Posted 3 months ago ago
It might be adorable to see a dog sneeze unexpectedly, but when your pet gets hay fever it’s no laughing matter.
Dogs can suffer allergic reactions to several different pollens, but unlike their human owners, the symptoms are usually worse on their skin than in their sinuses and some breeds are more badly affected than others.
The Blue Cross pet charity says allergic reactions in dogs is a type of ‘atopy’, which is due to substances, including pollen, penetrating the skin. The symptoms can be confused with flea or house dust mite allergies, so a vet test may be needed to pin it down.
Your dog may have hay fever if they start itching, nibbling or rubbing their paws, eyes, ears, mouth and muzzle, armpits, abdomen or around their bum and groin.
Their skin may also look flaky, red and sore in those areas and feel greasy - but equally, could look normal but still be prone to excess itching and scratching.
There is also a chance your dog may lose patches of fur from excessive rubbing or licking.
These areas are then vulnerable to inflammation and infection, including a build-up of bacteria of yeast.
When your dog suffers from hay fever will depend on what pollen your dog is sensitive to and what part of the UK you live in, but broadly follows:
- Tree pollen: usually occurs from late March to mid-May
- Grass pollen: mid-May – July
- Weed pollen: end of June – September
If your dog has these symptoms at other times of the year, they may have an allergy to something else, like fleas, or have mange.
There’s no cure for pet hay fever, but you can still take steps to ease their discomfort. Blue Cross recommends:
- topical treatments such as medicated shampoos, skin sprays and creams
- ear cleaner
- medicated ear or eye drops
- antihistamines, although these aren’t always effective in dogs
- essential fatty acid supplements
- medication to reduce the immune reaction, including steroids for severe reaction
You can also change your routine in an effort to help:
- Walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the high pollen counts at midday
- Try to avoid walking your dog when it’s windy
- Keep your lawn short
- In woodland, keep your dog on a lead so they can’t roll in weeds
- Wipe your dog’s fur, skin and paws with a damp cloth or flannel to remove excess pollen after a walk
- Wash bedding regularly and vacuum often
- Keep on top of your dog’s flea and worming treatment to help reduce itching
- Keep up with the grooming. A good daily brushing might help to remove any pollen that is clinging to their fur. Keeping long-haired dogs' fur trimmed short could help reduce pollen problems – and will keep them cool in hot weather, too.
Some human antihistamines are toxic to dogs, so don’t be tempted to share your pills as human doses can make your pet lethargic or hyperactive. You should only give medication recommended by your vet.
Daniella Dos Santos, senior vice president at the British Vet Association, said: “Dogs and cats can get hay fever from grass and tree pollen just like their owners but, symptoms are different ranging from itchy skin to ear infections, for example.
“Human antihistamine medications are not licensed in animals and should not be administered to pets without veterinary guidance.
“There are treatments available for pets including medicated drops and shampoos to treat their symptoms and to prevent itchiness. If you have any concerns about your pet, please contact your vet.”
You could also try adding a skin supplement or oil to your pet's food. These can help strengthen the skin's barrier and stop your dog suffering as badly.
Dogs need different essential fats and vitamins to us humans, so make sure the supplement you use is made for pets. Again, ask your vet for their recommendation.