Ask The Vet: Is my dog suffering from a pollen allergy?

Professor Dick White, founder and principal of Dick White Referrals answers an all-important question: Is my dog allergic to flowers?

pollen allergy (1)

Just like humans, dogs (and cats) can become allergic to pollen and grass particles, and there is some indication that this is becoming an increasingly common problem.

The most important pollens come from trees such as oak and ash and from grass or weeds; of course, we see many more dogs with this problem during the spring and summer time when there is most pollen about. Pollen particles can be a problem for your dog if they either breathe them in from the atmosphere (inhaled allergen) or if their face and feet come into contact with them (contact allergen). In either case, the pollens cause the release of antibodies in the blood which in turn cause the release of a chemical called histamine.

pollen allergy (2)

Histamine gives rise to the symptoms that we associate with pollen allergy; occasionally dogs show signs similar to those seen in human hay fever sufferers such as:

  • Redness of the nose.

  • Itching and scratching at the nose.

  • Discharge from the nose or eyes.

Much more commonly, however dogs will show signs of itchy skin and begin to rub or lick the affected areas which typically include the face, the feet, and underarms.

dog posing outdoors

Your vet may be able to make a general diagnosis of a pollen allergy based on an examination of your dog or they may suggest that you consult a skin specialist who can perform skin testing by injecting very small samples of the pollen under the skin to find out which pollens your dog is sensitised to.

How to prevent and help allergic reactions:

  • Keeping your dog away from all pollens in the summer is not always easy but try to avoid exercising them in parks, woodland or fields at peak times of pollen release.

  • Using gentle wet wipes to clean your dog’s face and feet after exercise can be helpful in cases of confirmed allergy.

  • Your vet may suggest using medications such as:

    • Antihistamine – Human anti-histamines can be given to dogs however this should always be done under veterinary supervision as the dosage will differ.

    • Steroids.

    • Immunosuppressive drugs (e.g. cyclosprin).

  • If the specific pollens have been identified it is sometimes possible to consider using a ‘desensitising’ vaccine which can reduce the symptoms in about half of affected dogs.

    These tips and advice are from a qualified vet however in all cases you must always consult your vet.

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