5 Signs Your Pet has Seasonal Allergies

Like humans, dogs may get itchy, puffy, and agitated during certain parts of the year.

Mar 19, 2024byMaya Keith
signs your pet has seasonal allergies

Seasonal allergies in humans usually show up when we breathe in certain triggers, mainly pollen, and our bodies overreact to their presence. Your pets can be allergic to this pollen, but they enter their bodies through the skin instead.

Because of this, you’re more likely to see signs of seasonal allergies in your companions than you are to hear them sneezing the day away.

If you suspect your pet has seasonal allergies, intervene as quickly as possible to bring them relief and reduce the risk of secondary issues, like infections.

Incessant Licking, Scratching, or Biting

low angle dog scratching
Image Credit: Takashi Hososhima from Tokyo, Japan, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever walked through a patch of poison ivy, you know just how uncomfortable a flare up on the skin can be. Dogs and cats don’t understand that incessant licking, scratching, or biting is bad for them (and annoying); they just understand it brings them relief.

The most commonly affected areas are:

  • Paws
  • Face and muzzle
  • Ears
  • Underarms
  • Groin
  • Rear (especially the anal glands)

Pets with seasonal allergies may be fine one day and relentless in their search for peace the next. Wiping your pet down after trips outside or keeping a regular bathing schedule limits their exposure to allergens and may bring some peace.

Watery Eyes

black dog red face mask
Image Credit: Helena Lopes

Pets with allergies may cover their face for a number of reasons, and this usually isn’t the only symptom of an issue.

First, the sensitive skin on the muzzle, around the eyes, and in the ears is more likely to respond negatively to pollens, spores, and other triggers. Your pet may paw at their face in an attempt to soothe, especially when they can’t lick the afflicted areas.

Allergic reactions are uncomfortable, and your pet may seek peace however they can, including covering their face. Just as you may clench your hand or grit your teeth when you’re in pain, the pressure and attention alleviate some of their stress.

Patchy, Red, Inflamed Skin

dog resting fur loss
Image Credit: Marie Anna Lee

When the body is faced with a threat, it’s the immune system’s job to activate and protect. If you’re allergic to something, its presence triggers the production of histamine to signal the body to the threat. Unfortunately, histamine also causes blood vessels to expand and uncomfortable inflammation.

The initial reaction, as well as the subsequent licking and scratching, can cause hair loss and other skin issues. If it’s not resolved, a secondary infection may develop and exasperate the problem.

Over the counter antihistamines, like Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), may calm down the skin, but they work best as a preventative. If your pet suffers from seasonal allergies, it’s best to speak to your vet about medication options. They can best direct you to the right dosage or recommend a product better suited to your pet’s unique issues.

Chronic Ear Infections

cocker spaniel ear infection
Image Credit: Joel Mills, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ear infections are more common in dogs than cats. When they’re suffering an allergic reaction to dust, pollen, or another trigger, it causes the soft skin of the ear to swell up. This traps moisture, wax, and bacteria in the ear, creating the perfect breeding ground for infection.

This gets worse as your dog scratches at the thin skin, opening it up and giving the bacteria more space to play. Eventually, you’ll notice head shaking or even a foul odor coming from the ear.

Your dog will need an appropriate antibiotic to deal with the ear infection as well as a prevention plan for dealing with the allergen.

Respiratory Issues

black dog nose
Image Credit: OakleyOriginals, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The soft channels of the respiratory system are also easily affected by allergens. Dogs will try to alleviate the problem by scratching at their muzzle or dragging it on the ground; cats usually have no choice but to sneeze repeatedly until the offending particles are gone.

Humidifiers keep the air moist and soothe the sensitive respiratory system, but it’s important you use only water for your pets; essential oils may do more harm than good.

In more severe cases, your veterinarian may prescribe nose drops, steroids, or a nebulizer to alleviate respiratory symptoms.

How to Soothe Allergy Issues

brown dog bath
Image Credit: Kjeldgaardcameron, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ideally, you’re able to get your pet into your vet as soon as you suspect seasonal allergies. This opens the door for the most suitable treatment and may even allow you to lessen the issue as time goes on.

Your veterinarian is capable of creating a plan specific to your pet’s issues. They’re often able to prescribe steroids, such as prednisone, to deal with the inflammation, usually in conjunction with other treatments to combat the need for the steroid.

Some pets are eligible for immunotherapy, especially if you catch the issue early on. As long as their allergies aren’t a pre-existing condition, many pet insurance companies cover this treatment.

Allergy shots are carefully developed according to your pet’s specific issues. As they’re exposed to their allergens, their immune system becomes less likely to overreact.

There’s no quick fix to allergy issues, but identifying triggers and having a plan of prevention and action in place give your pet the best chance of peace in their own skin.

Maya Keith
byMaya Keith

Maya is a lifelong animal lover. While she switched from studying veterinary medicine to English, she continues to help by fostering animals in her community. Her permanent residents include 3 dogs, 2 cats, 5 quail, 19 chickens, and a small colony of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.