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Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

What Are Seasonal Allergies in Dogs?

Seasonal allergies in dogs occur when they react to environmental elements like tree and grass pollen. If a dog exhibits allergy symptoms during particular seasons like spring and fall, it’s likely a seasonal allergy rather than a year-round one. This suggests the dog is sensitive to allergens present only during certain times of the year. Dogs with seasonal allergies may experience itchiness in specific areas or all over their bodies. They might also suffer from recurring ear and skin infections when exposed to specific environmental triggers during certain times of the year.

Seasonal allergies differ from year-round environmental and food allergies since symptoms manifest only during certain times of the year, depending on the allergens and their prevalence. In contrast, dogs with year-round allergies typically experience skin issues consistently throughout the year.

While most dogs with seasonal allergies experience symptoms in spring (March through May) and fall (September through November), variations may occur based on weather conditions and location.

Types of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

Seasonal allergies in dogs are typically triggered by various allergens present in the environment. Common culprits include:

  • Grass pollen
  • Tree pollen
  • Weed pollen
  • Molds and yeasts
  • Dust mites and storage mites
  • Fleas, which can lead to flea bite dermatitis


Symptoms of seasonal allergies in dogs can vary, but may include:

  • Excessive licking, often focused on the paws but potentially occurring anywhere on the body
  • Saliva staining of the fur due to excessive licking
  • Chewing or gnawing
  • Scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Redness of the skin
  • Crusts
  • Moist skin
  • Darkening of the skin (black pigmented skin)
  • Thickening of the skin (elephant skin)
  • Odor from the skin or ears
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at the ears, eyes, or face
  • Recurring scooting or licking of the anus due to problematic anal sacs secondary to allergies
  • Watery eyes
  • Reverse sneezing

Commonly affected areas include the paws (especially between the digits), limbs, mouth, ears, abdomen, groin, armpits, tail, and around the eyes.


Seasonal allergies in dogs occur due to an immune system that is overly sensitive to particular allergens in the environment. Elevated levels of these allergens can trigger the dog’s immune system, resulting in an allergic response and the onset of symptoms.


Veterinarians diagnose seasonal allergies in dogs by conducting a physical examination, considering symptoms, and reviewing the history of recurring symptoms and infections during specific seasons each year. It’s crucial to rule out other skin conditions that may present similar symptoms, such as skin mites, fleas, or food allergies, before confirming a diagnosis of seasonal allergies. In cases where fleas are found on a dog displaying severe itchiness, redness, and hair loss, a flea allergy is diagnosed. Treatment typically involves initiating effective flea and tick prevention along with anti-itch medication to observe if symptoms improve.


Treatment for seasonal allergies in dogs focuses on managing symptoms rather than providing a cure. Here are ways to keep your dog comfortable:

  • Implement year-round flea and tick prevention using products like NexGard®, Simparica®, Bravecto®, Seresto® collar, and K9 Advantix™ II.
  • Prescribe anti-itch medications such as Apoquel®, Cytopoint®, and prednisone to relieve current itchiness and manage flare-ups during allergy seasons. Starting the medication one month before allergy season and continuing it one month after can help control itchiness.
  • Consider using an e-collar or recovery cone if itchiness persists despite medication to prevent the dog from licking and chewing its body.
  • Provide omega-3 fatty acid supplements like Welactin®, Vetoquinol, or Dermaquin® to protect the skin barrier and reduce allergy symptoms. These supplements can also address anal gland issues if needed.
  • Perform routine ear cleaning to prevent and manage ear infections. Use recommended ear cleaners like EpiOtic® Advanced every two to three weeks for maintenance.
  • Use prescribed ear medications such as Mometamax®, Posatex®, and Tresaderm® to treat bacterial and yeast infections in the ears, ensuring a follow-up appointment to monitor recovery.
  • Administer oral medications like antibiotics (clindamycin, cephalexin) for bacterial skin infections and anti-fungal medication (ketoconazole) for fungal skin infections, particularly if the dog has multiple affected areas.
  • Explore topical therapies including anti-bacterial and anti-fungal ointments, shampoos, conditioners, mousses, sprays, and wipes to soothe the skin and treat infections. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best option based on your dog’s symptoms and skin condition.

Immunotherapy for Dogs With Seasonal Allergies

Immunotherapy for dogs with seasonal allergies typically involves allergy shots or allergy oral drops tailored to the specific allergens identified through allergy testing. Veterinarians can perform a blood test using Heska’s Allercept® or Nextmune’s Pet Allergy Xplorer to screen for environmental allergies based on the dog’s location and symptoms.

In addition to blood testing, a veterinary dermatologist may conduct intradermal testing. This procedure involves injecting small amounts of various environmental allergens into the dog’s skin at specific locations and monitoring the injection sites for signs of a reaction. Positive reactions indicate potential allergens triggering the dog’s allergies.

It’s important to understand that allergy testing, whether blood or intradermal, is not meant for diagnosing seasonal allergies but rather to guide immunotherapy treatment. The goal of immunotherapy is to desensitize the dog to environmental allergens over the long term, usually with a maintenance dose.

Given the challenges of limiting a dog’s exposure to allergens like pollen, wiping a dog’s paws upon entering the house can help reduce the amount of allergens tracked indoors.

Recovery and Management

Managing seasonal allergies in dogs can be frustrating for both pets and their owners since these allergies aren’t curable. However, symptoms can be effectively managed by understanding the seasons that trigger a dog’s symptoms and initiating treatment before each allergy season begins. Anti-itch medication is crucial for controlling itching throughout the season, preventing scratching, licking, or chewing that can lead to secondary skin infections.

Regular ear cleaning every two to three weeks with a routine ear cleaner is essential year-round to minimize the risk of ear infections. Additionally, cleaning your dog’s ears after bathing or water activities like swimming helps remove excess water and prevent infections. Providing a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement year-round supports the skin.

Management of seasonal allergies typically requires lifelong commitment unless the dog can relocate to an area where the triggering allergen is absent. Monitoring your pet for symptoms such as itchiness, head shaking, pawing at the ears or eyes, skin lesions, or odor throughout the year is important. If any symptoms arise, schedule a veterinary appointment promptly. If your dog is licking or chewing excessively, consider using an e-collar until the appointment to prevent further skin irritation.

Your veterinarian will prescribe appropriate treatment to alleviate discomfort and address any skin or ear infections if present. Managing allergy symptoms with therapy and promptly reporting any skin issues to your veterinarian are key strategies for effectively helping a dog with seasonal allergies.

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