Spring is here, bringing with it flowers, rain and allergies. Spring can be allergy season for dogs as well as humans, though the symptoms can differ greatly. Allergies develop in dogs mostly due to environmental allergens (atopy), flea bites (specifically, their saliva) or ingredients in their food; some dogs are allergic to all three. In addition, some dogs suffer from allergic contact dermatitis, a type of skin irritation that occurs as a result of direct skin contact with an allergen. Some dogs develop irritated paws and belly skin after contact with grass, for example. The severity of the allergy symptoms can vary from individual to individual. Some dogs barely show allergy signs, whereas other dogs are affected so severely that they lose sleep and appetite.
Dogs that are allergic to environmental allergens could be symptomatic all year round, as long as an allergen is present. However, most dogs experience allergies seasonally, like humans. While the most allergy-inducing season varies from dog to dog, in South Florida, most dogs with allergies experience them in the spring. To recognize allergies in your dog, it’s essential to know the signs.
The 10 Most Common Signs that Your Dog Might Suffer from Allergies
- Itchy skin (scratching or chewing of the skin)
- Itchy ears (with or without bad smell)
- Pinkish skin, especially at the belly and/or underarms
- Circular, dark crusty areas on the skin (indicates secondary bacterial infection)
- Licking between the toes or under the paws
- Pink and possible moist areas between the toes
- Scooting or chewing at the rectal area
- Excessive shedding or patchy hair loss
- Brown discoloration of the coat at the paws
- Acne-like bumps on the skin
A dog experiencing an allergy may display only one or a few of these symptoms. Additionally, there are many other health conditions that can mimic the signs of allergies. For this reason, if you suspect that your dog may be experiencing an allergic reaction, consult with your veterinarian for confirmation and to determine what types of allergy(s) are involved. If the diagnosis is, in fact, environmental allergies, consider taking a few steps to manage the symptoms and make your dog more comfortable.
Tips to Minimize Environmental Allergy Symptoms
Bathe once a week with a hypoallergenic shampoo. If there is a secondary bacterial infection of the skin, your vet will prescribe an antibacterial shampoo to be used several times a week and may or may not prescribe oral antibiotics.
- Brush the coat several times per week to get rid of environmental particles on the coat.
- Minimize the exposure to the environmental allergens that affect your dog, if you can. Your veterinarian can order a blood test that can give an idea of the environmental allergens that your dog reacts to.
- Give a high-quality fatty acid supplement daily to minimize skin inflammation. (Your veterinarian can recommend the one with the best efficacy.)
- Consider asking your veterinarian about the use of a monoclonal antibody injection and other new, safe and effective medical options that may be available to control symptoms in those dogs with more severe allergies.
Enjoy the outdoors and springtime — the best season in South Florida — with a happy, healthy and itch-free dog.