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Pollen Allergies in Dogs

What Are Pollen Allergies in Dogs?

Pollen allergies in dogs stem from tiny particles or dust derived from flowers, trees, and plants, which are carried by wind, animals, and insects to other plants. Despite being nearly invisible, pollen can accumulate on a dog’s fur and paws after outdoor excursions or enter homes through breezes, human skin, or clothing. Although essential for plant propagation, pollen is a leading cause of seasonal allergies in dogs.

Seasonal allergies, like those triggered by pollen, worsen during specific times of the year. The prevalence of different types of pollen fluctuates according to the season and geographical region. Spring heralds the blooming of grasses and trees, while fall sees the emergence of ragweed, a prevalent pollinator in many areas.

When dogs inhale pollen or ingest it while grooming, their immune systems recognize it as foreign and initiate an allergic response. Mast cells, pivotal in immune reactions, produce histamine, a compound that induces itching, redness, and swelling upon release. Thus, dogs exposed to pollen may exhibit various allergic symptoms.

Symptoms and Types

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Skin redness
  • Paw licking
  • Generalized itching, scratching, and skin chewing
  • Sneezing or reverse sneezing
  • Loose stools
  • Clear nasal drainage
  • Head shaking
  • Hair loss
  • Hives


Pollen allergies in dogs occur due to an exaggerated response from the dog’s immune system upon exposure to pollen. The immune system functions to protect the dog from foreign agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. However, in cases of allergies, the immune system perceives pollen as a greater threat than it actually is. Consequently, it initiates an inflammatory response in the skin and tissues that come into contact with the allergen.

This inflammatory reaction leads to observable changes in the dog’s body, including redness, swelling, itching, and increased tear or fluid production, as the immune system attempts to eliminate the perceived threat. While there is a genetic predisposition to allergies, the precise mechanism behind why some dogs develop allergies while others do not remains unclear.

Certain breeds are more susceptible to allergies, including Pit Bull Terriers, French and English Bulldogs, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, Boxers, and West Highland White Terriers. The United States is divided into various allergy zones based on the types of plants and trees that bloom in different regions. States like Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas consistently top the allergy charts, while cities in Florida, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina also experience high pollen counts.

Regions such as the Rocky Mountains, including Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, typically have lower pollen levels compared to other states. Pet owners who relocate may notice changes in their dog’s allergies due to variations in pollen exposure.


Diagnosing pollen allergies in dogs typically relies on historical data and a physical examination conducted by the veterinarian. Tests may be conducted to rule out other potential causes of the dog’s itchy skin. The veterinarian will meticulously inspect the pet for signs of external parasites like fleas or ticks and may perform skin scrapings to check for mites.

The primary method for diagnosing environmental allergies is intradermal allergy testing, typically performed by a veterinary dermatologist. During this procedure, a patch of the dog’s side is shaved to observe its skin reaction to various common allergens specific to the region. This approach closely mirrors the diagnostic process used in humans, allowing for tailored allergy treatment based on the test results.

In some instances, veterinarians in private practice may opt to conduct blood tests to detect antibodies to different allergens. Although not as precise as intradermal skin testing, blood work serves as an additional diagnostic tool to pinpoint which pollens might be provoking the pet’s immune response.


Medications for Pollen Allergies

Management of pollen allergies in dogs varies based on the severity of the reaction and the extent of exposure to the allergen. For mild allergies, seasonal control is typically achieved through the use of antihistamines. Antihistamines such as Benadryl® and Zyrtec® are commonly recommended, depending on the clinical presentation.

Although several over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications are utilized in dogs, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian regarding the appropriate dosage and the safety of starting any medication for your pet. Administering human medications to dogs without veterinary guidance should be avoided.

In cases of more severe pollen allergies, prescription allergy medications like Apoquel® or steroids may be necessary. Certain dogs may experience relief from long-acting injectable medications such as Cytopoint®.

Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable treatment plan for your dog’s pollen allergies.

Allergy Testing for Dogs

If you choose to have your pet undergo testing to pinpoint the specific pollen species they are allergic to, customized allergy injections can be formulated for your dog. These injections operate through a method known as hyposensitization (or allergy desensitization), during which your dog’s immune system is gradually exposed to minute microdoses of the allergen. This exposure aims to incrementally enhance their tolerance to the allergen over time.

Supplements and Prescription Foods

Numerous supplements and prescription diets can offer benefits to dogs experiencing allergies. Omega fatty acids play a crucial role in enhancing the natural barrier function of the skin. Products such as Vetoquinol® Omega, Nutramax® Welactin, and Dechra EicosaDerm™ are rich in omega-3s and can be conveniently administered to dogs. Additionally, certain prescription diets like Hill’s® Derm Complete are enriched with ingredients that support skin health, making them effective in managing pollen allergies throughout the year.

Topical Therapy

Topical therapy plays a crucial role in alleviating pollen allergies. Utilizing medicated shampoos such as Douxo S3™ shampoo and KetoChlor® medicated shampoo can effectively diminish the proliferation of yeast and bacteria on the skin, preventing overgrowth while the immune system tackles the pollen allergy.

In patients with allergies, ear infections are a common occurrence. Consistent ear cleaning using canine ear cleansers like EpiOtic® can significantly decrease the incidence of ear infections.

Flea and tick control is an integral aspect of allergy management. Many dogs exhibit allergic reactions to fleas and ticks alongside pollen allergies. Maintaining them on high-quality prevention products can mitigate overall inflammation and alleviate itchy skin, which can exacerbate other allergies.

Recovery and Management

Managing pollen allergies in dogs involves ongoing care rather than a permanent cure. Once you’ve pinpointed the seasons that affect your pet the most, initiating allergy medications just before the onset of the specific pollen they react to can be beneficial. Some dogs experience year-round allergies, reacting to various pollens across different seasons. These dogs may require continuous use of oral medications or injections throughout their lives.

Failure to address allergies can result in secondary skin infections and significant discomfort for your pet. While waiting to consult your veterinarian for prescription allergy medication, using a recovery collar can prevent your dog from licking and chewing themselves unsupervised, thus averting hot spots and other forms of self-trauma.

Preventing pollen allergies entirely necessitates relocating to regions devoid of the specific pollens your dog reacts to. Nonetheless, there are measures you can take to minimize your dog’s exposure to pollen:

  • After outdoor activities, wipe down your dog’s feet and undercarriage if they’re allergic to grass pollen.
  • Keeping your pet indoors in a cool environment can help reduce allergic flare-ups.
  • Bathing your pet regularly, every two to four weeks, may decrease pollen accumulation on their skin and coat.
  • Employing a high-quality HEPA filter can assist in reducing indoor pollen levels carried in on skin and clothing.
  • Wash your pet’s bedding frequently to minimize pollen accumulation on surfaces they regularly come into contact with.

Pollen Allergies in Dogs FAQs

Are pollen allergies the predominant type of seasonal allergies in dogs?

Indeed, pollen allergies rank as the most prevalent form of seasonal allergies in dogs. Tree, grass, and weed pollens stand among the typical triggers for canine pollen allergies.

Which medications are typically recommended for treating pollen allergies in dogs?

Typical medications prescribed for pollen allergies encompass:

  • Antihistamines
  • Steroids
  • Apoquel®
  • Cytopoint®
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