Table of Contents
- Winter Allergies or Something Else?
- Testing for Winter Allergies in Dogs
- Dog Breeds Most Susceptible to Winter Allergies
- 10 Common Signs of Winter Allergies in Dogs
- 8 Ways to Treat a Dog's Winter Allergy Symptoms
- 4 Best Treatments for Winter Allergies in Dogs
Many owners associate dog allergies with the spring and fall seasons. However, winter allergies in dogs are just as expected and may result in itchy skin, dull coat, and breathing difficulties for dogs.
Luckily, there are things you can do to ease your pet's discomfort.
Dog winter allergies are caused or worsened by allergens present specifically during the winter months.
They either occur naturally or are the result of cold-weather-specific conditions.
For example, a dog may experience dust allergies in winter when the air is less circulated, and a dog spends more time indoors or because of dry air from room heating.
There are four primary types of winter allergies in dogs:
- Mold related allergies
- Contact allergies
- Dust mites allergies
- Dry air-related allergies
A dog's body will react to these causes for several reasons, including:
- Natural immune system reaction
- Overactive immune system
- Allergen buildup during winter months
- Allergic reaction to the cold weather
Winter Allergies or Something Else?
Depending on the dog's symptoms, it's important to determine the exact cause. For some canines, winter allergies may well be the culprit. For others, allergy symptoms may be the result of something else entirely that only showed up in winter:
- Autoimmune disease
- Effect of medical treatment (such as radiation therapy)
- Food-related allergies
- Illness (such as kennel cough)
- Foreign bodies in the eye
- Overpowering scents
- Natural or nervous behavior
- Improperly balanced diet
- Side effects of supplements
Allergy skin test on a dog.
Testing for Winter Allergies in Dogs
To get to the bottom of your dog's symptoms of winter allergies, allergy testing is a must. Testing is used to identify specific winter-related allergens so that they can be avoided and appropriately treated.
There are two types of allergy testing – blood testing and skin testing.
Blood testing looks for antibodies in a dog's blood that is induced by antigens. The most commonly used tests for these antibodies are the RAST test or the ELISA test. Of the two tests, the ELISA is the more reliable option.
Skin testing involves a small antigen being injected into a dog's skin to induce a possible allergic reaction. When your dog is allergic to an antigen, a skin response will be seen at the sight of the injection. When an antigen induces a reply, a test is positive for that allergen.
The average cost of skin allergy testing ranges between $195 to $250.
The average cost of blood allergy testing ranges between $200 and $300.
Dog Breeds Most Susceptible to Winter Allergies
Allergies can affect any dog and breed of any age and gender. However, some breeds are more susceptible to skin-related winter allergies:
- American bulldogs
- English bulldogs
- Labrador retrievers
- Pit bulls
10 Common Signs of Winter Allergies in Dogs
Symptoms of winter allergies in dogs vary depending on the exact cause, individual dog's reaction, and the allergen in question. Below are the most common reactions.
Itchy skin can result from dryness, allergic reactions to contact allergens, and poor air quality.
You may notice that your dog is constantly itching or biting their skin, has a discolored rash at the area of affliction, rubbing against things to scratch, redness or flaking of the skin, swelling of the skin, or wet and infected sores on the skin.
Red or Swollen Areas of Skin
When a dog's skin is affected by allergens, constant scratching can cause swelling, redness, and even open sores.
You should control these symptoms by reducing scratching in dogs using a topical anti-itch cream (vet prescribed antibiotic treatment or over-the-counter treatment).
Then a dog must wear an e-collar, and you can proceed with removing allergens.
Coughing is a dog's immune system's way of trying to eliminate allergens from its respiratory system.
Many reasons may cause coughing, but in the case of allergies, it's generally the result of a lack of moisture in the air.
Coughing should be treated temporarily with a cough suppressant while allergy testing occurs.
One of the most accessible symptoms of winter allergies in dogs to recognize is a dog's runny nose.
When allergens enter your pet's nasal passages, the immune system tries to flush out the allergens, which subsequently causes nasal discharge and sneezing.
The only treatment of runny noses in dogs is identifying and eliminating the allergen.
A dog's dry skin may appear red, flaky, scaly, and itch. This can result from exposure to contact allergens or a lack of moisture in the air.
Moisturizing the skin, adding omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil to a dog's diet (through food or supplements), and using air humidifiers around the house will help to resolve dry skin concerns.
There are also home remedies you can try.
Constant scratching of the skin and ears are ubiquitous signs of allergic reactions in dogs and should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent further complications. Excessive scratching will cause shedding, but more importantly,
it may cause an open wound to develop and lead to infection if not treated properly. Once again, using topical treatments while removing allergens is the best approach.
Discharge from the Eyes
Discharge from a dog's eyes will appear either clear or greenish, depending on the allergen and the severity of the allergic reaction.
Sometimes, an eye discharge that is clear or greenish is a sign of a more severe infection, but this is not always the case.
For example, a dog may have severe pollen allergies, and during the springtime “yellow haze,” their eyes will fill with green discharge.
Excessive Licking (Especially Paws/Feet)
When a dog's skin becomes dry and itchy, they try to “scratch” themselves by biting or licking the area.
This is particularly common when your dog's feet are affected by allergies. You must prevent this excessive licking since it can result in open sores and, later, infections.
Excessive licking can also lead to lick granulomas.
Sneezing results from allergens entering a pet's nose and the body attempting to expel these allergens with force.
It's not a dangerous symptom but will be annoying for you and the dog. Some sneezing medications can soothe these symptoms, but ideally, you should remove the allergen to prevent a recurrence.
Redness of the Eyes
Irritation of the eyes due to dryness or itching is widespread with winter allergies in dogs.
You can soothe this irritation with eye drops while eliminating allergens takes place.
However, red eyes may also be a symptom of other health issues, so it's essential to visit your veterinarian for a check-up.
8 Ways to Treat a Dog's Winter Allergy Symptoms
Dog winter allergies should be treated as a whole; however, some symptoms like those mentioned above (sneezing, for example) are not dangerous and can be relieved while you're awaiting allergy test results.
Below are the most common treatments available.
Steroids will suppress a dog's immune system reaction to allergens and either stop or slow down the symptoms.
Unfortunately, steroids also shut down necessary immune system responses, resulting in health problems for some dogs. Steroids should not be used as a long-term treatment approach due to this risk.
Medicated baths can soothe itchy skin in dogs and reduce inflamed skin through various topical solutions.
The effect of these baths using a medicated shampoo are temporary, however. Unless your dog's allergies result from parasites that you can eliminate (for example, flea allergies), the symptoms will return shortly after bathing.
Cortisone creams work for dogs the same way they work for humans. Through the topical application, you can temporarily soothe dermatological reactions to allergens.
Cortisone creams are not explicitly developed for use on dogs (except hydrocortisone), so their use should only be short-term and limited in application.
Most allergic reactions often result in dry, cracked, and itchy skin. These dermatological symptoms of winter allergies in dogs can be soothed or even remedied through the regular use of a dog-friendly moisturizer.
It's crucial to use a specifically developed moisturizer that is safe for dogs, such as Skin Soother. Many human creams can contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs.
In case of severe allergic reactions, antibiotics may be necessary to attack infection that develops because of symptoms.
For example, a dog with highly itchy skin may scratch so much that the skin breaks open and becomes dangerously infected.
In such extreme cases, systemic antibiotics are used as a comprehensive treatment, and there's a particular approach to using them.
These types of allergy-related infections are frequently due to bacteria from a dog's nails into their broken skin.
Antibiotics will not treat winter allergies in dogs, but instead, they will address the resulting symptoms that may arise.
In the case of lesser infections or issues where the disease has not yet taken hold, but an open wound is present, you may use antibiotic creams.
These creams treat localized areas to eliminate or prevent minimal infection but are less effective on severe infections.
Antibiotic creams developed specifically for dogs are the only ones you can use; stay away from creams made for humans.
You should also prevent dogs from ingesting any balms, ointments, and creams used. This can be done with Elizabethan collars or the more comfortable inflatable dog collars.
Dogs' winter allergies are often worsened by dry air, both in the house and outside. Dry heated air significantly can contribute to a dog's dry, itchy skin and dried mucous membranes.
A good air humidifier can reduce these symptoms by introducing moisture into the air.
Humidifiers are also helpful for dogs with respiratory allergy symptoms because they moisturize mucus membranes and make it easier for dogs to breathe.
Regular grooming is essential for dogs that have allergies like dust allergies. Frequent brushing reduces the buildup of dust and dirt, and dried skin, and it also promotes better skin health in dogs.
It's essential to select a grooming brush well suited to your dog's coat. Using the wrong brush can make grooming painful, particularly for dogs with skin-related allergy symptoms.
When a dog has allergies that result in coughing, your vet can prescribe a cough suppressant as a temporary solution while you're working on removing allergens.
Suppressing a dog's cough will result in less respiratory discomfort and a better quality of life. Be careful, however, because even veterinary cough treatments can have side effects, and you should monitor their use closely.
4 Best Treatments for Winter Allergies in Dogs
Treating allergy symptoms with the above methods will make your pet more comfortable. However, to eliminate allergy discomfort, more targeted treatment is required.
Treatment for winter allergies in dogs begins with testing to determine the specific cause of the allergic reaction, and from there, choose the necessary treatment approach.
This is called immunotherapy. Like vaccines, allergy shots work by introducing the allergen into a dog's system gradually to build up an immunity to the said allergen.
After a period of receiving these shots, your dog should have a minimal to zero reaction to the allergen.
The cost of allergy shots varies depending on the amount of serum needed per month. For example, for a dog needing 3 ml a month, the serum will cost $30.
The amount of serum needed during this type of immunotherapy will be reduced to a “maintenance dose,” so the spending will drop over time.
This is referred to as sublingual immunotherapy. Allergy drops work similarly to allergy shots, but some anecdotal evidence shows them faster acting.
Comparing allergy drops vs. allergy shots, both have their pros and cons.
Pros of allergy drops vs. allergy shots:
- No need to use needles/injections
- you can do this at home
- Fewer side effects
- Potentially cheaper
- Results are achieved quicker
Cons of allergy drops vs. allergy shots:
- You can address only a single allergen at a time
- Fewer medications for drops are currently FDA approved
- Not enough studies on the long-term safety of allergy drops
- Possible reactions when using other drugs in dogs
- It should be used every day
Allergy drop pricing varies depending on the strength of the drops used and the number of drops purchased at one time.
For example, 30 sublingual drops at 16 mg cost $75 on average.
Regular House Cleaning
If your dog has allergies related to dust mites that may build up during winter, regular house cleaning can be of enormous help.
Keep your home as dust-free as possible with consistent vacuuming and dusting. You should also groom and brush your pet daily to reduce the buildup of dust or allergens in their coat.
A vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is the best choice when cleaning.
A 1997 study observed that HEPA filters are most effective at removing airborne particles, which cause allergic reactions in dogs.
It is also advisable to avoid using chemical-based cleaners around the house, some of which can elicit different allergic reactions in your pets.
Organic-based cleaning products like Seventh Generation are the best place to start.
Even if you already have a humidifier to help your dog with allergic symptoms, an air purifier can be another great tool to fight winter allergies in dogs.
Less fresh air is circulated in the home during the winter months, so it's essential to remove allergens from the circulated air.
Again, a high-quality HEPA air filter used in an air purifier will do the best job.
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