For dogs (and people) who suffer from allergies, springtime is usually the worst part of the year, as all of the plants that died off or became dormant over winter begin their growth spurt as the warmer weather approaches, releasing pollen, spores and other potential allergens into the environment. However, autumn is another hotspot for many dogs that suffer from allergies, as the seasonal changes once again lead to the proliferation and release of allergens that many dogs are sensitive to.
Whether your dog tends to suffer from allergies all year round, appears to react to multiple triggers or if you are not sure if your dog is having an allergic reaction to something or if this is even possible at this time of year – autumn allergens can make dogs very miserable.
Given that the weather this year has been a little unusual too, insomuch as we have had a rainy and not overly warm summer and now, milder than normal temperatures for autumn, the usually clearly defined start and finish of autumn allergy season have become somewhat blurred this year. Many dogs that sometimes suffer from a short-term autumn allergy for just a couple of weeks that would usually have passed by now are still reacting to the presence of environmental allergens – and learning what some of them are can be helpful.
In this article, we will share some tips and advice on how to tell if your dog is suffering from an environmental allergy, and look at some of the most common allergenic triggers that flare up in the autumn. Read on to learn more.
Virtually any substance, compound or component you can think of can be a potential allergen – which makes getting to the bottom of any given problem very challenging. Food allergies are a common issue among dogs, but environmental allergies are another large group – followed by contact allergies.
If your dog is reacting to a plant or something in the air in the autumn, this is likely to be either an environmental allergy or a contact allergy – something that causes a bad reaction in your dog when they brush against it or come into contact with it.
Allergy symptoms can be very variable, but often include hayfever-like symptoms such as sneezing, and runny eyes and nose – but skin and coat problems such as scabs, dandruff, hotspots and other issues are also very common, and may appear alone, or accompanied by respiratory symptoms.
Environmental and contact allergies do not usually cause digestive upsets and associated symptoms in dogs – and allergies or allergy symptoms that appear for a few weeks in the autumn and then clear up are likely to be caused by a plant or part of a plant that is going through a change at this time of year.
Next, we will look at some of the most common autumn allergens for dogs.
Harvest mites are so-named because they tend to become a problem in the autumn, or around harvest time, and at this time of year they can be found in all manner of outdoor environments in the trees, grassy areas and anywhere else you might walk your dog. The lifecycle of the harvest mite goes through four stages – egg, larvae, nymph and adult. It is the larvae stage that causes a problem for dogs – the larvae can attach itself to the dog’s skin and coat when they brush against the grass or other plants, and lead to a deeply itchy irritation that will cause your dog to scratch prolifically.
The saliva of the harvest mite larvae contains an enzyme that causes this effect, and how badly any given dog will react will depend on how many harvest mites are on them, and how sensitive they are to it.
Harvest mites can just about be seen by the naked eye, but they are very easy to miss, looking like tiny, bright orange dots that usually congregate in clusters. However, just because you cannot see the mites does not mean they may not be the cause – you may miss spotting them, or have dropped off your dog whilst still causing an irritation, so your vet may wish to take a skin scraping to check for the presence of mites. They tend to congregate between the toes, making your dog chew their feet, and in warm, less furry areas such as between the legs and around your dog’s lower belly.
All manner of mould, mushrooms and other forms of fungus blow off a large quantity of spores in the autumn specifically, which can trigger allergies in your dog. You won’t see the spores themselves, so again, this is another autumn allergen that is hard to identify.
Try to keep your dog away from damp areas, rotting wood and lots of fallen leaves, and make sure there is no black mould growing in a hidden corner of your home too.
Ragweed is becoming highly invasive across the UK, and is one of the most common allergenic triggers for both dogs and people. Springtime usually sees the onset of hayfever and spring allergies for many people due to ragweed, but as autumn approaches and the plants go to seed and pollinate, this can create another flare-up for affected dogs and people.
Mugwort is another plant that goes to seed in autumn and that can produce allergenic symptoms in both dogs and people. Whilst not as common a trigger as ragweed, this is still something to bear in mind.
Whilst there is a lot of merit in looking to seasonal triggers if your dog suddenly has a flare-up in the autumn, it is important to remember that non-seasonal allergens may be to blame too! Flea bite sensitivity, household substances and house plants are just a few potential culprits, so keep an open mind and be prepared to spend a lot of time doing the detective work getting to the bottom of things!