Just like us, our dogs can suffer from irritating and uncomfortable allergies. Along with sensitivities to particular proteins, various environmental triggers are one of the biggest causes of allergic reactions and discomfort.
While flea bites are the number one year-round offender, the Spring and Summer months are peak times for annoying seasonal allergies that can take some investigation to discover.
Here's our quick guide to identifying what may be causing their irritation, and some of the best natural treatments we've found (rather than opting for prescription drugs).
Signs of an Allergy
For us humans, symptoms of an allergy most commonly present in the respiratory tract: sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat etc.
With dogs though, it’s a little different.
Allergies more often cause irritation and inflammation of the skin - a condition called allergic dermatitis. If you notice that your dog is:
- Scratching excessively
- Rubbing up against carpet, furniture or other surfaces
- Biting or chewing at a particular area of their body
- Reluctant to let you touch a tender area
…then it’s pretty clear there's something going on.
If this starts around Spring or Summer - rather than all year round, and they’re free from fleas, then environmental irritants are the next place to investigate!
Other signs to look out for are:
- Hot spots (areas of inflamed, infected skin, often quite red, sometimes with hair loss)
- Ear problems (yeast infections, sometimes with odour and discharge)
- Excessive shaking of the head
- Respiratory issues - not as common in dogs but may still present, so look out for watery eyes, runny nose, coughing and sneezing
- Redness in the eyes, paws and inside the mouth
- Excessive licking of the paws and belly
NOTE: Seasonal allergies can easily turn into year-round allergies if left untreated. If you notice symptoms lasting longer each time, this may be what's occurring. Also, an unseasonably warm Winter in Australia this year has meant that symptoms could have presented earlier than usual.
Increased pollen levels in the air are the most common cause of seasonal allergic dermatitis. Additionally, contact with various plants can cause a reaction in your pup. Here are some of New South Wales’ most common culprits:
- Parietaria Judaica (aka pellitory or asthma weed)
- Echium plantagineum (aka Paterson’s Curse, Salvation Jane or blueweed)
- Callistemon (aka bottlebrush)
- Parthenium weed
- Cynodon dactylon (aka Couch grass or Bermudagrass)
- Hedera Helix (aka English or common ivy)
- Sorghum Halepense (aka Johnsongrass)
What you can do to help them
- Environment Control: It sounds obvious, but the best prevention strategy against reactions from the above plants is to avoid them. If your dog has skin allergy concerns, take note of the flora and fauna present on your favourite walking routes. Check your garden for invasive species like parthenium weed. Here’s a handy website to help identify seasonal allergens and when they are most active - it’s made for humans but relevant for dogs too.
- Bathing: Regular bathing not only gives immediate relief to itchy skin, it also helps prevent reactions from developing. The likelihood is their coat will collect pollen and other irritants while they go about their daily adventures. A bath after walks or before they come inside for the evening will wash these away. Tip: opt for soap-free products to avoid other allergenic ingredients.
- Coconut oil: Again, there’s a reason we’re never without it in the pantry! Due to its antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiprotozoal properties, coconut oil is a powerhouse when combatting skin irritation. Rub a little good quality virgin (untreated) coconut oil between your hands and work through their fur. Not only will it calm the irritation, it will also leave them smelling amazing! You can also use coconut oil in their food to boost their immune system, as well as reduce inflammation from the inside out. If you're interested in more benefits of coconut oil, check out our previous focus blog.
- Paw soak: paws are another area where a lot of allergens and irritants collect. Short of bathing, a paw soak is a great method of washing these away and reducing the amounts tracked into their indoor living space. We've found a solution of warm water and Povidone Iodine is a fantastic soak solution. Available at most pharmacies, it’s organic, anti-fungal, anti- bacterial, anti-yeast and is totally safe for dogs!
- Vacuum & wash: Keep their indoor living space as allergen-free as possible. Vacuum carpets and bedding regularly. When giving fabrics a quick clean, use a water and vinegar solution rather than standard household products - it’s much less irritating to them and great at killing odours.
- Diet: High carbohydrate foods (most dry kibble), can exacerbate the symptoms of seasonal allergies and should be avoided. If your dog’s skin is prone to irritation, add anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as Devil’s Claw Root and parsley into their raw food. In case you're wondering, we’ve done just that!
Hopefully, this little guide will help you to identify environmental triggers and reduce the irritation to your dog!
As always, if symptoms persist, seek advice from your vet.