one is different and adjust accordingly. Use lukewarm water with either oatmeal shampoo or a medicated one. This should help ease itchy and irritated skin. If you feel like you need something a little extra, there are medicated lotions and sprays available that can alleviate allergy symptoms.
Eliminate Allergens at Home
Keeping your dog’s fur clear of allergens is only half the battle. You also need to keep the allergens off of the surfaces and out of the air in your home. Change your air filters regularly and use a dehumidifier to pull moisture from the air. This will help your air quality inside the home. Vacuum weekly and include drapes and fabric furniture in your vacuuming routine. If your dog is allowed in your bed, it’s important to wash your bedding weekly with warm water. If he always lays in the same spot, put a towel or different blanket down to contain what surfaces he’s touching. Same goes for the couch. Try and put towels on anything he lays on to prevent allergens from spreading to your furniture. Then you only have to wash the towels. Finally, wash his soft toys every week too. The whole point of this cleaning frenzy is to eliminate as many allergens in your home as possible.
Change in Diet
It’s possible for some dogs to manage their seasonal allergies with a change in diet. Some dog foods have special formulas to combat skin allergies and can be used to replace your regular food or added in as a supplemental food. It’s best to talk to your veterinarian before starting a new diet, though. They can recommend good options that fit your dog’s breed and lifestyle so that she doesn’t miss a beat.
Allergy Medication for Your Dog
A final option to alleviate the symptoms and pain of seasonal allergies is to visit your vet and start using medication. There are oral medications and injections, and each has their own pros and cons. For dogs with mild allergies, oral medication may be the better route. You can use over-the-counter antihistamines with the approval of your vet. There are also prescription oral medications. Some of these treat only specific symptoms, though, so make sure you discuss the details with your vet. There are options to reduce the itchy sensation or to assist your dog’s immune system’s response to the allergies. Injection style medication is often the better option for dogs with severe seasonal allergies. These can actually be given at home by you and have very few side-effects. Your vet can train you to give them properly and they tend to be very successful in treating seasonal allergies.
While seasonal allergies are a nuisance for you and require additional care, attention, and cleaning, think about how painful they are for your dog. By working with your veterinarian to determine what kind allergies your dog has and what the exact allergen is, you can create a management plan that works best for you and your dog. Without treatment, they can be harmful to your pet’s overall health, so it is crucial to treat the symptoms and keep your pup happy and healthy.
Call 412-373-8580 and talk to your veterinarian at Northern Pike Veterinary Hospital today!