Has your dog been itching, scratching, biting, or licking itself more often than usual? Have these symptoms been more obvious since warmer weather came about? Do you see any abnormal signs related to your dogs’ ears or eyes? Like humans, dogs can develop pollen allergies and they can show symptoms any time of the year. Spring, summer, and fall are usually the time of year when pollen allergies cause most discomfort to allergic pets.
Check out these signs of pollen allergies in dogs. If your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, be sure to visit your family vet and have them checked out. If the symptoms persist or keep on recurring, consider a visit to a pet skin specialist in order to help identify and treat your dogs’ pollen or other environmental allergies.
While still outdoors or after coming indoors, do you notice your dog scratching and itching themselves? A mild, persistent itch or furious scratching can both be indicators of an allergy (including a pollen allergy) due to increased exposure from being outdoors. Itchiness is one of the common initial symptoms seen in allergic dogs.
When exposed to allergens, people break out in rashes and hives. This can happen to dogs too. Hives can develop anywhere on the skin, though it is easier to see them on sparsely haired areas such as the belly and armpits. Hives are also commonly seen on the head, face, or sides of the legs. Dogs may have on and off development of bumps (or raised tufts of hair in multiple locations on the body), based on exposure to pollen or other allergens. Some dogs with hives may even have persistent raised bumps for a few days, even weeks!
3. Excessive Licking
The belly, paws, and private parts (around the anus) are areas that dogs may lick excessively when they feel itchiness in these areas. When it comes to excessive or obsessive licking in dogs, the most likely cause is allergies. As mentioned above, itchiness is the initial sign of allergies. Licking is surely a sign of excessive itchiness in dogs.
4. Puffy Eyes
Red, puffy eyes are a common symptom of allergies in humans. While dogs are not as often affected by these symptoms, some dogs will also exhibit these signs. Hair loss around the eyes is another symptom to watch for. One or both eyes may be affected.
5. Eye Discharge
Watery eye discharge is a possible symptom of environmental allergies in dogs. This sign may be the only sign related to eyes or may be seen along with eye puffiness or redness. Sometimes the discharge may turn mucoid (pus like) and have a green or yellow colour to it.
6. Face Rubbing
If you notice your dog rubbing their face up against surfaces such as the carpet, couches, or pillows, this is a clear show of their attempt to alleviate the itchiness. You guessed it, face rubbing is also a form of itchiness in dogs. Some dogs will try and rub their entire body across one of these surfaces. Scooting (aka bum scooching) is another sign of itchiness related to rubbing of a body part to alleviate their itch.
7. Hair Loss
As allergies progress or persist, the scratching and inflammation of skin leads to trauma of hair follicles. This leads to hair loss. Some dogs may even nibble and bite at their skin causing hair loss. This is often seen at the belly, legs, and tail area. Some dogs may generally have less hair on the body due to environmental allergies and related skin inflammation.
8. Red, Stinky Ears
Allergens such as pollen not only affect the skin but also cause inflammation in dog ears. This can lead to red, irritated ears that may become infected. This will lead to smelly, stinky ears that are obviously red and inflamed. Some dogs may only have mild discomfort and may not show the dramatic sign of reddened, smelly ears. Instead they may exhibit milder head shaking initially.
9. Head Shaking
Dogs may shake their head because of the irritation in their ears and may not want you to pet them on their head. Head shaking can be a sign of itchiness in the ears, or a sign of discomfort due to swollen ears, an ear infection, etc.
10. Red, Irritated Skin
The skin around the mouth, chin, paws, neck, and belly typically becomes red, inflamed, and itchy in dogs affected by pollen allergies, or due to other allergens in the environment.
11. Hot Spots
Also called moist eczema, hot spots occur generally due to excessive moisture in a local part of the skin. Commonly seen in areas with moist hair from biting at themselves in areas such as the sides of the body or tail base, some breeds such as Labradors are more prone to hot spots. Hot spots can be quite discomforting for the pet, and are often infected too.
Achoo! If you see your dog sneezing more than normal, this can be a sign of pollen allergies. Reverse sneezing is another sign of pollen allergies, and may be seen during their outdoor activity, or during indoor time.
13. Sensitive Skin
Dogs can often develop sensitive skin that twitches or crawls upon touching it. As allergies cause discomfort and inflammation of the skin as the primary sign, some hardy dogs may not show many other signs but will exhibit crawling of the skin when petted on their back. Some dogs may love back scratches almost too much! While we can’t blame a dog for loving attention and wanting to get pets and scratches, if your dog shows the above signs along with an increased interest in being scratched, allergies should be considered.
If you notice your dog any of these symptoms or a combination of the above symptoms, be sure to visit your vet and have them checked out. If signs only occur during the spring and summer, pollen allergies are likely the problem. If your dog shows these symptoms year-round, or at other times of the year, this does not rule out pollen allergy. Rather, a combination of multiple allergies may be affecting your pet with non-seasonal skin or ear problems.
These signs are the general signs of allergies in dogs, thus most environmental allergies can lead to these symptoms. To help diagnose the exact cause of your pets’ allergies, a veterinary dermatologist evaluation may be needed.
Your family veterinarian can help diagnose the cause of your pets’ symptoms or may refer you to a pet dermatologist to help find not only the cause of the allergies, but also desensitize your pet against the pollen allergens or other environmental allergens. This way, your pet can be comfortable and progression of allergies to a more severe condition can be prevented. It is always best to make sure your dog gets a thorough diagnosis and the right treatment that best suits their needs and long-term health.
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Dr. Jangi Bajwa is a Board certified veterinary dermatologist at VetDERM Clinic in Surrey BC. He is also the dermatology feature editor for Canadian Veterinary Journal. Dr. Bajwa’s special interests include otitis and allergic disease in pets; as well as helping improve quality of life of pets and their families.