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Do dogs get hay fever?

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Can dogs get hay fever? Hay fever in dogs can be an annoying and unpleasant issue for your canine best friend, interrupting their enjoyment of long summer days. Dogs love to sniff and explore outside and therefore, the symptoms can make life quite difficult. Dogs can suffer from hay fever, just like humans. Whereas humans get itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezes, hay fever symptoms tend to show up in a dog’s skin, making them super itchy. Although there is no cure, you can manage your dog’s pollen allergy with topical treatment and medications from your vet.

What is hay fever? Hay fever is an allergic reaction caused by the body’s response to grass, tree or plant pollen in the air. It is common in the spring and summer and is a type of ‘atopy’ which is due to allergens, such as pollen, penetrating the skin. What are the symptoms of hay fever in dogs? Unlike with human hay fever, the main symptom of hay fever in dogs is all-over skin irritation. However, some or all of the following can also occur:

  • watery eyes, which may also be itchy and irritated

  • runny nose

  • frequent sneezing

  • irritated throat

  • a tendency to itch or bite at the skin frequently or rub their face on the floor or furniture

  • sore or bald patches of skin due to excessive itching

  • a rash developing on the face or paws

Why do dogs develop hay fever? A dog’s body will release histamines in response to an allergen such as pollen. These histamines are released into the skin causing irritation and itchiness. Sadly it’s not just inhaled pollen that can trigger hay fever in dogs. The histamine response can also be induced by skin contact with pollen, for example when running through a forest. When are dogs most susceptible to hay fever? Hay fever is usually worse from about September to March, especially when the weather is warm, humid and windy. This is when the pollen count is at its highest. It is important to recognise that some dog breeds are more prone to suffering from hay fever than others. This could be due to facial shape, breathing biology and type of coat. An increased likelihood of developing hay fever is associated with the following dog breeds:

  • Poodles

  • Dalmatian

  • Schnauzers

  • Boston terrier

  • Irish setter

  • Cairn terrier

  • Wire-haired terrier

  • West Highland white terrier

How can you protect your pooch this pollen season?

  • Monitor pollen forecasts daily and keep your dog indoors whenever possible when the count is high (generally on warm and dry days)

  • On high pollen days, wipe or wash your dog down after a walk to remove pollen from their coat

  • Avoid drying your dog’s bedding and towels on a clothes-line outside when pollen counts are high

  • Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible

  • Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth

  • Buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter

  • Don’t keep fresh flowers in the house

  • Try a regular foot bath to gently clean paws and fur

  • Try a new location for walks – a car ride and then a run on the beach could limit exposure to pollen

  • Ensure that your lawn is cut short regularly

  • Don’t allow your dog to run through long grass or dense vegetation

What treatments are there and can you give dogs antihistamine? The first course of action should always to contact your local veterinary surgeon for advice. They will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend a suitable course of treatment to help. In some cases the apparent symptoms of pollen sensitivity can be due to other issues such as anxiety or fleas. Treatments can include topical applications such as creams, shampoos and sprays, medication or supplements, although it has to be said that prevention is often the best cure and following the above tips can be really helpful. Always seek veterinary advice before attempting to administer an antihistamine to your dog, as over the counter medications can sometimes contain ingredients which aren’t suitable for canines.

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