Does your dog experience uncontrollable itching and scratching spells during a particular time of the year? Has your pet developed hot spots or rashes on their skin as a result of the itching? If so, these may be signs of environmental or seasonal dog allergies, a condition known as atopy. Like people, animals dog itching and scratchingcan develop allergies to their environment that are similar to our hay fever and asthma. However, seasonal allergies in dogs usually results in skin irritations. Atopy is the second most common form of dog allergy, and is diagnosed almost as frequently as flea allergies. Other types of less common dog allergies include allergies to food, contact allergies and bacterial hypersensitivity.

Causes of Seasonal Dog Allergies

Atopic disease, atopic dermatits or atopy are all terms for inhalant or seasonal allergies in dogs. Seasonal dog allergies tend to be genetic and are caused by the animal breathing in, or absorbing through the skin, an allergen that causes an allergic response in the immune system. Some of the more common allergens include dust mites found in the home, molds, trees, grasses, weeds and a variety of different plant pollens. Some atopic dogs can suffer year-round if the causative allergen is found in the home, as would be the case with dust mites and mold. This can make diagnosing atopy more difficult. Since seasonal canine allergies are hereditary, certain dog breeds are more susceptible than others. Although any dog may be affected, Boxers, Bulldogs, Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Westies, Irish Setters, English Setters, Lhasa Apsos and Wire Fox Terriers tend to have higher incidence rates.


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Symptoms of Seasonal Dog Allergies

The clinical signs of seasonal dog allergies will begin to appear in animals 1 to 3 years of age. In most cases the itching is limited to just one part of the body but it can become more generalized, particularly as the condition progresses as the pet ages. The itching usually begins around the face and paws and may eventually spread to the ears causing ear infections.

As a result of the itching, secondary complications can occur, particularly skin infections. These can be bacterial infections as well as yeast infections. The source of bacterial infections can vary, but staph infections are typically the most common to dogs. The yeast infections that dogs get with atopic dermatitis can be particularly problematic because yeast infections, just as they are in people, can be very itchy causing the canine to itch in response to both the allergy and the infection. The yeast infections in dogs have a tendency to affect skin fold locations such as ears, paws, neck folds, armpits and groin.

Diagnosing Seasonal Dog Allergies

Diagnosing the symptoms of seasonal allergies in dogs can be a challenge for both the pet owner and a veterinarian. Flea allergies are also of a seasonal nature since fleas are normally only a problem in the summer months, particularly in colder climates. Also, if the allergen causing the seasonal dog allergy is found in the home, it can manifest itself year-round. To make diagnosis even more difficult, it’s not uncommon for a dog to be suffering from more than one form of allergy.

If you’re concerned that your pet may be suffering from dog allergies, the first thing you should do is discuss the symptoms your dog is displaying with a veterinarian. Veterinarians will generally be able to decipher and rate different types of itchy skin conditions based on the dog’s history, the physical pattern or distribution of the itching, and by ruling out other types of dog allergies such as flea and food allergies. Roughly 80% of allergy diagnoses can be made using one of two allergy testing methods. A traditional allergy test known as intra-dermal allergy testing involves injecting a small amount of allergen under the canine’s skin. If the animal’s body reacts to the allergen, then the dog is allergic to that allergen. A newer form of allergy test, called IgE allergy testing involves evaluating a blood sample for the presence of immune cells against certain allergens. If the blood sample contains a high number of IgE antibodies, then there is an allergy to that particular allergen.

Seasonal Dog Allergy Treatments

The best treatment for seasonal dog allergies is to avoid or remove the allergen that’s causing the allergy. Unfortunately, in most cases this is not possible. If the allergy is only occurring for a few weeks out of the year, many dog owners will just treat the symptom of itching. Your vet may recommend using anti-inflammatory drugs including corticosteroids and antihistamines to provide relief for the itching. These forms of seasonal dog allergy treatments can cause unwanted side effects including frequent urination, excessive panting and extreme thirst, so if you do decide to use them, use extreme caution.

In more severe cases of seasonal allergies in dogs, your vet may recommend desentizing. It involves injecting the dog with increasing amounts of the causative allergen that was determined by testing in hopes that the canine will build up immunity to the allergen. This form of seasonal dog allergy treatment has been found to cause at least some form of positive response in about 2 out of 3 dogs, a few will even be totally cured. Desensitizing will require frequent visits to a specialist and can take 3 months to a year before any noticeable improvements are seen. Many pet owners who can’t afford paying thousands of dollars in vet bills and who don’t want to put their dog through the many injections again opt to treat only the dog’s itching and scratching. This requires lifetime treatment, and extended use of corticosteroids has been known to cause diabetes and Cushing’s disease in some dogs, so you may want to discuss the use of natural forms of treatment with your vet or the skin specialist.

Natural Remedies for Dog Allergies

An increasing number of veterinarians are now recommending the use of natural remedies for dog allergies as they have been found to be safe and effective at providing relief for itchy skin in dogs and restoration of their coat. Allergy Itch Ease from PetAlive has given us the best results of the natural dog allergy remedies that we’ve tested as it has been effective in over 90% of cases. Use of natural shampoo’s or sprays have also been found to provide relief for most pets suffering with seasonal dog allergy symptoms. The best shampoo for dogs with allergies is one containing certain omega fatty acids like those found in colloidal oatmeal shampoo’s with our preference being Comfy Dog from HappyTails Canine Spa. What we’ve found to work best is to bathe the dog with the Comfy Dog shampoo once every 1 to 2 weeks in combination with using the Allergy Itch Ease formula. Using this method, most dogs will stop itching almost completely within the first few days. Within about 3 months, the dog’s coat should be fully restored and all sores and hot spots cleared up. This is not a cure for dog allergies, but it will provide relief for the symptoms of dog allergies.


Filed under: Common Conditions

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