My Dog Suffers From Seasonal Allergies
Spring into Action and Learn More About Seasonal Allergies in Dogs
As I sit here writing this lens it is yet another cold, gray, overcast day here in the Northern VA area. I find myself, as I am sure many other people do, longing for the arrival of Spring. Unfortunately, as much as I look forward to all the beauty Spring brings I also find myself dreading the effect it will have on my sweet little LolaBelle, our little Yorkie mix that you may have read about in my lens entitled, Lola, a Human in a Dog's Body. Each and every year Lola suffers the onslaught of seasonal allergy symptoms just as we humans do.
In this lens, I will detail my personal experience with seasonal allergies in my dog, and hope to help other dog owners whose pets may also have allergies. If you are a fellow allergy sufferer, you are all to familiar with what this means, and how hard the symptoms are to control.
UPDATE: Spring has finally arrived bringing us milder temperatures, but also the dreaded tree pollen. Just like every year for the past seven years, LolaBelle's symptoms have steadily increased, along with the pollen count. Thankfully, this year she does not seem to be in too much distress, but her eye symptoms are worse than ever before, and sadly there are no allergy eye drops for dogs that I am aware of. However, she does not suffer alone as my husband and I are also in the allergy boat right beside her! I have complied some pictures to show the progression of her eye symptoms this year, and to demonstrate how allergy symptoms appear in a dog. If you take a look at the pictures in the photo gallery below, you will be able to see the uptick in her allergy symptoms.
Is Your Dog Allergic?
Learn to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Allergies in Your Dog
Lola is allergic to both tree and grass pollen. Tree pollen starts in late February and goes through May in our area of northern Virginia. Grass pollen begins in early June and runs through the Summer. Surprisingly, the signs and symptoms of allergies in dogs are very similar to those we humans deal with. They experience itchy, irritated skin and eyes more than other symptoms.The skin on Lola's tummy will appear reddened and irritated during this time of year. However, I have not noticed the runny nose and sneezing in her as I would in a person. The way dogs deal with these symptoms is just a tad different.
Before I knew she had allergies I thought she was just being a dog, however I learned the hard way that I needed to be aware of her behavior, as she has no other way to communicate with me. Instead of reaching for the Kleenex or hydrocortisone cream as a human would, Lola will seem very uncomfortable, and persistently change positions or attempt to "itch" an area she cannot reach. She will constantly scratch and lick certain very itchy areas, often referred to as "hot spots." She will scratch and lick an area until she breaks the skin as shown in this picture. Lola will also rub her eyes with her front paws frequently and her eyes may drain more during allergy season. If you notice any of these signs in your dog as Spring and Summer approach your pet could very well be suffering from seasonal allergies.
Allergic Eye Symptoms - These photos show the worsening of LolaBelle's allergic eye symptoms.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Does Your Dog Have Seasonal Allergies?
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So Your Dog is Allergic... Now What Do You Do?
Managing Symptoms at Home
Symptoms of allergies in dogs are difficult to control, at best. Think about it for a second, all dogs absolutely love to go outside for walks, run in the grass, roll in the grass, and just simply to investigate -- it's the high point of their day. Unfortunately, for the dog with a grass or tree pollen allergy, this directly exposes them to the cause of their symptoms. After multiple visits to the vet in order to get her allergies under control, I gained some knowledge of some steps I could take at home to minimize Lola's symptoms.
For starters, as allergy season approaches, I begin to wipe her down with unscented baby wipes after all of our walks outside. This will remove most of the pollen on her hair and paws, and will prevent her from transferring it to her eyes and onto the furniture and, yes, she is allowed on all of the furniture! Does she like this, you may be asking, and the answer is, yes!! Lola must find the wipes cool and soothing, as she now stands and waits for me to wipe her off with them. Also, do not waste your money on the "pet wipes" you find at most pet stores. I have not found these to be any different from or better than regular baby wipes, which are more affordable.
We also bathe her more frequently, up to once a week, during this time of the year to rid her of the pollen she picks up outdoors. We use unscented hypoallergenic pet shampoos containing oatmeal. Oatmeal relieves itchy skin, caused by numerous conditions, in humans and dogs alike. Lola, like most dogs, does not enjoy getting a bath, and is quite dramatic about the entire process, as you can tell from this picture.
Additionally, we started her on a fish oil supplement for dogs. It is given daily; the dose depends on the weight of the dog. Fish oil helps with dry itchy skin and even makes the coat healthier. Of course, I do not recommend you begin any new medication or supplement, such as fish oil, prior to consulting with your dog's veterinarian.
When To Go To the Vet
When What You are Doing at Home is Not Working
If you are doing all you can at home to manage your dog's allergy symptoms, but your pet still seems to be miserable, a call to your vet is within reason. He or she may attempt to control the problem over the phone by advising you of additional measures to take or, if needed, to come in for a sick visit. If you follow the instructions from the veterinarian, and your dog is still not improving, call the vet back for further instruction.
In order to get a dog's allergies under better control, a veterinarian may prescribe an OTC (over the counter) antihistamine such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to be administered several times per day. If Benadryl does not help your pet, then other antihistamines can be given to aid in managing allergy symptoms. Examples of different antihistamines often used in dogs include Zyrtec (cetirizine) and hydroxizine. These medications are made for humans but can also be administered to animals under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Special medicated conditioners can also be prescribed to aid in symptom relief for your dog as well.
You may be wondering if it is really necessary to go to the expense of taking your dog to the vet since human medications can be used to relieve their symptoms. It is important to note that, although human medications can be administered to dogs, the doses depend on the weight of the animal. Also, the frequency with which these medications are given to dogs differs from the human instructions on the packaging. If your pet is exhibiting allergic symptoms, the dog should be examined by a veterinarian in order rule out other skin conditions which could be causing the symptoms, and to develop a treatment plan. Your dog's treatment plan may include OTC medications, but the vet may also prescribe steroids or antibiotics. Steroids can be given in short courses in severe cases to decrease inflammation and itching. If you notice areas of skin have been broken and infection has developed due to your dog continually scratching and licking, a course of antibiotics may be needed. This is what happened with my dog a few years ago. As you can tell from this photo we had to use the dreaded "cone of shame" or E-collar to prevent her from scratching and licking the infected areas. Isn't she pitiful?
You should contact your veterinarian right away if you note an area of broken red skin because infection may have begun to develop. Once skin integrity has been altered, and the dog continues to lick and scratch the area, infection is sure to follow. Other signs of infection would include a "hot spot" that does not heal or becomes swollen and hot to touch, oozing of pus, or a foul smelling drainage from a sore or from the eyes. If an infection is left untreated for a lengthy period of time it will eventually spread throughout the dog's system leading to serious complications. Fortunately, most small infections such as the one LolaBelle had, can be cured quickly with antibiotics and preventive measures such as the E-collar.
I cannot stress to you enough how very important it is to get established with good veterinarian. It is key to maintaining your dog's health and the owner's sanity. If we had not had such a wonderful working relationship with our vet clinic we would not have made through that terrible allergy season with LolaBelle a few years ago. If you have a vet and are not crazy about him or her, then find another one. Talk with other doggy parents to find out where they take their dogs and then research the recommendations online.
We tried this soft type of cone with Lola first and it worked for about a day until she figured out how to bend it and get to the areas she wanted scratch.
We had to use a smaller version of this stiff type of collar for my dog and it worked great.
Thank you for visiting this lens. I hope I have provided you with some useful information. How do you manage your pet's allergies? Please share your experiences and questions with me.
Last updated on August 15, 2014
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