‘Tis the season for stuffy noses and watery eyes. These symptoms are possible signs your dog also has allergies, but it’s most likely that he will itch. In fact, he’ll itch so much it will be hard to miss. And the more he itches, the more likely it is that his skin will develop a rash, or even lesions – all of which will cause your favorite pal a lot of discomfort. This week, Wisconsin Pet Care will uncover seasonal allergies and the treatment options that are available for your dog.

What are seasonal allergies? Many of the same triggers that send your body into histamine overload can also affect your dog. What’s the most common culprit? You guessed it: Pollen. When the seasons change, trees, flowers and grass release tiny particles, called pollen, into the air to fertilize other plants. However good pollen’s intention, it sometimes falls short and just floats along the air currents of of life. Mother Nature’s dander can create quite the stir and get your dog’s defenses working overtime. If your dog is allergic to pollen, his immune system will do everything possible to protect his body. A common reaction is the release of the chemical, histamine, into the blood. Your dog’s response to the histamine release will most likely be incessant itching.

How will my dog be diagnosed with seasonal allergies? Anytime you notice behavioral changes in your pup, you will want to take him to see the veterinarian. Understandably, spring, summer and fall also are flea and tick season and you may be inclined to pass off the itching to a critter outbreak. However, it’s important to have the doc take a look. There’s no need to medicate your dog unnecessarily for fleas if it is actually a seasonal allergy flare-up. To diagnose your dog with seasonal allergies, the vet will either do a traditional skin test or a blood test.

What are some treatment options for my dog’s seasonal allergies?

1) Avoidance – The most effective option is to avoid the cause of your dog’s allergy all together. It’s a cruel world when grass can give your pup a case of the ‘cat scratch fever!’ The bright side is that there are really only a few types of grasses (like Kentucky Bluegrass, Timothy Grass and Bermuda Grass) and trees (like Oak, Ash and Elm) that produce highly allergenic pollen. Try to avoid grass that has no weeds or signs that chemicals have been placed on the lawns. Even though this isn’t an allergy, per se, it is an irritant.

2) Nutritive and dietary therapy – We say this a lot, but feeding your dog quality food from puppyhood and beyond will give his body the strong immune system needed to fight off allergies. No matter which treatment option you choose for your dog, a good diet will complement all approaches. Stay away from Chicken and Turkey, and instead feed a “cooling: protein such as fish, beef and pork.

3) Anti-inflammatory Drugs – Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be prescribed by your veterinarian to help provide your dog some relief from the itching. However, it’s always important to carefully consider chemical treatment as they almost always have adverse side effects. In this case, your dog could experience extreme thirst and excessive urination. These should be used as a last resort due to the side effects.

4) Acupuncture – In a previous post we referenced the benefits of acupuncture. A lot of dogs get relief from their seasonal allergies with the use of acupuncture therapy by way of reduced swelling and increased immune response. We urge you to use only a licensed veterinarian acupuncturist to perform this practice on your dog.

If you have seasonal allergies, you know just how miserable it can be, which is why it’s important to have your veterinarian diagnose your pet, treat existing seasonal allergies and offer advice on how to prevent future flare-ups.