Hayfever is a common complaint at this time of year which affects many people but pollen and grass pollen allergies can also be a problem for many dogs causing discomfort for many pets.
Spring into summer is the most common time for grass pollen allergies to be seen in pets and there are many different types of grass and other pollens which can cause dogs to have an allergic reaction. The severity of symptoms will vary from dog to dog, for some they may just get runny eyes or be more prone to ear infections during this time while others will suffer from severe skin complaints as a result. It can be that a dog is only sensitive to one type of pollen which appears at a certain time of year or you may find through allergy testing that the problem is a combination of several. In some cause of an allergy is isolated to a particular area but more commonly you will find a dog shows symptoms over a certain period of time while that pollen is prevalent.
If you live with a dog who has a grass pollen allergy you will usually notice they will start to frequently scratch, chew or lick at their paws or body, sometimes to the point of causing damage to themselves, at certain times of the year as they try to stop the irritation the pollen causes them. You may also notice that they start to rub their faces along surfaces, especially after a walk, they can become more sensitive to touch due to being in discomfort and their eyes may have a discharge or weep. Due to the constant irritation caused by the pollen, the skin often becomes red and inflamed and if a dog is scratching frequently they can develop sores or thickening to the skin or ears as a result. Unfortunately for some dogs they will be more prone to skin and ear infections whilst in grass pollen season from a combination of their immune system being compromised and causing damage to their skin through chewing and scratching.
Often the areas most affected by grass allergies are around a dog’s undercarriage, paws, face and in certain breeds, such as spaniels, their ears can be badly affected due to coming in contact with the pollen as they snuffle through the grass.
What can you do?
The cause of an allergy can be difficult to establish but your vet can run allergy tests to identify the source and then if appropriate prescribe suitable medication to help alleviate any symptoms. While it can be extremely difficult to avoid the causes of a grass allergy there are some practical steps you can take to help make your pet more comfortable;
- Avoid areas with a high pollen count. This may mean changing where you walk at certain times of the year or keeping your dog on a lead.
- Wash paws, undercarriage, face and ears when you return from a walk or if your dog has been near pollenating grasses.
- Regular grooming and baths will help remove any pollen caught in the coat.
- Consider the use of boots or a lightweight coat to protect the coat and skin from pollen.
- Keep a diary of any flare ups your dog has and where you have been prior to these to try and establish a link. This can be particularly useful if your dog has regular episodes of itch skin or ear infections which do not appear to have a cause.
- Remember the cause of a grass allergy isn’t necessarily found out on your dog’s walk but could be in your garden so be aware of where your dog is lying or playing at home.
- Skin and ear problems which result from allergies can last longer than the pollen season.
Grass pollen allergies may mean that you have to make adjustments to your dog’s routine at certain time of year but with good management you can help keep your dog as comfortable as possible.