Dog Seasonal Allergies: The Itchy Elephant in the Room

February 7, 2022
Dr. Kate McDaniel, DVM

Seasonal allergies! Vets and pet parents alike know we’re in for a ride once we see that first scratch behind the ear or sudden interest in the way their paws taste. To best help address your dog’s allergies, it’s important to keep a vigilant eye for early signs of allergy reactivity. Some of the signs start subtly, then explode to a bodywide itchy fest. Poor thing!

Knowing a few early signs of seasonal allergies can help save your dog from even more unpleasant issues developing– and will keep them tail wagging no matter what the changing seasons bring.  

Depending on the time of year, climate, and our own genetic makeup, humans and pets are sensitive to the constant flux of substances in our environment. Plant pollen, mold, dust mites, and other airborne allergens are commonplace in the world we live in, and yet, elicit very different responses to those who possess an inherited hypersensitivity to them.

Unlike the way humans experience ‘hay fever’ in the form of watery eyes, sniffles, and congestion, our pets mostly exhibit their symptoms through their skin. Unfortunately for our pets, these symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Severe allergies can even result in difficult to control secondary skin and ear infections.

Catching symptoms early is key to preventing many of the secondary ailments below. Speak to your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is specific to the needs of your pet. Remember, your pet’s symptoms may be transient with the seasons or chronic and require year round management. Create a routine with your vet to prevent the chance of resurgence. Allergies are much easier to control proactively than when they’ve already made their mark.

Paw Obsession:

A telltale sign of allergies among dogs is paw licking. Dogs may lick the tops of their paws, between the toes, or anywhere along their limbs. Check to see if you notice a reddish-brown tinge on your dog’s front feet if they have light fur. This color is left behind from enzymes in their saliva and can give your veterinarian an idea about the chronicity of the symptoms.

If left unaddressed, this paw licking can create areas of hair loss, ulceration, and infections. These areas can present as dermatitis (superficial skin infections) or ‘hot spots’ that will require allergy control, antibiotics, and a cone collar to resolve.  

Body Bothers:

Perhaps your dog’s irritation is not concentrated at their paws, but dispersed over their body. Using their hindlimbs, allergy-reactive dogs can scratch anywhere they can reach; including  their trunk, neck, face, and behind the ears. Incessant scratching can cause hair loss and ulceration. Skin thickening (and sometimes darkened pigment) over your dog’s elbows, hocks, armpits, and underbelly can also be a sign of chronic allergies.  

Although less common, biting at base of the tail may indicate anal gland inflammation or infection secondary to allergies. Let your veterinarian know if you notice any irritation or changes in their bathroom habits, your pet may be dealing with some unpleasant secondary effects of their allergies.

Face and Ear Trouble:

It’s easy to notice if your pet is trying to paw their whiskers off of their beautiful face. But take a closer inspection to see if you can notice any of the other common allergy symptoms that arise around their delicate facial structures. Allergy-reactive dogs can show red, watery eyes like humans. However, if more severe, allergies can cause hair thinning around the perimeter of each eye, a condition called periocular alopecia.

Additionally, it is possible to see signs of active dermatitis in areas on the face. Look between facial folds if your dog is a short-snouted breed for any reddish-brown discoloration, moisture, redness and inflammation, or even a yeast-like smell. Also look at the corners of their mouth and under the chin for signs of irritation as well.

Lastly, the biggest contender for skin infections secondary to allergies is the ear infection. If your dog is enduring chronic or recurring ear infections, the underlying allergies will need to be addressed by your veterinarian in order to achieve the best proactive measures to prevent reinfection. During ear infections, your dog’s ears can appear inflamed, thickened, reddened, with visible brown discharge. A yeast-like smell is also commonly noted by pet parents.

Regular ear cleaning (once a week if they are looking pink and clean, increasing the frequency if brown discharge becomes apparent) is recommended to prolong the onset of ear infections. Our Vetted members receive veterinarian-approved ear cleanser, customized ear care reminders, and consultations with our Pet Professionals to guide them in achieving best preventive care practices!

If you think your pet may be showing signs of allergies, chat with our Pet Professionals today!