What is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergy that is common in spring and summer. The allergic reaction is caused by the dog’s body’s response to pollen in the air. It’s a type of ‘atopy’, which is due to allergens, including pollen, penetrating the skin.
An allergy to pollen is much less common than an allergy to fleas or house dust mites and it’s not easy to tell the difference unless your dog has an allergy test.
Does my dog have hay fever?
In humans, common hay fever signs include itchy eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing, but in dogs pollen allergy signs usually affect the skin. If your dog is itching, nibbling or rubbing any of the following spots during the spring and/or summer, there’s a possibility they have hay fever:
- eyes, ears, mouth and muzzle
- around their bum
Their skin may also look flaky, red and sore in the above areas and feel greasy, and your dog may lose patches of fur from excessive rubbing or licking. Your dog’s skin can also look completely fine but they may be very itchy.
If your dog has these symptoms at other times of the year, they may have an allergy to something else eg fleas, yeast infection, bacterial infection or mange. Read our advice on allergies in dogs for more information.
Secondary problems may develop as a result of scratching, inflammation and build up of bacteria and yeast, including skin, ear and eye infections. If your dog is suffering and you think they may have hay fever or other allergies, book an appointment with your vet.
When is hay fever season?
When your dog suffers from hay fever will depend on what pollen your dog is sensitive to and what part of the UK you live in, but below is a rough guide.
- Tree pollen: usually occurs from late March to mid-May
- Grass pollen: mid-May – July
- Weed pollen: end of June - September
Can my dog’s hay fever be treated?
Although hay fever can’t be cured, there are ways you can manage the symptoms to make it more bearable for your dog. The best thing to do is to contact your vet.
- topical treatments such as medicated shampoos, skin sprays and creams
- ear cleaner
- medicated ear drops
- medicated eye drops
- antihistamines, although these aren’t always effective in dogs (note: some human antihistamines are toxic to dogs so only give your dog these medicines under direction of your vet)
- essential fatty acid supplements may help treat your dog
- medication to reduce the immune reaction including steroids for severe reactions
- immunotherapy (this type of treatment is expensive and not effective in all cases)
How to manage hay fever in dogs
- Walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the high pollen counts at midday
- Keep your dog’s ears clean to prevent irritation from over-grooming
- Wipe your dog’s fur, skin and paws with a damp cloth or flannel to remove excess pollen after a walk
- Wash bedding regularly
- You can use an air filter system to help with their condition within the household
- Vacuum regularly
- Keep on top of your dog’s flea and worming treatment to help reduce itching
Tips depending on which type of pollen affects your dog:
If you get your dog allergy tested, you will be able to know what type of pollen they are allergic to and ways to help them.
- Try to reduce walking your dog when it’s windy and dry outside
- Keep doors and windows closed
- Reduce the time your dog spends in the garden
- Mow your lawn regularly and keep it short
- Keep your dog on lead in grassy areas ensuring that they won’t roll around covering their fur in pollen
- Reduce your dog’s time in the garden
- Carefully plan your walks with your dog as some weeds grow in abundance in woodland areas or grasslands
- Keep your outdoor areas clear of overgrown plants
- Close your windows
More information on helping your pet cope with allergies can be found on our website.