Its springtime, the flowers are blooming, the grass is growing, the birds are nesting, people are sneezing and dogs are scratching. Is this all related? Well, the birds nesting isn’t, but the rest is.
Spring and Summer is when we most often see “allergic inhalant disease” (or atopy). This is a disease where the immune system is over reacting to pollens etc. The pollens are from flowering trees, grasses, weeds etc. In humans the most common symptoms are respiratory problems – sneezing and sinusitis; in dogs it is most commonly skin itchiness.
Interestingly, despite this being considered an inhalant allergy, the sites they tend to scratch, lick or chew are often the sites we would think of as contact reactions i.e. the feet, belly and armpits. It is thought that there is some direct absorption of the allergen through the skin as well as from inhalation.
The other areas where these guys show problems are the ears, eyes, muzzle, bottom and then often the trunk itself.
There really is not much left of the dog after you count these areas.
This is actually the second most common skin condition that is seen (after flea allergy dermatitis). It is often the underlying cause of ear infections.
It is also one of the most frustrating diseases to treat. Tests can be done to determine what allergens are the culprits and desensitising can be undertaken but this is not a simple problem to resolve. Luckily, most of our pets are only affected for a short time or intermittently, and so can be made comfortable with medications when they have problems.
So next time when you are having a hayfever attack, think of your poor itchy pet and have sympathy.