If your dog gets insanely itchy at the same time every year, then it’s possible that you may be dealing with seasonal allergies. While seasonal allergies in dogs are not super common, they do happen!
Before you assume your doggo is suffering from seasonal allergies, you should consider exploring the possibility that it may be a food allergy or a digestive issue that is causing the uncomfortable symptoms.
For tips on identifying and managing food allergies in dogs, check out our blog all about Food Allergies in Dogs. In this article, however, we’ll focus on seasonal allergies and how to help your pet find comfort when that time of year rolls around.
What are Seasonal Allergies in Dogs?
Like humans, your dog’s body has a natural defence system, a.k.a. their immune system! Under normal circumstances, the immune system identifies allergens as anything it sees as a potential threat, like bacteria or toxins. When an allergen is present, the body works to create antibodies specifically designed to fight the allergen.
While we don't exactly what causes allergies to develop, we do understand the process your dog's body goes through to cause the external reactions that make our pets suffer.
The antibodies responsible for allergic reactions are called immunoglobulin E, or IgE for short. These antibodies bind to the allergens and trigger nearby cells to release inflammatory compounds, like histamine and arachidonic acid. This inflammation is what causes the usual symptoms you see when your pet has an allergic reaction.
In addition to the inflammatory response, antibodies bind to their respective allergen molecules to neutralize or eliminate them. While these reactions are often a nuisance, the immune responses are necessary to protect the body under normal circumstances. In other words, your dog’s body is technically doing its job!
When it comes to seasonal allergies, the body overreacts to a seemingly harmless substance, like pollen or dust mites, and creates these antibodies anytime the substances are identified in the body.
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Seasonal Allergies
Similar to seasonal allergies in people, allergies caused by your dog's environment may come and go throughout the year, and the severity can greatly depend on the weather.
If your dog’s flare-ups are routinely affected by weather or increase depending on how much time your dog spends outdoors, then your dog might be reacting to one of these common seasonal allergens:
Common Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Allergic reactions in dogs usually present as skin and coat issues. Itchiness, hot spots, and dry skin are common symptoms of both food and seasonal allergies in dogs, but seasonal allergies can sometimes bring on symptoms that you might be familiar with if you suffer from them yourself:
- Runny or swollen eyes
- Runny nose
- Sneezing or coughing
- Nasal or eye discharge
- Yeast infections
- Atopic Dermatitis
Unfortunately, seasonal allergies are trickier to manage than food allergies. Food ingredients can be eliminated from your dog’s diet and treats, but nature is here to stay. While you can limit exposure to some extent, most seasonal allergies will need to be treated with natural supplements, topical treatments, or medications.
If exposure to certain environments, like lakes, hay, or heavy brush are the catalyst for your dog's allergies, then do your best to avoid them, but when the allergen is something common like pollen or grass, eliminating exposure simply isn't an option.
Some allergic reactions are easy to spot, while other symptoms require a closer look. Certain symptoms are less severe than others. By understanding the common occurrences for dogs experiencing allergic reactions, you can help your pet feel more comfortable faster.
Here are some of the more serious problems related to allergies that are important to look out for in your pet:
Dog Yeast Infections
A common occurrence for dogs dealing with any allergy is yeast infections. Like an allergic reaction, yeast infections can make your dog extremely itchy and uncomfortable. Fortunately, yeast can be easily identified by its potent scent. It has a fungus smell, sometimes similar to dirty socks. Yuck!
Yeast prefers moist and hidden areas of the body, so yeast infections are most common in the ears. However, the paws and underbelly of your dog may be affected as well.
Yeast is very opportunistic. In normal amounts, yeast is part of your dog’s natural bodily ecosystem. When your dog’s immune system and natural bacteria can’t keep it in check, it quickly populates, causing issues.
Though it often goes hand-in-hand with allergies and other skin or digestive issues, fixing one issue doesn’t always fix both. You need to address yeast differently!
Treating Yeast Infections in Dogs
Getting rid of yeast is a multi-step process. This is because killing the yeast is only part of the solution. The yeast die-off can cause as many problems as the yeast themselves, so you have to approach yeast issues from several angles.
Yeast contains several toxins that are harmful to your dog, like acetone. This is already a problem because those toxins can build up in your dog’s liver over time, but dead yeast releases up to 30 times the amount of toxins that live yeast releases! A mass yeast die-off can lead to major digestive issues, toxin build-up in the liver, and an even greater reaction from your dog’s immune system.
Getting rid of yeast infections will require unique multi-step treatment:
1. Assess Diet
Yeast feeds on sugar, so a common method of combating yeast is to remove as many of their food sources as possible. Switch your pet’s diet to a very low-carb diet to limit the number of sugars available for the yeast to consume.
2. Support Digestion
The next step is to support healthy digestion with pre and probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that help balance your dog’s gut health, supports a healthy immune system, and competes for the same food sources as the yeast. Goat's milk is an excellent way to incorporate probiotics into your dog's diet.
3. Liver Detox
Liver detoxes help to flush out toxins and bacteria in the liver to improve its function. A healthy liver is part of the digestive process that removes toxins, allergens, and irritants from your dog’s body, so the better it’s working, the quicker your dog’s body can get the yeast back under control.
4. Topical Treatments
Lastly, you can treat topically with antifungal treatment. Because yeast is a fungus, a topical treatment will help reduce the surface population causing the insane itch and irritation. Your vet might recommend shampoos to help ease the itch. These can help short-term, but you want to be cautious of how frequently you bathe your dog. Overbathing can lead to further irritation, dryness, and itchiness.
Sprays that contain natural antifungals, like colloidal silver or apple cider vinegar, might be a better option for soothing the itch. Neither will alter your dog’s natural pH but will help combat yeast that is thriving on the skin’s surface. Just make sure you are using a pet-safe product that doesn’t use fragrances or other ingredients that might irritate raw skin.
Important note: Contrary to popular belief, oatmeal shampoos marketed to control itchiness can actually be feeding the yeast. These medicated treatments can help in some circumstances but are not recommended with a yeast infection!
Some products, like Yeasty Beast Protocol from Adored Beast Apothecary, are designed specifically for chronic and persistent yeast issues. This formula uses ingredients designed to kill the yeast and reduce those pesky yeast die-off symptoms, allowing your dog to heal quicker and prevent yeast from recurring.
Want to learn more about how Yeasty Beast Protocol works? Check out this video from Adored Beast Apothecary Founder Julie Ann Lee.
Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs
If your dog’s allergies seem to persist or even worsen no matter what you change in their environment or diet, then your dog might have atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammation of the skin that typically stems from recurring allergic reactions.
This could be a dog food allergy, a seasonal allergy-like pollen, a contact reaction like laundry detergent, or an unavoidable environmental allergy like dust mites.
Not all dog allergies result in atopic dermatitis, but it’s more common in dogs that already have poor digestion and poor skin and coat health to begin with.
Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis
Many visible signs of atopic dermatitis are similar to what you’d see in common allergy reactions. The difference is that the reactions tend to be more widespread, more severe, and are very difficult to get rid of.
Here are some of the signs that you’ll see in dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis:
- Extreme itchiness
- Excessive licking
- Fur loss
- Obvious redness of the skin
- Swelling around the eyes and muzzle
- Scabby, crusty looking skin
The persistent symptoms of atopic dermatitis can be frustrating and uncomfortable for your dog, so you need to approach this health issue from all angles.
Treating Atopic Dermatitis
As a secondary reaction to common seasonal allergies in dogs, identifying the underlying allergy is the first step. You can heal the skin with medications and topical treatments, but the issues will return if your dog continues to react to something in his environment.
This might mean making some changes around the house, like removing irritating chemical air fresheners, changing diet to eliminate triggers, or adjusting your dog’s outdoor play schedule to limit exposure.
Once you’ve identified and eliminated the allergens in your dog’s environment (if that’s even possible), you can start to treat the skin itself.
This can start with a round of antibiotics from your vet to get the reaction under control. Then you can use topical treatments to reduce itchiness and add fish oils or other omega fatty acids into your dog’s diet to help promote healing.
Other Environmental Allergies
Not all environmental allergies in dogs come and go with the seasons. Some allergy triggers are our own faults, and others are unavoidable. Things like perfume, air fresheners, even laundry detergents can be the cause of your dog’s bad skin. Make sure you are limiting or eliminating chemical irritants in your home.
If removing these things doesn’t work, you mite dealing with the hardest allergens to avoid - dust mites.
Dust Mite Allergies in Dogs
Dust mites are everywhere; they are in your house, on your furniture, even on your clothes. For most dogs, they aren’t a problem, but for some unlucky pups, dust mites can be a trigger. Dust mite allergies in dogs can be a nuisance because they can’t be avoided.
Managing dust mite allergies isn’t easy, but it can be done. While prescription medications are an option to reduce or eliminate the reaction, long-term prescription medication use can have a toll on your dog’s health. It’s best to try to limit your dog’s exposure as best you can.
Reducing Dust Mites in Your Home
A more natural approach is to minimize dust mite exposure by keeping a clean house. You’ll never be able to rid your dog’s environment of dust mites completely, but you can do your best to reduce them.
Invest in a HEPA air purification system, replace fabrics like carpet and curtains in your home where possible, vacuum regularly, and treat your dog with natural anti-inflammatories, like fish oils.
Check out our top natural supplements for managing environmental and seasonal allergies in dogs later in this post.
Ruling Out Fleas, Ticks, and Mites
Before you assume your dog has some kind of seasonal allergy, it’s important to rule out pest infestations. Seasonal allergies can sometimes align with flea and tick season, so the reactions you are seeing could be caused by some unwanted intruders.
Fleas and ticks are usually visible to the naked eye, so a full-body inspection can reveal if your dog has some hitchhikers. You can use your dog’s daily and weekly grooming routines to keep an eye out for these bugs, but you should be especially diligent if your dog is itchy. Check close to the skin and in warmer, less exposed areas like their belly, neck, and ears.
Flea dirt evidence can sometimes be easier to spot than the pests themselves. Fleas leave behind waste, called flea dirt. It usually looks like dirt or small black specks.
This is true for mites too. Mites are microscopic, so you won’t be able to see them. Their waste is usually dark brown or black and can look like black dust or dirt. Mites thrive in warm, moist areas, so your dog’s ears are a go-to spot for mite infestations.
Fleas, ticks, and mites can all leave abrasions on the skin, leave your dog super itchy, and lead to secondary infections if the pests are not eliminated. These symptoms are easily mistaken for allergic reactions, so it’s important to rule out pests before you start treating for seasonal allergies.
Learn everything you need to know about identifying and managing bug bites on dogs to keep your pet safe.
Flea Bite Allergies
Some dogs are actually allergic to flea bites, so instead of the usual minor reactions you may see in a small infestation, your dog might end up with a more severe reaction like hives, swelling, and hot spots.
Prevention is the best medicine in this situation. Here are a few options for preventing these annoying pests from bothering your pooch:
- Treat your dog with flea and tick prevention medications, like Bayer Advantage II
- Topical conditioning sprays that contain ingredients with natural pest repellant properties, like Eqyss Marigold Coat Conditioning Spray, are useful for limiting exposure to common pests in the spring and summer months
- Limit exposure by avoiding tall grass and moist environments where many pests like to congregate
- Check your dog after every walk. Routine body checks to look for possible bug bites or infestations can help you treat the issue quicker and minimize reactions.
Can Dogs Be Allergic to Cats?
It may sound unlikely, but yes it's possible for your dog to be allergic to your cat and the other way around. It's not a common allergy though, so it shouldn't be your first guess. Just like we can be allergic to dogs and or cats, so can they.
There are two types of allergen proteins given off by dogs and cats. Dander from their skin is the most likely cause, but in some cases, proteins in their saliva and urine can be the culprit.
Managing Pet Allergens
Getting rid of saliva and urine is out of the question if you have both dogs and cats in your home. In this case, the only option is to limit exposure to each other. Try to avoid direct contact between the two pets and make sure they have separate beds, bowls, and toys to prevent cross-contamination.
Dander on the other hand can be controlled to some extent. Ditching dander is no easy task, but it is possible. Products designed to neutralize dander on your pet, like Allerpet, can help to limit allergic reactions and make your home both dog and cat-friendly again.
Check out How to Get Rid of Cat Dander for more tips for reducing pet-to-pet allergies. Many of these tips can be applied to dog dander as well.
Natural vs Prescription Solutions
The fact is, many allergy symptoms can be treated at home using natural and homeopathic remedies. Understanding that allergies are more than just skin deep means that you need to treat their whole body, not just the surface.
If you are a stickler for natural solutions, then you may be hesitant to rely on costly vet visits or prescription medications to manage the symptoms. We understand, but don’t cut off your nose to spite your face, so to speak.
While holistic nuts, like us, love to think that the natural solution is always the best, or that medications cause as many problems as they fix, there is no reason that science and nature can’t work in tandem. It's important to know all your options.
Natural Remedies for Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
With milder allergy cases, seasonal allergies can be successfully managed with some natural and homeopathic remedies. These supplements are designed to manage symptoms, but will not eliminate the underlying cause. These are ideal for seasonal allergies that only require temporary treatment, but some are safe to use all year round.
Let's look at some of the top seasonal allergy supplements for dogs:
1. Biologic Vet BioSkin & Coat
This powdered supplement contains a blend of natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories to help minimize the inappropriate reactions caused by seasonal allergies. In addition to reducing the external reactions, BioSkin & Coat contains digestive enzymes to prevent unnecessary reaction from food allergies and other ingested allergens.
2. Vet's Best Seasonal Allergy Support
When it comes to seasonal allergy support, Vet's Best covers all the bases. Antihistamines, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants work in combination to reduce symptoms, minimize unwanted reactions, and boost their immunity.
3. Adored Beast Yeasty Beast Protocol
This three stage treatment is designed to do more than just kill of yeast. It minimizes the effects of yeast die-off and detoxifies your dogs liver of build up toxins so that their immune system can begin to function normally again.
Prescription Treatments for Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
Unlike dog food allergies, environmental and seasonal allergies are hard to avoid, and sometimes hard to pinpoint. Your vet can do bloodwork, skin scrapes, and urinalysis to eliminate underlying conditions that may be facilitating more extreme allergic reactions.
A shot or a prescription may not be your preferred method, but they can sometimes be the best way to get a handle on the symptoms so that you can identify the cause and support healing using natural and holistic treatments.
Different circumstances may require different medications. Here are some common medications that are prescribed to manage allergy symptoms:
1. Apoquel for Dogs
This immunosuppressant is a popular choice for dealing with unavoidable allergies, like grass or dust mites. It suppresses the immune system to prevent the reactions that cause damage to your dog’s skin. No itching, scratching, licking, or hot spots.
Apoquel is probably one of the most popular allergy medications for dogs and is widely prescribed, but just because it’s effective on the surface, doesn’t mean it’s right for every pet. There is a risk in suppressing your dog’s immune system. Short-term treatments may be fine, but long-term use can leave your dog susceptible to serious infection.
2. Prednisone for Dogs
Prednisone has many uses, but it’s another common prescription for allergies. It’s a corticosteroid, meaning it’s a synthetic steroid. It mimics a natural hormone that your dog’s body already produces.
Its job is to suppress immune system responses and reduce inflammation. Prednisone is commonly prescribed for short-term use because it’s quick and effective. The downside is that this medication is also tough on your dog’s organs, like the liver and kidneys. Repeat and long-term use of Prednisone is not recommended.
Prednisone can also have some side effects like unwanted weight gain and digestive issues in some dogs, so you will need to monitor your dog’s health while he’s on the medication.
3. Cytopoint Injections for Dogs
Unlike typical immunosuppressants like Apoquel and Prednisone, Cytopoint mimics antibodies by locating and neutralizing the proteins that send the itch signal to the brain. It’s still suppressing a part of the immune system, but instead of telling the immune system not to react at all, it just stops the signal that tells your dog to scratch like crazy.
Cytopoint is especially recommended for managing atopic dermatitis as it provides a much longer relief from symptoms, 4-8 weeks on average, and a larger window to heal your dog’s skin while he’s itch-free.
The other benefit, of course, is that daily treatments aren’t required, just monthly or quarterly shots. These shots are pricey, but can, in some cases, can end up being cheaper than other medications that need to be refilled over and over for long-term relief.
This or That?
We get it. Seeing your pet suffer in any way is hard! Whether it be from itchy skin, irritated hot spots or something else, you’re not the first to lose sleep at night wondering how you can ease their discomfort.
Dealing with allergies in pets can be extra tricky. Often we’ll find ourselves playing a game of This or That? With so many variables to rule out, sometimes it can be difficult to determine just what’s causing your dog to have an allergic reaction.
If you’ve noticed your pet showing symptoms of food or seasonal allergies, don’t panic. Start by checking for any tiny critters, like fleas or ticks, that could be causing the reaction before jumping to any other conclusions. While checking for bug bites, be sure to scan the area of discomfort for hot spots or sores. It’s important to find these early on to avoid infection.
To offer some immediate relief, give your dog a nice, warm bath with a sensitive-skin shampoo or even just water to soothe their irritated skin! A fresh, clean coat can alleviate the itch or soreness, at least temporarily, while you try to figure out the underlying cause and schedule a time to see the vet.
Does your dog struggle with seasonal allergies? Share your story, your struggles, and your successes in the comments below!