Just like with humans, some dogs can develop allergies to grass, foods, pollen, dander or environmental.
Atopic Dermatitis is an inflammatory disease closely associated with allergic reactions such as dry and itchy skin.
A "grass allergy" is triggered by the pollen that exists in the atmosphere particularly evident during spring and summer.
There is an astounding 4500 species of wind-pollinating grasses however pet owners should remember that a “ grass allergy” is to the grass pollen and not to the grass itself. The peak pollen season is from mid-May to mid-July.
These tiny spores are then absorbed triggering an allergic reaction. If your dog is fond of rolling in grass as most pets are and he begins to sneeze and itches – he could have a "grass allergy".
Similarly if your pet enjoys sleeping in flowerbeds and comes in close contact with insect pollinated flowers such as the marigolds, dahlias and chrysanthemums, this too can trigger an allergic reaction.
Since all dog breeds can develop an allergy to grass pollen, there is a higher risk in the following breeds:
Completing a diagnosis of grass allergy is the first step.
The easiest way to do so is to bathe your dog and not to let him go in the grass for a few weeks. Instead get him to walk on the pavement. If there is an improvement in symptoms, let your dog out again in the grass to see if the itching flares up again.
It is difficult to say what the specific cause may be as it may be a contact allergy or an environmental allergen but the other main causes included: food sensitivity, danders, chemical irritation, hormonal, auto-immune disease, parasites, lavae tick etc.
Animals constantly shed hair and dead skin cells (dander) in the environment. Dander is often contaminated with saliva or urine which can serve as an additional source of allergens.
Since there are many potential allergens, the best way to narrow it down is to carry out an allergy test on your dog with your veterinarian to help narrow in on an allergen.
Your vet will perform a number of tests to help with the diagnosis. Along with a physical examination your vet may also suggest a serum (blood) allergy test or an intradermal skin allergy test (IDST) which is carried out by an animal dermatologist to see if grass pollen might be the culprit.
The IDST test is considered the better of the two to help identify the relevant allergen.
Symptoms & Causes
The most common symptoms of a grass allergy are: scratching, rash, excessive licking and redness and running of the eyes and nose. In severe cases it may even cause an inflammation of the airway (anaphylaxis) causing a constriction that makes it hard for your dog to breathe.
Possible signs to watch out for are dog sneezing, coughing, and wheezing. If this occurs you need to bring your pet to an animal hospital right away. Here is a complete list of symptoms if your dog develops an allergic reaction to grass.
Myth: My dog likes his food and never vomits or has diarrhea so the food isn't the trigger for its skin disease.
Fact: Dogs with food sensitives rarely develop gastrointestinal problems. Food allergens in dogs triggers severe itching and skin lesions.
The best treatment can be finding a food that has limited ingredients to take some of the load off your dog’s system so they can better handle all the allergens which they are exposed to in the environment.
The most common food allergen is a usually a meat protein followed by carbs or contaminant such as mold or storage mite found in the food.
A hypoallergenic diet is what is used during a feeding trial generally containing a new protein source your dog hasn’t eaten before such as kangaroo, tofu, duck, venison or lamb plus a good source of complex carbohydrate ( barley, oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potato) and an array of vegetables (no corn).
Below is a table with good examples of limited ingredient diet formulas for dogs with sensitivities.
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet: Sweet Potato & Fish Formula
Nature's Variety Limited Ingredient Diet: Turkey Formula
Simple Limited Ingredient: Salmon & Potato Formula
Hills Prescription Diet: Canine Z/D Ultra Allergen Free (starch, hydrolyzed chicken liver).
Improvements in skin inflammation from food allergies can be slow and specially formulated food diets should be continued for a minimum of 10-12 weeks in order to see improvements in your dog.
Other common weeds that flare up grass allergies include:
Before you begin any treatment, allergy testing with your Veterinarian would be valuable to see what your pup is sensitive to. With that said, here is what your Vet would recommend in order to control inflammation, relieve discomfort and to help your pup sleep through the night.
Topical products: shampoos, topical ointment such as a cortisone cream (Triamcinolone Topical) or gel, sprays.
Oral products: corticosteroids, antihistamines, fatty acids, cyclosporine.
Topical Shampoos & Conditioners
Fatty Acid Supplements
These are of the Omega-3 and Omega-6 family such as Flaxseed Meal/Oil and Fish Oil that also come in the form of a supplement.
These include: Zyrtec, Benadryl, Tavist, Claritin, Temaril and Elavil. In the case of antihistamines, there may be a little trial and error until you find the right one for your pup. Generally a couple of weeks is required for the antihistamines to work. First check in with your Veterinarian for the correct dose to give your dog especially if they are on any other medication to be on the safe side.
Corti-costeroids such as prednisolone and prednisone as prescribed by your Vet. The downside to using corticosteroids is the possible negative side effects such as excessive thirst, yeast infection, urination etc.
Finally, if you find your pup is getting bitten insects in the grass, repellents will help in this regard.
If you prefer not to give your dog antibiotics which some owners argue can kill the ability to fight allergens you can try natural remedies. In addition to this, it would be best not to let your dog walk in the grass for a few weeks and bathing him regularly if you’re suspecting that the cause is grass allergies. Aside from limiting your pup’s exposure to allergens here are some other beneficial natural remedies to get relief from grass allergies.
It is frustrating and sad to see your pup suffer with skin allergies and feeling helpless. In some dogs, their immune system overreacts to certain allergens causing an allergic reaction. These can lead to itching, inflammation and discomfort in your pet. The first step is to identify the allergens causing the problem which requires the involvement of a Vet specializing in allergies. An intradermal skin allergy test and/or a serum (blood) allergy test is carried out on your pet to help pinpoint the problem and then removing the potential allergen or limiting its exposure to it.
If your pet has been identified to have “grass pollen allergies” limit their exposure to fields, flowerbeds, keeping grass cut short and keep them indoors during peak pollen times of early morning and at dusk.