Spring fever: seasonal allergies in pets

Q&A with Dr. Manny: Do dogs get spring allergies like humans? And how can I help my sweet little pup with them?


After a long winter stuck inside, it’s finally time to start enjoying the warm weather with long afternoons in the park with your pet. However, within days your dog may start suffering from allergies causing him to begin licking his feet and chewing his sides, removing large patches of hair and leaving moist irritated areas on the skin. Next, you’ll have to trek to the veterinarian where your dog will be given an injection of steroids and a prescription for antibiotics. Some of the side effects from the medication may include increased thirst and urination, upset stomach, and maybe even some “accidents” in the house. 

Rather than seeing your pet suffer each year, there are some natural remedies you can try to help alleviate their seasonal allergies.

The small grains of pollen that cover your car each day can also become lodged in your dog’s coat, and between his toes and paw pads. Those grains of pollen have very sharp edges and are irritating, which is why they cause our eyes to water and our nose to run. The process is Mother Nature’s way of rinsing the pollen out of our bodies. Dogs lick their feet and skin because the pollen is painful, but simply wiping their coat and feet with a damp rag when coming in from outside can help remove a large amount of pollen helping to provide them with some relief. A full bath would be even better, and soaking their feet in Epsom salts will also help decrease swelling and remove any pollen left behind.

If your pet does develop “hot spots” or areas of moist dermatitis on the skin, there are natural ways to sooth and heal the areas without resorting to steroids. Witch hazel is a good astringent, or drying agent, that can be applied to sore areas two to three times daily. If the area appears to be infected, honey works to kill bacteria. Manuca honey is the most commonly used medicinal honey and is safe for your pet to consume. Cucumber slices or ground cucumber paste can also be used as a poultice to draw out swelling, and decrease pain and inflammation. Cucumbers make a healthy snack and can also help decrease swelling when eaten. For raw, itchy ears, coconut oil can be used to help fight infections, swelling and pain.

Even before allergy season begins, you can help decrease your pet’s reaction to offending allergens. Adding Omega 3 Fatty to their diet can help decrease the inflammatory response. Commonly found in fish oil, these can be added to the diet in either pill or liquid form. You can even feed your pet sardines packed in water or oil as most will eat them readily. Coconut oil (unrefined, virgin) can be added to decrease yeast infections and inflammation. Give 1/2 to 1 tablespoon twice daily, depending on size of your dog. The coconut oil can be added to the food or fed directly, as most pets like the sweet taste.

Over-the-counter antihistamines can be used in the short term for most pets that experience severe allergies, but check with your veterinarian first to be sure they would be safe for your pet and to determine the dosage needed. Allergy testing is available if you want to try desensitization vaccines to decrease allergic response. Testing can be performed on a blood sample or by skin-patch testing with injected allergen samples. Desensitization vaccines are fairly effective, but they will take about a year to take effect.

If your pet must take antibiotics for an infection secondary to scratching and chewing, be sure to ask for a probiotic to use along with the antibiotics and continue use for at least a month after finishing the medications. Over 75 percent of the immune system cells are found in the intestines, and when good bacteria in the gut is killed by antibiotics, the immune system can become weakened.

These tips should help ensure that you and your furry friend are able to enjoy many uninterrupted days playing in the park.

Dr. Judy Morgan is a nationally renowned author and veterinarian certified in acupuncture, food therapy, and chiropractic care for dogs, cats, and horses. A sought after speaker and blogger at both the local and national levels, she owns two award winning practices in New Jersey.