Recently, my dog has been getting rashes and sneezing non-stop every time we go out into the park. It seemed to me that Cooper was experiencing the same kinds of symptoms my friend has in the pollen season. I wondered then; can dogs be allergic to pollen?
Research shows that dogs can actually be allergic to seasonal irritants like pollen. This can happen to them at any age, and usually, the onset is around springtime. While treating an allergy entirely isn’t easy, there are several methods for managing the symptoms.
If you’d like to know more about why a dog becomes allergic to pollen, the common symptoms, and the best ways to manage a dog’s allergy to pollen, read on!
What Makes Dogs Allergic to Pollen?
The immune system of dogs, much like humans, can sometimes act in unpredictable ways. Allergies happen when the immune system becomes ‘irritated’ by a certain stimulant. Usually, it’s a benign substance that is suddenly perceived as a dangerous intruder, and treated as such.
The body then identifies that substance and registers it as an enemy. Once the immune system detects its presence, it becomes fully alert and tries to rid the body of that foreign invader. That’s why the dog, or human, starts sneezing, coughing, getting watery eyes, or feeling itchy.
There are three common ways through which a substance can irritate an allergic pet or person:
- Through ingestion, by eating potentially some foods such as shrimp or strawberries.
- Through contact, by approaching the irritant. For example, standing near poison ivy.
- Through inhalation, by breathing in the allergenic material. Like being around hay, flowers, or blooming trees.
Seasonal allergies are often associated with certain times of the year. And they usually become aggravated by repeated exposure to the irritant.
The Most Common Signs of a Dog’s Pollen Allergy
When your pet starts behaving oddly all of a sudden, then you normally start going through all the things you’ve done lately. If you’re like me, then you’d trace back every step to see if you can figure out the reason for the anomaly.
If it’s the warm season, and you’ve been outdoors with your dog, then you should check if your dog has any of the following symptoms.
Scratching and Red Itchy Skin
This often starts as soon as the dog is exposed to pollen. So if you notice that fluffy starts scratching itself everywhere once it sets foot in the garden, that’s possibly a pollen allergy.
Another possibility for scratching could be a sensitivity to grass, some weeds, or exposure to gardening chemicals. Fertilizers and pesticides can cause itchiness and scratching, but that’s often a temporary matter. Persistent irritation indicates a different stimulant.
Bugs, fleas, and ticks could also be culprits that make the dog scratch incessantly. However, you can see these insects jumping about. In their absence, consider the possibility of an allergy.
Hives and Rashes
These are raised areas on the skin, or little pinhead red spots, that often feel quite itchy. They can be in a few spots or scattered all over the dog’s skin, depending on the severity of the allergic reaction.
Hives and rashes can be a bit delayed. So a few hours after returning back from a picnic, you might notice weird red patterns on Fluffy’s skin. That too is a clear symptom of an allergy.
Hives can be caused by food allergies as well. Thus, it would be wise to go through your pet’s diet during the previous few days. Also, if you’ve given it any medicine, or used a new shampoo to bathe it, these too could be irritants.
Excessive Licking and Scratching
The effects of an allergy don’t last for a short while and then go away. If left untreated, the manifestations of an allergy linger on and on.
Dogs lick themselves for many reasons, but if they seem to do it excessively, then that’s a red flag. Additionally, you’d notice that your pet is rubbing itself against carpets, chairs, walls, or even trees. It would look for any rough surface to scratch its skin.
Watery, Puffy, or Red eyes
This is also a quick reaction to pollen exposure. However, it might be hard to notice while your dog is running around.
Once you return back home, it would be easier to see that your dog’s eyes don’t seem quite right. Redness and puffiness give away allergies. Watery or pussy secretions might take a few more days to happen. Constant exposure would increase these secretions though.
Not all dogs would sneeze if they have an allergy, and they rarely develop respiratory issues the way that humans do.
Some dogs do go through fits of sneezing, which is a clear tell that they have an allergy.
Ear Inflammation or Infection
This is a symptom that often takes a few days to appear, and it usually comes with a host of other signs.
The dog might start shaking its head and it would look seriously annoyed. If not treated promptly, the ear inflammation might turn into an infection. Smelly ears are a clear indication that there’s a developing problem, which could be caused by the allergy.
Hair Loss and Eczema
The combination of licking and scratching could end up in eczema and some secondary infections. Try to avoid that situation as much as possible.
Additionally, some parts where there’s skin inflammation could damage the hair follicles. Thus, you might notice that the dog is losing its hair in some spots.
The Best Ways to Manage a Dog’s Pollen Allergy
It’s recommended to see the vet whenever a dog looks weird and acts in an odd manner. If you can confirm that your dog has a pollen allergy, here are some tried and true methods to manage it.
- Try, as much as possible, to minimize your pet’s exposure to pollen. Understandably, that might be hard if you’re living around green areas.
- Mild allergies often clear up by using mild antihistaminic meds. Even though you can get it off the shelf, you should always check the type and dosage with the vet.
- Tonics, lotions, and skin moisturizers can ease the itch and redness.
- Regular bathing with a medicated shampoo for pet allergies usually helps a lot.
- Corticosteroid ointments, or meds, might be necessary to treat severe allergies. Secondary infection and eczema could also require such treatment. Corticosteroids are heavy substances with serious side effects, so only a vet is authorized to prescribe them.
- Ear or eye infections might need special meds as well, in addition to a short course of antibiotics. The vet should be the judge of that.
- Specific allergies, which are caused by a single irritant, can be decreased through a desensitization process. The vet can reintroduce the pollen as a benign substance to the immune system, thus, it becomes much less of an irritant.
Pet owners usually ask the question; can dogs be allergic to pollen?
That’s because many of them observe a reaction from their dogs that mimics pollen allergies in humans. Their dogs start sneezing and itching whenever they’re around flowers or trees.
Dogs do get pollen allergies with varying degrees of severity. A visit to the vet is often necessary to know the best way to manage it.