Often in the spring, when pollen is floating freely in the air, humans find themselves sneezing and blowing noses, and often forget that seasonal allergies can affect their beloved canines as well. Airborne irritants such as dust mites, mold spores, and pollen are inhaled from the surrounding environment and develop what is known as canine atopic dermatitis, or atopy. This condition will have your dog licking, chewing, and scratching themselves, and rubbing against floors and furniture to try to relieve their inflamed and itchy skin. Naturally this instinctive practice quickly leads to raw and sensitive skin, open sores, infection (particularly of the ears), and hair loss. Because dogs only possess sweat glands in their paws, they will pay particular attention to them as they are most easily irritated. If left untreated, it can escalate to the point where the dog cannot sleep at night for all the irritation.

The majority of dogs that develop allergies will show signs of them at an early age, most often between one and three years, though they can appear as late as eight years. Atopic allergies develop over time, with multiple exposures more fully developing the symptoms. Allergies in dogs are genetic, and some breeds are more likely to develop allergies than others. Smaller dogs like the Lhasa Apso, the Pug, and a number of Terrier breeds, as well as larger dogs such as the Irish and English Setter, the Dalmatian, and Retrievers are common sufferers of seasonal allergies.

First, the vet should be consulted so that the symptoms can be properly identified. Treatment might include topical ointments or creams, various anti-histamine treatments, or steroid injections, sprays and tablets. It is up to you and your veterinarian to discuss the potential treatments and settle upon the best option for your pet, particularly if Fido has a poor disposition toward a given method. If the allergic reaction is limited to a specific window in the year, such as a particular month, the vet may be able to treat the pet with a steroid injection or tablet that will alleviate the symptoms for a short period of time. It is almost certain, however, that the following year, he or she will need the same treatment, and no permanent cure for seasonal allergies in dogs is available. Here are a few practical ways to alleviate your dog's reaction to common atopic allergies:

1. Keep the dog clear of any rooms that have been vacuumed/dusted for several hours
2. Keep the grass cut short and/or keep the dog inside after cutting the grass
3. House pets in uncarpeted rooms
4. Use a plastic cover on the dog's bed
5. Bathe the dog regularly/clean the dog's bedding regularly
6. Avoid letting the dog outside during periods of high pollen, or rinse the dog off thoroughly after time spent in fields or high grass
7. Use a dehumidifier and/or corral the pet away from potentially humid and moldy environments such as basements

Being aware of your pet’s allergies will help make them (and you) more comfortable throughout the allergy season. Remember, if your dog is happy and comfortable from irritants, you will be all the more happy as well!

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