Itchy Dog? Consider Seasonal Allergies

Dogs get seasonal allergies just like we do, but you might be surprised at what you don't know about this itchy, uncomfortable condition.

Published December 1, 2023
Golden Retriever dog scratching himself

Do you find yourself with an itchy dog or one with red, watery eyes at the same time every year? Seasonal allergies are definitely something dogs can suffer from, too. Their scratching can be caused by allergens like pollen, dust mites, and mold, but there are plenty of other reasons your dog could be itchy. Get the 411 on itchy dogs and seasonal allergies with these 15 fast facts, plus discover the questions you should ask your vet so that together, you can provide your dog with much-needed relief.

1. Seasonal Allergy Symptoms Vary From Dog to Dog

Not all dogs show the same signs of seasonal allergies, and many of the most common ones are pretty subtle. Along with watering eyes and itching, dogs can also show the following symptoms:

  • Ear infections
  • Scooting across the ground
  • Rubbing their face on the floor
  • Licking their paws
  • Thick, discolored skin
  • Hair loss

2. So Many Things Can Trigger Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

Tons of different allergens can trigger seasonal allergies in dogs, including but not limited to:

  • Grasses
  • Trees
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Dust mites
  • Insect bites, like fleas
  • Other air irritants, like smoke or pollution

3. Allergies Usually Come on When Dogs Are Young

Dogs will usually develop allergies between the ages of six months old and three years old. However, they may still develop respiratory and other issues, like asthma, that will be triggered by seasonal allergies.

Dog Fast Fact

4. Dogs Don’t Usually Outgrow Allergies

Even though people, especially children, can outgrow allergies, that’s not the case with dogs. The severity of a dog’s allergies can change over the years, but in most cases, they get worse rather than better.

5. Seasonal Allergies in Dogs Are Often Confused With Food Allergies

Seasonal allergies and food allergies share a lot of the same symptoms, so it can be challenging to distinguish between the two. Seasonal allergies are usually cyclical and crop up at certain times of the year, whereas food allergies happen year-round, but that’s not always the case.

That said, canine food allergies aren’t what most people envision. Instead of being allergic to grains or gluten, pets are most often allergic to the protein source in their food, which is usually beef, chicken, or dairy.

Quick Tip

Keep a journal of when, where, and how you notice your dog itching. This can help you and your veterinarian look for seasonal patterns and clues to an underlying cause. 

6. Winter Air Can Make Your Dog Itchier

Do you notice your skin becoming drier in the winter? Yep, that happens to dogs too. Lack of moisture in the air during the winter season, plus having the heater blasting, can lead to dry, flaky, or simply itchy skin. Worse, indoor air quality in the winter has higher concentrations of allergens, like dust mites and mold, which can make your dog's seasonal allergies worse.

Dog Fast Fact
Quick Tip

Even mild dehydration can leave your dog’s skin feeling dry and itchy, which is why hydration for your dog is so important, especially in the winter months. A humidifier can also help add some of that moisture back into the air.

7. Dog Allergy Testing Is a Thing

If you really want to know what your dog is allergic to, canine allergy testing is available. It is pricey, but it can point you to specific triggers and even allow your veterinarian to create allergy shots to help desensitize your dog to unavoidable environmental allergens.

8. Some Dog Breeds Are More Predisposed to Allergies

Any dog can develop allergies, but some breeds are at higher risk. These include:

Dog Fast Fact

9. Overbathing Can Make It Worse

A soothing bath might sound like just the thing for itchy skin, but overbathing can actually lead to dry skin. Shampoos and warm water can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it super dry and flaky, plus soap residue can irritate the skin. Unless your veterinarian gives you specific instructions, don’t bathe your dog more than once a month. When you do, use a mild, soothing shampoo to protect their skin. Olive oil rubbed lightly into your dog's fur can also help relieve dry skin.

Quick Tip

Use a hypoallergenic pet wipe to remove any pollen or allergens from your dog’s fur before they come inside instead of bathing them too often.

10. Environmental Management Can Play a Huge Role in Relief

Limiting your dog’s exposure to allergens can help provide them with relief during their peak allergic periods. And, yes, you can do these even if you’re not entirely sure what they’re allergic to. Try these environmental modifications to see if they help your dog: 

  • Install a HEPA filter in your home to remove airborne allergens.
  • Vacuum your home regularly.
  • Wash your pet’s bedding and plush toys in hot water to kill dust mites.
  • Keep dehumidifiers in bathrooms to prevent mold growth.
  • Wipe their fur down with a pet wipe after being outdoors to remove pollens.
  • Make sure your dog stays up to date on parasite preventatives, even during the winter.

11. Antihistamines Can Help Some Dogs With Allergies

Some dogs need antihistamines for their allergies, just like we do. While some of the drugs we take are used in dogs, too, make sure to check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any medications. These meds can help ease those nasty symptoms during flare-ups or might be something you decide to give them every year during their allergy season, but getting the right medicine and right dose is critical.

12. Dogs Scratching Can Make the Cycle Worse

Scratching at the ears can lead to an uncomfortable condition called an aural hematoma, where the ear flap fills with blood, and clawing at their skin can create open wounds. These hotspots can pop up quite literally overnight, and the conditions will keep your dog itching or hurting, even after the allergen is removed, so figuring out the cause of the itch ASAP is important.

13. And Secondary Infections Are Very Common

Inflamed, itchy dog skin creates the perfect environment for bacteria or yeast to grow, which can lead to secondary skin infections. At this point, you’re dealing with more than simply seasonal allergies. Your veterinarian may need to prescribe antibiotics or other medications.

14. Other Conditions Can Masquerade as Allergies

Before you write off your dog’s itching as an allergy, know that many other conditions can have the same symptoms as seasonal allergies. Hypothyroidism and Cushings disease are both serious diseases that can cause dry, itchy skin and hair loss and are sometimes mistaken for allergies. A veterinary visit is the best way to rule these out.

15. Your Vet Is Your Partner In Tackling Seasonal Allergies

Whether you know your dog has seasonal allergies or you suspect they do because of their itchy skin, your veterinarian is the best person to talk to. When you go in, here are a few questions you can ask your veterinarian to get the conversation started:

  1. What, if any, tests do you recommend?
  2. Is the food I’m feeding my dog appropriate for them?
  3. Are there lifestyle adjustments that can help reduce their discomfort?
  4. What about topical products or medications?
  5. How will I know if the treatment is working?
  6. When can I expect to see signs of improvement?
  7. How often should I come in for follow-ups?

Itchy Dogs & Seasonal Allergies

Allergies are uncomfortable for anyone, including your dog. But because they can’t tell you exactly how they’re feeling, it’s up to you to spot the signs, like itching, licking, and rubbing. Just remember that it’s not all on you. Your veterinarian is there for you to pinpoint their triggers and create a plan that’ll make them comfortable again.

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Itchy Dog? Consider Seasonal Allergies