Dogs can suffer from hay fever just as much as people can. It is important to know some of the symptoms of this condition, so that pet owners know what to do as soon as possible.
In today’s article, we’re tackling hay fever in dogs and looking at its causes, clinical signs, and how it can be treated.
What causes hay fever in dogs?
Dogs can begin to exhibit the symptoms of this health complication whenever spring comes around. And the reason for that is that the main factor at the root of this issue is tree pollen. Some trees begin to flower at the beginning of March, whereas others do the same in May.
Therefore, dogs can experience hay fever all throughout March to May and sometimes even toward the end of summer, in late September. It all depends on what plants grow in your region.
Some dog breeds are more likely to suffer from more severe symptoms, although all can be sensitive to developing hay fever. But the following breeds are actually genetically predisposed to allergies, in general, including hay fever:
- Golden Retriever
- Cocker Spaniel
- West Highland Terrier
- Irish Setter
- German Shepherd
Other breeds that can be placed in the same category are the Bichon Frise, the Pit Bull Terrier, as well as the Boxer. Even Schnauzers have a higher chance of suffering from hay fever compared to mixed breeds or others.
Does your dog have hay fever?
Pretty much any type of pollen can trigger some of the following clinical signs in dogs, but the three main types are coming from grass, weeds, and trees. Limiting the time that your dog is exposed to pollen, in general, is one way of trying to prevent hay fever, although we do have to note that this health issue will affect your pet for the remainder of their life if they are diagnosed with it.
There are allergy tests that vets can now use to determine if dogs are allergic to pollen. These were not available in the past, so most dogs were treated symptomatically, meaning only based on the clinical picture that the veterinarian noticed and that didn’t seem to be caused by anything else (such as external parasites or allergies to food).
While you might think that the typical signs of hay fever in our canine friends relate only to their respiratory system because that is what most people experience, they are not limited to that.
Dogs will have runny eyes and itchy noses, along with congestion, but the symptoms will also involve irritations and itching across their entire body. It’s not uncommon for pet parents to notice that their dogs become itchy in places such as around their butt, in their groin area, in their paws, or even on their abdomen.
Other signs are listed below:
- Red skin between the paws, around the ears, or around the eyes
- Head shaking
- Constant licking of their paws
- Scratching their face with their paws
- Lethargy, particularly in the middle of spring, when the amount of pollen is large
Can hay fever be treated?
Unfortunately, hay fever is not a condition that can be treated forever. As such, the treatment is mostly symptomatic and involves making your dog feel more comfortable so as to prevent them from developing more serious complications.
If your dog scratches any part of their body time and again, they could easily develop a skin infection. This is especially true for dogs that might have parasites, mange, or are generally prone to developing dermatitis as a result of excess sebum or dry skin.
Yeast infections can be another complication, and the worst thing about some is that they can even be transmitted to humans. Keeping your pet’s skin in as good health as possible is mandatory if you know that your dog gets itchy whenever spring comes around.
As for the medication that the vet can use, it tends to range a lot from one animal to the next. If your dog is exhibiting very severe symptoms and scratching their body incessantly, they might have to be put on steroids for anything between 5 days up to 10 or more.
However, this is not a treatment that can be used in all cases, and the reason for that is that steroids come with their fair share of nasty side effects.
For example, seniors should be given steroids as sporadically as possible, especially if they are overweight and otherwise prone to developing diabetes. Geriatric patients can also easily develop ocular pathologies, particularly since so many of them might already have cataracts.
Giving your dog baths on a regular basis with products that your vet recommended can soothe the itchiness. You can also use a variety of ear and eye drops and fatty acid supplements to restore your dog’s skin health, along with immunotherapy (which can be costly).
Since many dogs tend to develop ear infections because they itch and scratch them time and again, they will have to be treated accordingly, too.
Keeping your dog’s coat trimmed short in the warm months can be one way of ensuring that you have better access to their skin, both in terms of giving them soothing baths with oatmeal shampoo, for example, and in terms of applying soothing ointments or creams.
Long term management of hay fever in dogs
Since hay fever is not going anywhere for either humans or dogs, the best way of going about things would be for you to try to manage it as best as possible.
Make sure you use an air filter system to ensure that your household gets as little pollen from the outside as possible. Vacuum all of the surfaces your dog comes in contact with once a day and clean their body thoroughly after every walk (with wipes).
Your pet might inadvertently bring some pollen on their coat into the home, and they might leave it on their bedding, causing them to experience hay fever symptoms time and again. Therefore, changing and washing your dog’s bedding on a regular basis (once a day or once every other day) might be another solution.
In the end, it also comes down to what type of pollen your dog comes in contact with. You, of course, have no way of controlling the wind and whether tree pollen gets on your property, but you can at least avoid walking your dog in areas with heavy and long vegetation. Keep your lawn trimmed at all times so that the grass doesn’t even have the opportunity to bloom.
Talk to your vet about what products you can use to keep your dog protected. All animals are unique and react differently to topical solutions, cleaners, or shampoos.