Summertime Sneezes: Summer dog allergies and treatments 

By Dr. Cherice Roth, KeraVet Bio Lead Medical Advisor

While summer brings beautiful weather and plentiful time spent outdoors with our pets, dog parents know all too well that the season can also mean summer dog allergies. 

Summer allergens can result in problems likeitchy skin and ear infections that need to be treated with care. Here are symptoms to look out for this summer and some ways to treat dog allergies. 

Typical Summer Dog Allergy Symptoms 

Summer season allergies can affect our furry friends just as much as us, and sometimes their symptoms can be even more extreme. 

Symptom: Runny Nose and Sneezing 

The most common reaction dogs develop when exposed to summer allergens is a runny nose and sneezing. However, like humans, dogs can have this response to environmental irritants without immediate cause for concern. 

Dogs that experience small amounts of clear nasal discharge and occasionally sneeze when they’re outside likely have a mild seasonal allergy but nothing so serious that medical intervention is necessary. 

However, dog parents who notice a chronic runny nosein conjunction with other symptoms such as rapid-fire sneezing, colored nasal or ocular discharge, or congestion may want to consult their primary vet to see if treatment is necessary. 

Symptom: Irritated Skin or Scaly Skin 

While dogs commonly develop mild seasonal allergic reactions like runny noses, some canines may develop more severe symptoms due to these allergens, such as irritated or scaly skin. 

Dogs who experience skin irritation from seasonal allergies have a condition known as atopy or atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis accounts for roughly 10-15% of allergies in canines, making it one of the most common types of dog seasonal allergies. 

Atopy arises from dogs inhaling or eating airborne allergens. Pet parents whose dogs have atopy may notice the following clinical signs: 

  • Hair loss resulting in patchy fur or bald spots 
  • Irritated, inflamed skin that is red or scaly around the face, feet, stomach, underarms, and groin 
  • Fur that is stained orange, red, or brown as a result of excessive licking  as a result of excessive licking 
  • Open sores or wounds as a result of excessive scratching 

Symptom: Excessive Scratching 

One of the primary signs that dogs are experiencing discomfort or itchiness is constant scratching of the same area. While some dogs may show signs of temporary discomfort and associated scratching due to a flea or bug bite, prolonged itchiness of the same areas suggests a more chronic problem. 

While all signs of atopy should encourage dog parents to reach out to their vet, excessive grooming and scratching should be dealt with promptly to avoid dogs scratching to the point of breaking their skin. 

Wounds and sores that arise from excessive scratching risk getting infected and may require antibiotics or topical medication, as well as the use of a cone. 

Vets diagnose atopic dermatitis by conducting blood or skin tests to determine which allergens a dog responds to negatively. 

Common Allergens During the Summer 

The time of year a dog develops allergy symptoms can help alert pet parents and vets to what they’re allergic to, as different allergens are present at different times of the year. 

The most common pollen allergens present in the summer months are grass and tree pollen, while insect stings and bites, including flea bites, account for the majority of contact allergens this time of year. 

Allergen: Grass Pollen or Tree Pollen 

Grass and tree pollen are two of the most common environmental allergens that dogs react to, and they can be particularly bad in the summer months. 

Tree pollen tends to be at its worst from late spring to early summer when the trees grow and bloom, while grass pollen can cause problems well into the warmer summer months. In addition, some dog breeds, such as terriers, bulldogs, and retrievers, are genetically predisposed to seasonal allergies. 

Pet parents whose dogs have grass and tree pollen allergies can take the following step to minimize seasonal allergies: 

  • Regularly bathe dogs using gentle ingredients like colloidal oatmeal or aloe 
  • Avoid the outdoors on particularly affected days 
  • Wipe dog’s paws and skin after walks outside or time in the yard 
  • After cleaning, apply KeraVet gel to areas between toes and paw pads to help the dog not lick 

Because it’s nearly impossible to keep dogs inside all summer, pets with severe pollen allergies often require medical treatments such as allergen-specific immunotherapy to keep their allergies at bay. 

Allergen: Insect Stings 

Dogs react in varying severity in response to insect stings or bites. Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common form of canine allergy and may result in the following clinical signs: 

  • Excessive scratching and licking 
  • Hair Loss resulting in patchy fur or bald spots 
  • Red, inflamed skin 
  • Fleas or flea feces (which may look like dirt to the naked eye) 

These are most commonly observed on a dog’s lower back near the base of the tail or on their legs. While treating flea allergy dermatitis may require medical intervention once a dog shows bite or infestation signs, the easiest way for pet parents to prevent it is by putting their dog on a flea preventative. 

However, fleas aren’t the only bugs that come out in the summertime, and exposure to bees and other insects may cause dogs to have acute allergic reactions due to being bit or stung. 

Common acute allergy symptoms include: 

  • Localized swelling 
  • Hives 
  • Hypersalivation 
  • Vomiting 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Confusion or agitation 
  • Seizures 

Pet parents that believe their dog may be experiencing an acute allergic reaction in response to an insect sting or bite should seek medical treatment immediately. 

Understanding what time of year their dog displays allergy symptoms is a dog parent’s best tool in determining the environmental factor causing the reaction. 

Late summer dog allergies may happen in response to a completely different allergen than those that arise in early spring, and the more information pet parents can provide their vet with, the quicker their dog can be diagnosed and on their way to healing. 

Learn more about KeraVet Bio Lead Medical Advisor, Dr. Cherice Roth, by visiting her on LinkedIn.