Just like humans, dogs are prone to hay fever (atopy) as well. If your dog is sneezing and scratching more than usual, or has a runny nose or eyes, they may have been affected by allergens in their environment.
An estimated ten percent of dogs in the United States suffer from canine hay fever, which makes it the second most common allergy in dogs. We are going to teach you about what the symptoms are and how to best tackle the annoying allergy.
The most common dog allergy is flea bite hypersensitivity, with as many as 40% of dogs suffering from it. Around a quarter to half of all those dogs that suffer from flea hypersensitivity, also suffer from dog hay fever.
Hay Fever Symptoms In Dogs
Dogs with hay fever are often incredibly itchy all over their bodies. Following the itchiness, your dog may suffer from a rash that breaks out on their feet and face. If this is left untreated, the hair over your canine’s eyes and on their feet may begin to thin. This is because they have scratched and chewed at themselves so much.
In addition to itchy skin, rashes on their body and thinning fur, your dog may also develop watery eyes, a runny nose and excessive sneezing; however, these symptoms are less common in dogs than the skin problems.
All these symptoms indicate a reaction to inhaled allergens, but remember that they can also be caused by other issues with your dog.
If you are concerned about other allergies, check out this link for more info.
What Breeds Are More Likely to Develop Hay Fever?
Any dog can develop hay fever, however, some breeds are more likely to suffer from it than others. We have listed the breeds below that are most likely to develop hay fever problems:
- Small terriers (especially West Highland White Terrier)
- Irish setters
- Golden Retrievers
- Lhasa Apsos
When Do Dogs Develop Hay Fever
Hay fever is a seasonal allergy in both humans and canines, with the greatest problems occurring from spring through to summer and early fall. When you start to feel hay fever symptoms yourself, you can expect your dog to begin develop symptoms themselves. Once your location sees its first proper winter frost, the hay fever symptoms should subside for your dog. If they don’t, there could be another reason for your dog’s symptoms.
While your dog can develop hay fever at any point in their life, they are most likely to first experience symptoms from one to three years old.
Diagnosing Hay Fever in Dogs
When it comes to diagnosing hay fever in dogs, it can difficult to determine what allergen is causing the problem. While blood tests are available for dogs, they aren’t always the most reliable method to diagnose hay fever. Intradermal skin testing is another method, that typically produces more accurate results.
It works by injecting suspect allergens into the shaved skin of a sedated dog. Positive reactions will show signs of swelling and irritated skin within 15 minutes of the injection, while negative reactions will simply disappear.
Dogs can react to one or more of the multiple allergens injected, which will give you an idea of what your canine is allergic to. Despite knowing this information, it can be almost impossible to eliminate exposure to your dog in certain circumstances. For instance, if your dog is allergic to dust in your house, it will simple be impossible to completely control this. This is because your dog’s fur is a magnet that attracts all kinds of environmental allergens.
How Do I Treat Dog Hay Fever?
Completely eliminating environmental allergens is an impossible task, especially seeing as dogs are usually indoor and outdoor pets. Filtering the air or vacuuming the garden is completely impractical; however, you can reduce indoor exposure to allergens with a bit of spring cleaning.
We have put together a list of some of the things you can do to help your canine companions hay fever problem.
Give Your Dog a Bath
Washing your dog regularly will reduce their exposure to allergens and will help with scratching problems. Bathe your dog two to three times a week with plain cool water. You can also use an oatmeal based shampoo like Aveeno to soothe your dog’s itchy skin. After your dog has finished playing outside, rinse their paws to reduce pad exposure to allergens.
Epsom Salt Bath
Soaking your dog’s paws in a bath of water and Epsom salt is a great way to relieve their itchy skin. Make sure you completely rinse their paws with plain water before letting them out of the bath. This is because they could develop diarrhea if they lick their paws with Epsom salt on them.
Use Calendula (Marigold Flower)
Calendula Officinalis, also known as the marigold flower, is incredibly soothing for skin that us irritated and itchy. It can be found at most health food or supplement stores and online. Mix about 10-to-15 drops of calendula tincture to four ounces of water. Put this formula in a spray bottle and spray the irritated areas of your dog’s skin as often as need to help their discomfort.
Wash Your Dog’s Bedding
Regular washing of your dog’s bedding with hot water will help to reduce the number of allergens they come into contact with. After washing the bedding, make sure you completely dry it before returning it to your dog.
Run Your Air Conditioning & Use an Air Filter
Running your air conditioning overnight can help to reduce airborne allergens in your home. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter systems can also be helpful as well.
Avoid Sweeping Too Much
Sweeping the floor with a broom tends to move allergens from one place to another, rather than capturing them. It can also make potential allergens go airborne.
If you are cleaning your house, water filters on a vacuum are a great way to remove particles from the floor and the air.
Try a Supplement & Get Their Diet in Check
For some dogs it may be beneficial to try supplements to improve their immune system, and to promote healthy skin and fur. Fatty acids are essential for your dog’s skin and appear to reduce the irritated skin that they get from hay fever.
Omega 3 is an important fatty acid for skin health and it can have anti-itching properties. You can find these supplements from pet stores, the vets and supplement shops. Some dog foods may also have a higher concentration of omega 3 than others, so you could try changing your dog’s food.
Here are some products that will boost omega levels:
- Flax Seed oil
- Hemp Seed oil
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
When it comes to your dog’s food, it is important that they have a balanced diet that provides them with all the nutrients they need. As we said above, dog food with a higher concentration of fatty acids may be better for your dog’s skin.
Check out our What Can Dogs Eat guide for more information on canine diets.
Trim Your Dog’s Coat
If your canine has long hair, it can be beneficial to trim it. This will reduce the amount of pollen and allergens that will get trapped by your dog’s coat.
Clean Them After They Have Been Outside
As we stated earlier, we recommend you give your dog a bath a few times a week to help with their hay fever. Another thing you can do to reduce the amount of pollen on your dog’s coat is to wipe them down after they have been outside. Use a damp towel or cloth to wipe their body, especially their legs and paws.
Keep Them Indoors When Pollen Levels Are High
We certainly don’t suggest restricting your dog to just the inside of your home over the hay fever months, but it can be beneficial to keep them indoors when the pollen count is high. Windy days when pollen counts are high are especially bad, as the pollen particles can be dispersed over a wide area.
Keeping your dog away from longer grass and vegetation is also another great way to reduce their exposure to pollen particles. Just remember, dogs love to be outside, so don’t keep them cooped up in doors all summer long.
When to Take Your Dog to The Vets
If you find that none of the methods above work for you, or your dog seems to be suffering from an extreme case of hay fever, it may be time to see the vets. Your vet may be able to prescribe antihistamines that relieve hay fever symptoms or drugs that reduce itching and irritation. This medication may be applied topically or through oral methods.
Hay Fever Allergy Shots for Dogs
Immunotherapy, or allergy shots may be the right course of action for dogs that suffer from bad cases of hay fever. Allergy Shots is the process of gradually building up your dog’s resistance to allergens by exposing them to gradually increasing amounts of it.
A skin test will usually be the first course of action when it comes to allergy shot treatment. The skin test will determine what allergens your dog will be allergic to. Once the culprit allergens are found, your dog will be vaccinated with minute amounts of them in the hopes that they will build a resistance to them.
As the allergy shot treatment process is slow, injections will usually continue for about a year. Injections to maintain the resistance to the allergen may also be required periodically.
Diagnosing allergies can be a real nightmare, especially when there are multiple allergies at work. When it comes to diagnosing allergies, your veterinarian is the best person to go to; however, we have tried to give you an idea of the symptoms of hay fever in this article. Remember they are:
- Rashes or irritated skin (generally paws or face)
- Thinning fur over the eyes or on their paws (from over scratching)
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
Allergies generally can’t be cured and the only real way to control them is to build up a resistance to allergens or avoid them all together. Using the tips above, you should be able to reduce your dog’s hay fever symptoms, but we always think a trip to the vets is good to make sure the symptoms are not a sign of something else.
While dog hay fever may be annoying for your canine, it is not the end of the world. There is a whole load of things you can do to reduce the amount of allergens your dog comes in contact with and the best thing is, they can help you as well if you suffer from it!