Although dogs itch and scratch for a number of reasons, seasonal allergies are a main reason why dogs itch. Like with humans suffering from a seasonal allergy, springtime can also be a miserable time for a dog with allergies. In addition to watery eyes, sneezing and a runny nose, a dog’s skin itches when he comes in contact with an allergen.
While an allergic reaction can occur in dogs of any age, seasonal allergies usually show up in dogs 1 to 3 years old. Dogs with allergies most likely inherited the trait from their parents.
Exposure to allergens occurs when dogs inhale allergens in the air or ingest them from licking their coat or legs. Exposure is usually contained to a three- to four-week period a year when seasonal allergens are at their peak.
When exposed to an allergen, a dog begins to itch. He licks his legs and/or rubs his face continuously as long as the allergen is present in the environment. A dog with allergies is more susceptible to skin and ear infections. In addition, he may be unable to sleep and even can lose his hair from constant scratching.
Pollen, mold, ragweed, trees and grasses as well as other seasonally based allergens are among the most common causes of environmental allergies in dogs. Bites from fleas or house dust mites can also trigger an allergic reaction in dogs.
Unfortunately, determining exactly what allergens cause your dog to itch can be a challenge. A physical exam alone can’t identify or rule out possible allergens. Your veterinarian will likely need to take a blood sample and send it to a lab for testing. Another option your veterinarian may recommend is intradermal testing, which injects various allergens underneath the dog’s skin. The veterinarian monitors the injected areas to see whether a reaction appears. When a dog tests positive to an allergen, a hive-like bump appears on the skin.
In cases when a dog’s allergen is identified, an allergy injection is customized to treat his specific allergy. The dog is given regular allergy injections to lessen his sensitivity to the allergen. However, this isn’t always an option for dog owners, because treatments are costly and require up to a year before they show results. A more common remedy is giving the dog steroids to minimize the effects of the allergen during the time of year when the dog is exposed to it. The good news is that seasonal allergies come and go as the seasons change, and within a few weeks your dog should be back to his usual self.