Doggie hay fever - it itches a lot!
When we breathe in pollen from plants such as ragweed, we sometimes develop allergy symptoms which generally involve the upper respiratory system. Our eyes itch, our nose runs, it's hell.
It is just as bad for dogs. They chew on their paws, they lick incessantly, they scratch all night long; it is hell for them as well as for us because no one is getting a good night's sleep.
Unlike humans, dogs absorb pollen through their skin. The higher the pollen count, the more pollen is absorbed through the skin but the immune system is more reactive if their skin is unhealthy.
The first defense against seasonal allergies is to ensure that your loyal companion's skin is healthy. This starts with a healthy diet, an intake of essential fatty acids (ideally of marine origin) and bathing with tepid water, not hot water, and using a shampoo which does not contain soap.
But if symptoms persist, it means that the immune-mediated reaction is mainly caused by serotonin and not histamine, as is the case in humans. Therefore, the use of antihistamines often gives disappointing results. However, when combined with cortisone, antihistamines will help reduce substantially the dose of cortisone needed. There is also an immuno-regulator (cyclosporine) which unfortunately is quite expensive, not always effective and sometimes poorly tolerated (diarrhea). Apoquel, a new product on the market, works within the skin and therefore successfully controls the consequences of the allergy.
Depending on the intensity and duration of the symptoms, it might be more practical, more economical and less toxic to determine what your dog is allergic to and start hyposensitization. This consists in devising a vaccine against the allergens causing an allergic reaction in your loyal companion and injecting increasing doses to re-educate his immune system.
Don't be surprised if your dog develops signs of allergy; it is one of the most frequent reasons why dog owners consult their vet. Let's hope it won't happen to you.
Have a nice summer!