There are many dogs allergic to grass and the big problem is that grass is just about anywhere and everybody who owns dogs knows that dogs love walking on grass, rolling in grass, and perhaps, even eating grass. It is therefore quite devastating news for dog owners to discover that they own dogs allergic to grass. Unfortunately, grass allergies in dogs are a reality and they can potentially be a dog's and dog owner's worst nightmare. Grass is difficult to avoid and dogs cannot live enclosed in a glass bubble for the rest of their lives, so what has a dog owner left to do? Knowledge is power, and the more informed you are about dog grass allergies, the better options you have to help your dog cope with grass allergies better.
A Case of Atopic Dermatitis
There are allergies and allergies when it comes to dogs, and a main cause of dogs allergic to grass falls under the canine atopic dermatitis department.
Also known as atopy, atopic dermatitis is basically a hypersensitivity to something that is present in the dog's environment whether inhaled or through direct contact with the skin.
Generally, when the hypersensitivity is manifested towards the presence of grass, the symptoms in dogs allergic to grass are mostly seasonal and therefore in full swing during spring and summer when grass growth and pollen production is at its peak.
Symptoms should therefore then start subsiding once winter is around the corner and most grasses have died.
However, if your dog suffers from grass allergies, don't count your blessing yet. At times, canine atopy may appear to be seasonal, but then may shift into a year-round ordeal. Terrible news for Rover!
Did you know? Your dog can get allergies even if your lawn doesn't have any grass in it. Blown from the wind, grass pollen can travel for many miles.
Skip the Tissue Box
While in humans, allergies to grasses and pollen produce respiratory problems such as sneezing, wheezing, runny eyes and runny noses, in dogs allergic to grass symptoms are more likely to affect their skin.
Itching is one of the hallmark symptoms of a grass allergy in dogs which will cause your dog to scratch, lick, and possibly, chew his paws raw or even rub himself against the carpet, furniture or people as a plea to get relief. The itching often involves the dog's face, armpits, belly area and paws.
As the dog keeps itching and scratching, soon a vicious itch-scratch, itch-scratch cycle starts, leading to further irritation and inflammation of the skin (dermatitis). Soon, the skin becomes red and there may open sores, hair loss and presence of scabs. Unsightly, weeping hot spots may also occur concomitantly.
Secondary bacterial or yeast infections of the skin may arise as the dog breaks the skin scratches and chews removing the skin's protective layer. Some dogs also develop annoying and persistent problems with their ears. Dogs with short legs can get rashes on their bellies after running in the grass from direct contact with the grass.
In other words, allergies to grasses in dogs have the power to make dogs feel miserable!
Did you know? It's estimated that only about 15 percent of dogs develop allergies involving respiratory problems such as sneezing, wheezing and coughing, while the remaining majority deal with skin problems.
The Problems With Grass
What grasses are likely to cause allergies in dogs? Dogs can be allergic to ragweed, weeds, rye grasses and any type of pollen or seeds produced by grasses. On top of being allergic to these grasses, dogs can also develop allergies to products associated with grass such as lawn fertilizers and pesticides. Double the trouble!
It's important to identify what is likely the cause of the trouble. Sometimes, what looks like an allergy to grass turns out being an allergy to products used to treat the grass. Once owners stop using fertilizers and pesticides, therefore the dog's annoying presumed "grass allergy" subsides.
If you use a fertilizer to treat your grass, as a general rule, you may want to consider watering down the lawn thoroughly so to wash granules into the soil and off the grass blades. This may help reduce the chances for aggravating allergies in sensitive dogs. On top of that, bathing the dog may help remove any residue from the dog's coat and paws. If your dog is shows signs of a severe allergic reaction, see your vet at once.
Treating Dogs Allergic to Grass
How are grass allergies in dogs treated? In most cases, dogs are provided antihistamines (diphenhydramine, loratidine hydroxyzine, chlorpheniramine ) and high doses of omega-3 fatty acids (Derm-caps) which work in synergy.
Baths after exposure to allergens can help rinse of allergens and if done with cool water and oatmeal shampoo it may be soothing to the skin. Cortisone ointments or sprays may help provide itch relief.
If secondary bacterial or yeast infections arise, the vet may prescribe antibiotics or anti-fungal medications to clear these up. Severe allergies may require a cortisone shot to clear up.
A product known as Atopica may be an alternative to steroids. This drug helps suppress the over reactive immune system; however, it may take some weeks foe it to be effective.
Allergen-specific immunotherapy, a gradual desensitization program to the problem allergen is another option. According to veterinary dermatologist Dr. Carol S. Foil, 60 to 80 percent of canine patients improve when they undergo such immunotherapy.
A Word About Steroids
Steroids, while very effective in reducing the severe itching associated with allergies, are often a subject of controversy because of their potential for steroid side effects in dogs. The problem though is mostly associated with long-term usage or use in high doses. When the lowest effective dosage is given, steroids can be highly effective and provide dogs with some well deserved rest from the itching devil. The effect of steroid shots may last from hours to several days.
Often vets use steroids as a last resort for dog allergic to grass when other treatments haven't worked or when the itching is severe. Steroids may be given as a shot or pills. The shot is helpful when a dog is pretty much miserable and in desperate need of quick relief. Pills offer the advantage of offering an individual dosing program that can be custom-tailored to the dog. It's very important that the dog is weaned off of them gradually, following the vet's directions.
Side effects of steroids usually go away once the steroid is tapered off. Common side effects include increased drinking and increased urination, increased appetite, panting, lethargy or hyperactivity.
So when debating on steroids, it's best to listen to the vet's opinion on its pros and cons. And for complicated cases, seeing a board-specialist veterinarian specializing in dermatology can provide an extra insight that can make Rover less miserable from those annoying dog skin allergies.