Hay Fever in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

dog-running-through-field

For many of us, the pollen season can bring lots of unwanted symptoms like a runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy eyes and sneezing. In fact, the NHS estimates that 1 in 5 people will suffer from hay fever at some point in their lives. But, what about dogs? Can pollen affect dogs in this way as well? In this blog, we’ll answer this very question, discussing how hay fever in dogs differs from the kind we suffer from ourselves, as well as detailing the symptoms to look out for and ways to manage these seasonal allergies.

Can Dogs Get Hay Fever?

Unfortunately for our furry friends, the answer to this question is yes. Like humans, dogs can suffer from pollen allergies, known as hay fever. It’s thought that around 10% of dogs suffer from hay fever to some extent.

However, the human body’s response to coming into contact with the tiny pollen granules released by plants is different to the canine response.

Humans tend to get a runny nose, watery eyes and start sneezing – and if you suffer from hay fever, you’ll know just how miserable a bad reaction can be.

But hay fever in dogs presents itself in a different way. Perhaps even worse than what we humans have to put up with, our furry friends often endure all-over itchiness. When a dog has an allergic reaction, histamine is released by the body in response to the allergen. Histamine has an inflammatory effect on the tissues it comes into contact with, which results in itchiness.

It’s not just inhaled pollen that can trigger hay fever in dogs. Pollen coming into contact with your dog’s skin can also trigger the histamine response, so rolling around in a grassy meadow for instance could also cause a lot of discomfort for dogs with hay fever.

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Dog Hay Fever Symptoms

Itchy skin is the main symptom of hay fever in dogs. If your dog is suffering from hay fever, they are likely to show it in the following ways:

  • Scratching or biting their body
  • Licking or nibbling at their paws
  • Rubbing their face on the furniture or floor, or asking for face scratches
  • Areas of their skin appearing red, sore and flaky, or feeling greasy to the touch
  • Losing patches of fur from scratching
  • Changes in fur colour – white fur will tinge pink from saliva staining due to increased nibbling. This is common around the paws where many dogs have white markings, and is particularly noticeable in white dogs

Persistent scratching can often (but not always) result in skin damage, as detailed above. If your dog does have skin damage, this can make them more likely to develop bacterial and yeast infections, compounding the itchiness.

Less commonly, some dogs might also experience other symptoms such as:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Rashes on the paws and face

Pollen allergies are much less common than allergies to fleas or dust mites in dogs. But since the symptoms of these allergies tend to be very similar, it makes it difficult to identify what is causing a reaction for your dog. If your dog is showing symptoms outside of the spring and summer months, it’s most likely to be an allergy to something other than pollen, or they may have an infection.

When is Hay Fever Season for Dogs?

Dog hay fever symptoms can begin as early as the end of March for some dogs, and last right up until the end of summer. However, most dogs won’t be affected for the whole of this period.

There are lots of different types of pollen in the UK, but the three that most commonly cause allergies are tree pollen, weed pollen and grass pollen. The type of pollen your dog is allergic to will determine what time of year they are most affected by hay fever.

Roughly speaking, each type of pollen is most abundant at the following times of year:

  • Tree pollen: late March – mid-May
  • Grass pollen: mid-May – July
  • Weed pollen: late June – September

It’s possible to get your dog allergy tested to find out which type of pollen your dog is allergic to. This way, you can take suitable steps to minimise your dog’s exposure to that type of pollen.

Dog Hay Fever Treatment

If you think your dog may be hay-fever prone, there are lots of things you can do to help. Here are our top tips for beating the seasonal itches:

See Your Vet

The first point of call should be your vet, as they will be able to confirm that hay fever is indeed the culprit.

Depending on the severity of your dog’s condition, your vet may prescribe topical treatments to ease your dog’s skin, suggest medicated ear or eye drops, antihistamines (although these don’t always work in dogs), steroid medication, anti-itch medication or immunotherapy.

Keep on Top of Flea Treatment

Fleas are another cause of extreme itchiness, and can really exacerbate any existing skin problems. Keeping up with your regular flea treatments will prevent these parasites from making things worse.

Time Your Walks Well

The amount of pollen in the air fluctuates throughout the day, and also varies depending on the weather.

According to Allergy UK, pollen counts tend to be at their highest first thing in the morning and in the evening, so avoid going on dog walks at these times. Pollen also spreads very easily when it’s warm and windy outside.

You can check the grass, tree or weed pollen forecast online so you know what to expect and can plan your walks around the pollen levels.

Plan Your Walking Routes

If you know which type of pollen your dog is allergic to, you can tailor your dog walks to avoid it.

For example, if your dog is allergic to grass pollen, avoid fields and meadows, or keep your dog on a lead in these areas to stop them rolling around. You should also avoid walking past when people are mowing their lawn, as this produces a lot of airborne pollen.

If your dog is allergic to weed pollen, you may want to avoid woodland areas where some weeds grow in abundance.

Have a Post-walk Wipe Down

Use a damp towel or cloth to wipe your dog down after they’ve been on a walk – especially if they’ve been rolling around in the grass. This helps to remove pollen trapped in their coat. As well as their body, pay attention to their paws, eyes and nose too.

Regularly brushing your dog and keeping their fur short will also help to keep pollen out of their fur.

Reduce Pollen in the Home

Regularly vacuuming, washing your dog’s bedding and keeping windows closed when the pollen count is high will help to make sure your dog has some respite from hay fever while they’re inside. Air purifiers can also help to remove allergens from the air in your home.

Use a Soothing Shampoo

You could try bathing your dog with a shampoo designed to soothe irritated skin. Washing your dog can also help to remove any pollen lingering in their fur. Don’t bathe your dog too frequently though, as this can dry out your dog’s skin and make irritation worse.

If your dog doesn’t like being washed in the bath, you might like to consider using Douxo S3 Calm Mousse which is applied to a dry coat, and doesn’t need to be rinsed off. It soothes itchy skin as well as hydrating and protecting it. Similarly, Douxo S3 Calm Pads are also applied to dry fur by simply wiping the affected areas for soothing relief.

Try a Skin Supplement

One of the simplest ways to guard against the irritating symptoms of hay fever and other skin conditions is to make sure your pet’s natural skin defences are in tip-top condition.

YUMOVE Skin and Coat Care Itching supplements contain omega 3 and omega 6 oils, which help to nourish, soothe and calm the skin. These fatty acids help to replenish your dog’s skin barrier, which reduces the likelihood of allergens entering their system. This in turn discourages itching and inflammation.

Wrapping Up

Hay fever in dogs can be a big problem during the summer months. Scratching, biting and rubbing their paws, face and other parts of the body can all be signs of a pollen allergy in dogs. It can cause a lot of discomfort, so implementing our top tips into your daily routine this summer is a good idea to help alleviate symptoms for your dog. Remember, it’s always best to take your dog to the vet if they are suffering from irritated skin, particularly in severe cases when they may require treatment.

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker
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