Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 27, 2017

My Dog’s Springtime Allergies: RIGHT on Time

Posted at 04:21PM - Comments: (25)

WDJ editor Nancy Kern's springtime protocol for preventing Otto's incessant allergy symptoms.

dog in springtime

This blog post was originally published March 4, 2014. Updated March 27, 2017.

Does your dog exhibit signs of seasonal allergies? And if so, what do you do about it? If springtime pollen affects your dog like it does Otto, perhaps you’ve developed some kind of allergy-relieving protocol for when trees and grasses start to bloom.

In past years, I’ve discussed my system of keeping a yearly calendar for my dogs that is loaded with notes about their health and behavior. It helped me identify the earliest signs of Otto’s springtime allergies, and take proactive management steps to minimize his suffering.

So here we are in March again, with everything in bloom in Northern California. Otto’s allergies are right on schedule, except this year – like every year since I noticed the seasonality of his symptoms – I am prepared with remedies before his itching begins.

I originally blogged about keeping a dog calendar in April 2013, when I had noticed that Otto was licking and chewing himself. Once I consciously registered this fact, I first looked for fleas; I couldn’t find a single one, on Otto or any other animal in the house. I started paying attention to the sound and sight of Otto licking his paws or flank (as opposed to distractedly saying to him, without even looking away from my computer screen, “Hey, knock it off!” and continuing to work) – and I realized that he was itchy pretty much all day. When he wasn’t licking or chewing himself, he lay down and looked chastened and miserable, rather than restful.

dog in springtime

Sadly, that year, it took me a couple of weeks for me to pay enough attention to my poor itchy dog to start treating his springtime allergies, and managing his environment to reduce his exposure to the agents he seems to be allergic to: namely, pollen.

Here are the things I do for Otto at this time of year:

• Discourage him from hanging out on the deck, or indeed, outside anywhere in my yard. There is SO MUCH pollen out there right now. At this time of year, when the sun comes out, he likes nothing more than to snooze on the warm deck, but unless I just hosed it off (which I do at least two or three times a week, if it hasn’t rained), I have to tell him I’m sorry, he has to wait until the trees have finished blooming.

tree pollen on porch

• Whether we’ve been out for a walk or he’s coming indoors again after going potty, I rinse his paws with a hose, then towel-dry them, before he comes In the house. And I use a damp towel and wipe down his entire coat. It takes less than a minute; I’m just trying to reduce the pollen that’s all over his coat. I do the same for Woody, who doesn’t seem to suffer from allergies yet, because he obviously brings in a lot of pollen, too.

• I vacuum the carpets daily, and damp-mop the kitchen floor daily.

• I wash all the dog beds weekly, and change the sheets that cover my couches most of the time every other day or so.

• And, last but not least, I give Otto Benadryl once or twice a day on the days that he’s obviously licking the most. 

It used to be that I needed to set an alarm on my digital calendar for March 1 of each year to “consider Otto’s spring allergies.” But he’s 9 years old now, and the pattern is clear. As soon as I start to see a yellow glint of pollen on my front porch and decks, it’s time to put all my pollen-fighting activities into play, to keep him comfortable and as minimally itchy as possible. But all this work means that he hasn’t developed an inflamed, weepy hot spot for years.

Comments (24)

It never ceases to amaze me at the reports from pet parents about recurring seasonal allergy symptoms. My daughter's miniature dachshund and my Bengal cat sneeze incessantly in early spring. My hound/terrier mix and my Westie have scratching competitions. No different than humans, I haven't found the silver bullet yet, but I have stopped all Rx in favor of the best diet I can prepare, along with home-fermented vegetables for probiotics and freshly sprouted seeds. Over 2 decades, I've tried Benadryl, Temaril P, Apoquel, more shampoos, sprays and lotions than I can recall and this seems to render the best results.

Posted by: dmmarshall | April 20, 2017 6:28 PM    Report this comment

My rottie's eyes (we all know rotties and their eye issues) get all runny and irritated when pollen is high. After I took him to the vet to make sure it wasn't anything breed related, I realized he suffers allergies just like me...and just like me, it hits his eyes. No itchy skin...just watery, runny, gummy eyes. I just wipe them clean with warm, wet compresses and we suffer together.
I didn't realize I could give him Benadryl. I may try that!

Posted by: Mik1of3 | April 6, 2017 10:55 AM    Report this comment

I wish I had an easy answer for Pippi, my American Eskimo Dog. She has nightmare allergies, not all identified. Testing showed the many environmental allergies and I give her monthly allergy injections to address those. She is mostly fine from spring to fall. Our biggest problem is October through May. We have not been able to isolate the culprit(s). We purchased very expensive whole house/hospital grade air filters, use only environmentally safe cleaning products, have done the entire food elimination thing - she is currently eating raw ground rabbit (organs and bone included), but she STILL itches to high heaven - and has an odor that is not usually present with eskies. She came to me as a rescue in very poor condition, and has chronic pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease to go with the allergies. I keep hoping and praying for an answer!~

Posted by: deezee123 | April 4, 2017 6:52 PM    Report this comment

A spray called HUMILAC has helped my dog

Posted by: Johanna Smiljanic | March 31, 2017 8:06 AM    Report this comment

perfect timing for this article! when i brought my sheltie, Milo, home almost 7 yrs ago, I noticed itching right away. when to vet dermatologist - did the food allergy thing - pretty much decided that wasn't the issue. Allergic to cats? there are 8 in the house..... i'm always trying to alleviate his itching, and Benadryl doesn't do a thing. He's had numerous Staph infections, has eaten a raw diet for years, gets coconut oil. went back to vet today to start addressing again - the worst part of the house for him is on my bed. i don't use chemicals, wash comforter in hot water only, have purifier, humidifier, no carpets.... all the other struggles so many are going through. Then i just learned they can be allergic to human dander. Wouldn't that suck having your dog allergic to YOU???? When derm vet gets back to town, will do the skin testing finally. We don't have any pollen yet - just got another foot of snow 2 days ago! So it is definitely an indoor/environmental thing. Thanks to others who give ideas for what has worked for them. (and to Miranda - been there - I think we get so obsessed for trying to help them that we can sometimes miss the obvious things!)

Posted by: Kelley | March 30, 2017 10:01 PM    Report this comment

Try the Allergy Suit from K9 Topcoat. My dog had the worst allergies both food and environmental. She could only eat 3 ingredients and had tested levels for certain plants in the 500 range. She looked like she had a high tide mark up her legs and belly. The K9 Topcoat allowed her to run outside and her hair actually grew back. We got more than one and she wore her suit inside too. Tropical sun here - she didn't get hot, also wore in the rain. Only her paws stayed hairless because she lost every dog boot in the jungle. Allergy Suit was brilliant.

Posted by: SundogsHawaii | March 30, 2017 9:49 PM    Report this comment

A veterinarian just told me that Benedryl doesn't take effect on itching for 24-48 hours after dosing. Never heard that before.

Posted by: VLK | March 30, 2017 6:42 PM    Report this comment

Forbes, golden retriever, does well with half of an Apoquel every other day during our heavy pollen seasons. Nothing else works at all.

Posted by: Forbesmom | March 30, 2017 5:59 PM    Report this comment

Nancy, I thank you for this post, and I have been with WDJ for 15 years! My 14 yr old weimie has fall issues. Have not been able to pin point what the trigger is. 25mg Benadryl does NOTHING. We bought a medicated shampoo along with medicated lotion from our vet, does NOTHING. Tried dynovite, nothing. Other than expensive testing, and knowing it is not food related as her diet remains constant, I have no idea what to try next :(

Posted by: Sheryl Wachter | March 30, 2017 2:43 PM    Report this comment

Immunizations don't cause seasonal or food allergies. Inhalant allergies due to pollen, dust mite, animal dander, etc. can be significantly improved with allergy immunotherapy. It's a shame to keep an animal indoors (all the time anyway) during their allergy seasons when immunotherapy can be so helpful. Bathing frequently and other environmental control measures along with Benadryl or Zyrtec can also help.

Posted by: Sideliner | March 30, 2017 2:29 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for the article on allergies. Sorry that your dog has the problem.
It can be really miserable and in my little Winston's case life threatening.
For over a year he had to have an antibiotic injection (oral antibiotics left him ill)
and Benadryl plus 2 others no longer worked.
About 9 months ago someone recommended a product called Sovereign Silver.
Much to my amazement, it works!!! Winston no longer needs antibiotics or any other medicine for his allergies. I give the Sovereign Silver orally to Winston every night. Maybe this will help you and other dog parents, too.

Posted by: Dog lady | March 30, 2017 1:02 PM    Report this comment

My yellow lab has suffered from seasonal allergies that began shortly after her rabies booster in 2013. (No more vaccinations!) It was horrible. Began treatment w/the vet but all he can offer is drugs, non of which are good and relief was minimal. Began my own investigation which is still ongoing. However, last summer was much better for her as I had begun giving her Transfer Factor and was more prepared to deal w/prevention on a daily basis. We live in a forest so there is no controlling the pollens which are also in the lake so all of our swimming just leaves huge pollen deposits in her fur. It is sometimes difficult to keep up but I began hosing her thoroughly before she could come inside, washing her feet well, lots of vacuuming, washing bed covers and doing my best to keep up. She has always eaten a raw diet but I investigated the hot/cool foods and tried to stay within those parameters. No grain. And, we have some apoquel on hand to use as needed. She took it less than 10 times all summer and only when she was miserable w/itching. I give her 8mg when absolutely necessary. It is not a good drug. So for us, although it is a considerable amount of work, it is worth it to have a comfortable dog who can relax and enjoy her summers. I do think the vaccinations are the root cause of most of these allergy problems. Vets don't want to talk about that much.

Posted by: laurh | March 30, 2017 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Kirby who recently passed away had very bad allergies. I did everything that the article suggests . I also always had a bowl of tea to wash his body and paws off with every time he had to go outside to alleviate himself. I was told by a holistic vet, that the tenin reduces inflammation . Use old dish towels because they turn brown from the tea. i also bathed my dog every week. I would spray lavender on him through out the day. Keeping everything clean is a must. Grain free helps as well. You also want to learn about foodand treats that are cool and not hot, since their bodies are already inflamed.

Posted by: dogmom07 | March 30, 2017 8:58 AM    Report this comment

To 376NYC or anyone else who has tried the Professional Formulas products: I've ordered the dust and grass formulas. My dog is about 40 pounds. Would the dosage be the same? Thanks!

Posted by: 143ANC | June 11, 2014 2:57 PM    Report this comment

To 376NYC or anyone else who has tried the Professional Formulas products: I've ordered the dust and grass formulas. My dog is about 40 pounds. Would the dosage be the same? Thanks!

Posted by: 143ANC | June 11, 2014 2:57 PM    Report this comment

Vets too quickly prescribe 'drugs'. Allergies are down to either not producing antihistamines / over producing them or a compromised immune system.
My dog's immune system was compromised after her 'booster' vaccines were given and coincided with her being 3 years old wen typically allergies may start to show.
I took following steps:
1. Placed my dog on BARF (Biologically Approved Raw Food) diet to include raw bones as these contain Live Enzymes that assist immune system and digestive system and help the Spleen keep blood free of toxins.

I chose to prepare it myself but you HAVE TO READ UP carefully as you can get it wrong - so - in the end I went for 'Natural Instinct' ready made raw food.

I then created a spray containing drops of pure essential lavender oil (calming, healing, anti-inflammatory, draws out toxins) which after bathing dog (every two weeks not 'every day') in 'Tropiclean' Dog Shampoo - I spray on her.

Se gets 1/2 teaspoon on refined food grade coconut every other day on food (Anti fungal / Anti viral / Antimicrobal as well as Calms digestive allergies and also conditions coat and skin).

These cured the issue 95%.

The remaining 5% is if she eats a lot of something she is allergic too or is out in pollen for hours and her red rash starts to appear before we get home... and she licks / scratches a bit ... I then give her the only antihistamine approved for dogs 'Piriton' .. either half or one (she is 17kg). Two days and two tablets later its all gone :-)

Before discovering these things - she was on predisone (very veryyyy bad) as it kills immunity and causes liver /kidney damage. I noticed her rib cage swelling on this steroid and it was not fat. X-rayed her and her spleen was twice the size it should be - so please CONSIDER NATURAL REMEDIES before accepting drugs into your dogs delicate system.

The only thing

Posted by: Woofs | March 27, 2014 9:20 AM    Report this comment

Our lab is also experiencing skin infections starting early March (vet says pyoderma while it looks like ringworm to me) which the vet suggests is due to the snow cover disappearing and the pollens and grasses emerging. This is consistent with your blog. Our vet mentioned a new Pfizer drug Apoquel just approved by FDA for dog allergies. As with other new meds, I am suspicious. I found a blog which suggests that while the short term response to this drug is remarkable and with little side effects, there may be longer term possibilities that the drug can suppress the immune system. [If you google search on "Apoquel Alert" you may find the blog I am referring to.]

We had such a hard fight with the skin problems last year until it cleared up in December (I thought it was due to applying Lotrimin for ringworm but perhaps more likely it was the arrival of snow), trying Vet-prescribed anti-biotics as well as more natural treatments like Seacure, Jake's canine remedy spray, and Redi-care spray therapy, that I am worried. I will start wiping his feet when we come in and hope that helps. (FYI he is also on grain-free food, though I will be more careful with treats, yogurt, Rainbow Oil, and Missing Link and gets bathed once a week.)

Posted by: CT_Dog_Lover | March 26, 2014 11:21 AM    Report this comment

I actually had the same problems, and so about 9 years ago I created the first in a series of sprayable, natural remedies for dry itchy paws and inflammation from allergies. I'd be glad to send any of my offerings for you to try out and perhaps review if you'd like. I don't want to seem like I'm trying to sell here so let me know if you're interested and I'll send the info along. Wags!

Posted by: naturalpaws | March 25, 2014 9:52 AM    Report this comment

Hello , my sheltie Jewel has been diagnosed with severe allergies to 3 types of dust and storage mites. She has had devastating chronic ear infection that has resulted in scarring. We are currently waiting for her allergy serum to arrive. She is on reactin and antibiotics till then. She is on a quality limited ingredient diet w added salmon oil supplement. Can anyone recommend any supplements that may help her?

Posted by: Denise Bradley | March 19, 2014 11:46 AM    Report this comment

Hello , my sheltie Jewel has been diagnosed with severe allergies to 3 types of dust and storage mites. She has had devastating chronic ear infection that has resulted in scarring. We are currently waiting for her allergy serum to arrive. She is on reactin and antibiotics till then. She is on a quality limited ingredient diet w added salmon oil supplement. Can anyone recommend any supplements that may help her?

Posted by: Denise Bradley | March 19, 2014 11:45 AM    Report this comment

Thanks, Nancy ! This was a timely article for my household too , although being in a different country and timezone, we don't actually have those true signs of Spring just yet. But we've had a mild day here and there when it feels not so far off ! So I'm gearing up for my dog's seasonal allergies ahead too, because after a few years, as you said, I know they do come on like clockwork for the dogs (and people ! ) who're affected. And like you, I now know to be alert and pro-active.
I personally never find natural and safe recommendations offensive & I'll research the Professional Formulas Allersode products mentioned above by another reader , because I've had excellent results over the years with homeopathic items, for myself and for the animals. So I send a Thank You to 376NYC for sharing what made a difference for your dog ! I love learning about something different and exploring more to see if it seems worthwhile or affordable for my household. It always makes me feel reassured and empowered to recognize that a combo of simple things I can do at home will be useful. As a result, I am always learning & usually have a variety of approaches which are safe and possibly very beneficial to try out , with the goal of easing my Parsons Russell Terrier through the pollen season with less itch/ shedding .
I'm looking forward to more sharing by others who have dogs with similar issues.

Posted by: lynn sapp | March 11, 2014 1:36 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for the article. I'll keep an eye on my dog. The apricot in my yard just started blooming too...
It's a shame your magazine attracts all these snake oil vendors in the comments.

Posted by: Max Rockbin | March 11, 2014 11:30 AM    Report this comment

My dog has a gluten intolerance. I am embarrassed to say that it took far too long to recognize it, but the symptoms were so gradual. It started with chronic ear infections, my DVM said that it was probably a food allergy, but I would probably never find the source. It was then that I started home cooking my dogs meals. Over a couple of years it increased to include anal skootching, and then it was intensive paw biting and finally with hotspots from her biting herself. It took about 8 months in a softcone before I realized that her treats, which were store bought included grains...I am embarrassed by how long it took to diagnose...since I made all of her food, I overlooked the fact that it was still a food allergy. She has been grain free for 14 months now, and am happy to report that all is well....but even a crumb of gluten will bring on an outbreak...we visited a cat-owning friend a few months ago, and just a few morsels of kibble stolen from the cat resulted in an outbreak. I am very happy to be on the other side of this allergy.

Posted by: Miranda | March 10, 2014 5:54 PM    Report this comment

Things like Benadryl do not address the allergies they simply suppress them temporarily. I have successfully treated my dogs environmental allergies with homeopathic drops that cost $14 a bottle. They're made by Professional Formulas and can be bought at pureformulas.com. One is Grass & Weed Mix and the other is Northeast Allersode (for trees). If you search Professional Formulas Allersode all the regions will come up and you can select your region. Dosage is one dropper full at bedtime and if giving more than one rotate nightly between them until all bottles are empty. He has had blood allergy tests and they all went to negative after these drops. As my boy also had dust mite and other indoor allergies he also got Household Dust & Mold Mix and I have two BlueAir air purifiers.

Posted by: 376NYC | March 10, 2014 5:17 PM    Report this comment

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