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Seasonal, Environmental Allergies in Pets

Dogs like to be outdoors. Rolling in the grass, sniffing all the interesting smells, basking in the sun, and exploring the neighbourhood are all part of the joys of being a dog. Unfortunately, some pets can suffer from seasonal allergies just like people can. And while you might be thinking to yourself, really? A dog, allergic to grass? It's true - dogs can be allergic to many of the same things in the environment that people can.

Seasonal Allergies or Something Else?

Pets can be allergic to many different things. Chances are, though, if symptoms appear for only part of the year (typically spring through fall), then the allergies are due to seasonal environmental allergens. If pets show symptoms year-round, it's probably due to something that's present and constant in their daily lives, like food allergies or allergies to household cleaners or chemicals. It's possible for pets to have allergies to multiple things.

Seasonal allergies can include environmental triggers like pollen, grasses, ragweed, dust, mold, and flea bites. If you live in an area that doesn't typically have a cold winter, it may be more difficult to determine whether your pet is experiencing seasonal allergies or allergies to something else in his living environment.

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Pets

People with seasonal allergies often show symptoms like sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, and itchy eyes. Pets tend to show symptoms that have to do more with their skin. These can include:

  • Persistent chewing or licking of his body. The most common places include the paws, flanks, belly, or groin area. This can cause the fur to become discoloured from the licking; redness and irritation of the skin; the skin could become crusty, scaly or flaking, and may be tender to the touch; and a loss of fur may even occur.

  • Rubbing or scratching his face against furniture, carpet, etc. Pets do this in an effort to relieve the itchiness.

  • Reddened, inflamed, and itchy ears, sometimes with discharge or an odour. Dog may rub his ears against things or persistently scratch at them.

  • Hot spots may develop. These are moist, inflamed sections of skin that are often sore, bleeding, and sometimes infected. They can be caused by pets constantly licking, chewing, or scratching the spot.

  • Red, sore, itchy and swollen paws or pads (including in between the toes). You may see discoloured spots from where the dog was licking, or even bald spots if he's licked off the fur. An odour may also be present.

  • Reddened, itchy and balding areas on the face, typically around the eyes, the chin, and the snout.

  • Sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and coughing are less common in pets than in people, however they do occur. If your pet is experiencing any sort of respiratory distress (trouble breathing), take him immediately to the vet.

What To Do

The more a pet is exposed to environmental allergens, the more sensitive he can become to them. He may end up becoming sensitive to an increasing number of seasonal allergens... and may even progress to having sensitivities year-round, due to his allergic reactions becoming stronger and longer-lasting. Removing as many allergens from your pet's environment can help tremendously in how he feels. Here are some things that can help:

  • Wash and dry your pet's paws before he comes back into the house. This will help to both remove allergens from his skin and paws, as well as prevent him from tracking allergens throughout the home and into his living space and bedding.

  • Clean regularly. Vacuum, sweep, and mop to eliminate as many of the allergens as possible. Use gentle, pet-safe and non-toxic cleaners. Change or wash the filter in your vacuum frequently. A HEPA filter can also be a tremendous help.

  • Keep doors and windows closed to prevent allergens from entering the home. If an air-conditioner is used to keep the home at a comfortable temperature, make sure it has a good filter that is changed or washed regularly.

  • Wash your pet's bedding regularly. Some pet beds have removable covers to make clean-up easier.

  • Consider giving your dog a quick rinse if he's been outside playing or walking for any significant length of time. Environmental allergens can settle on his coat, and rinsing him off can help to remove them. You can also use a damp towel to wipe down his coat and paws instead.

    More frequent bathing may help as well, but be careful not to do it too often as it can be drying for your pet's skin. Be sure to use a gentle pet shampoo for sensitive skin (do not use human shampoo, which is too harsh).

  • Carbohydrates are thought to increase inflammatory responses in the body. Consider gradually switching your pet to a low-grain or grain-free food. Do not switch your pet's diet without consultation with your vet if he has any sort of medical condition.

  • Talk with your veterinarian to find out what else you can do to help your pet with seasonal allergens. A change in diet, the addition of supplements, or sometimes medication may be able to help. Don't give human medication unless under the direction of your vet. With a little help, your pet will feel much better during allergy season and can go back to enjoying the great outdoors.


"Some of our greatest historical and artistic treasures we place in museums; others, we take for walks."
(Roger Caras)

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