Do you have a dog that just can’t stop scratching, licking their feet, or rubbing their ears? If so, they might be suffering from a condition known as atopic dermatitis, or seasonal allergies.

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“Common symptoms for seasonal allergies include scratching, licking at feet (especially front feet), scooting and itchy ears in some cases.

Dogs will sometimes also get runny noses and conjunctivitis that accompany these clinical signs as well.” 

– Dr. Krista Nelson, DVM

Over 9 million Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies — but did you know that as many as 1 million pets (mostly dogs) do too?! From itchy feet to a runny nose, your dog might be trying to tell you something. Dr. Krista Nelson, Veterinarian & Regional Medical Director at VetCare, is here to walk you through the basics when it comes to helping your pooch deal with pollen (and other allergens).

Did You Know?

Dogs are usually most affected by seasonal allergies, or atopic dermatitis. Some typical breeds that can be more prone to this condition include Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, Retrievers, Westies, and Yorkies.

Whether you own a puppy or a senior dog, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs and symptoms. “We often see seasonal allergies in dogs between 6 months and 4 years of age,” Dr. Krista notes. “Although we can see it occasionally in younger and older patients.” Atopic dermatitis can also happen outside of spring and summer. “It is typically seen seasonally, during the warmer months… but in some cases, as years go by, these dogs will start to be itchy during more months of the year.”

If you suspect that your dog might be suffering from seasonal allergies, your vet will likely rule out flea allergy dermatitis, skin parasites, and infections first. To get a clear sense of what’s going on with your pet, they may perform skin scrapings, cultures for ringworm, and ensure that flea preventives are being used.

So, what do you do if your pup does have seasonal allergies? “The best approach to management is usually what we term “multimodal”, IE approaching it from many directions,” Dr. Krista explains.

“There are many treatments that can be prescribed to manage symptoms and keep dogs comfortable; these can include topical and oral steroids and other immune modulators (meds that suppress the immune system’s response to allergens), monoclonal antibody injections (proteins designed to target and neutralize specific molecules involved in allergic reactions), and JAK inhibitors (meds that target enzymes involved in the inflammatory process).”

However, if you can try other methods to ease your dog’s discomfort, Dr. Krista says it’s worth a shot. “In addition to managing the symptoms, it is also important to consider additional adjunctive therapies to help manage these conditions and hopefully decrease our reliance on medication,” she mentions.

“This could include flea prevention as well as avoiding “flare factors”. For instance, pollens are often implicated in atopic dermatitis — so monitoring pollen counts via weather apps is a good idea,” Dr. Krista shares. “As well, try to avoid walking an affected dog during peak pollen periods, which are thought to be dawn and dusk.”

You can also take steps to minimize your pet’s reactions by wiping their feet off after coming in from outside, bathing them with medicated shampoos as directed by your veterinarian, or by using topical “skin barrier” treatments. 

“These are topical treatments that contain ceramides (a molecule that is naturally found in skin and plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin and coat in dogs) and other important materials to strengthen the skin barrier,” says Dr. Krista. “This prevents entry and recognition of allergens by the immune system, as a weakened skin barrier is thought to play an important part in atopic dermatitis.” 

Did You Know?

You might be able to cure your pet’s seasonal allergies with a special serum. Allergy testing can help identify specific allergens to target, although treatment usually takes up to 6-12 months or more.

Another option could be supplementing with essential fatty acids (as directed by your veterinarian).  However, Dr. Krista doesn’t always recommend antihistamines, as “they are not commonly very effective in dogs and cats, especially when used as sole treatment. They are occasionally effective in addition to other treatments.”

If you’re looking for a more long-term solution for your pet, allergy testing (as done by a board certified dermatologist via skin testing primarily) can be performed. “This can identify allergens for the purpose of developing an allergy serum,” Dr. Krista clarified. “The serum would be administered over time to minimize allergic reactions, reduce the clinical signs, and potentially result in a cure. However, this usually takes at least 6-12 months of treatment.”

Long story short: if your pet has allergies, you have options. All it takes is a little trial and error to make sure your pup makes the most of every season!

Itching to learn more? Dr. Krista recommends visiting Veterinary Partner, a website developed by veterinarians, for accurate and comprehensive resources. We hope these tips help to keep your beloved buddy feeling their best!

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