Scratch and Sniff: Seasonal Allergies Can Affect Fido Too!

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where dem doggies is? They’re all cooped up inside, sneezing, sniffling and rubbing runny eyes. Yep, just as some humans suffer the airborne pollens and particles of brilliantly blooming flowers, plants and grass, so too do our furry friends (although cats are less likely to be afflicted). Common culprits of seasonal allergies, called hay fever, include ragweed, pollen, grass, trees and shrubs. Dogs either inhale the allergens or track them inside on their feet and fur, where they stick around to inflict hours of misery. And while allergy-prone pets indeed share the same symptoms as humans, they will more often manifest as severe itchiness. You’ll notice Fido feverishly scratching, licking, chewing and rubbing his feet, face, ears and neck, which can create a whole new set of skin problems, like secondary infections.

What’s worse, untreated seasonal allergies often transcend the merry month of May into year-round torment, so it’s vital to nip this fair-weather woe in the bud. Pet-owners typically turn to steroids or anti-histamines for relief. Temporary use of these drugs is usually fine, but the problem with these go-to remedies is that, apart from having potentially serious side effects, they treat the symptoms and not the underlying cause. But that may not be a concern if the allergy truly is seasonal, and the dose does the trick. Medicated shampoos, topical sprays and creams are fast-acting, but they often bring only short-term relief, as do vitamins and homeopathic supplements. Obviously, you can’t bulldoze the great outdoors, and you can’t keep your dog under house arrest for months at a time, so what to do?

If you want to avoid hooking your hound on harmful meds, and the sprays, creams and soaps are a wash, you may have to try something a little more drastic. First, you’ll need to root out the exact cause of your pooch’s allergy. Your vet will either take a blood sample or do a “scratch” or “skin prick” test with the suspected allergen to see if there’s a reaction. Once you’ve pinpointed the problem, the vet will then inject the offending spore in small doses to build up your pup’s immunities. With any luck, the culprit will be neutralized and Fido will spring back to life like Superdog!

By Robin Roberts

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