Dog Allergies to Grass: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention
by Dr Vivian Loren on Jul 03, 2023.
Unfortunately dog allergies to grass are too common. Just like humans, it can be extremely irritating and the longer they spend outdoors during the high pollen count days, the worse the symptoms will get.
It’s therefore very important to be aware of when and why season dog allergies to grass or other tree pollens occur ever year.
Dealing with a grass allergy can be challenging for both the pet and the pet owner. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of dog allergies to grass, including recognizing the symptoms, diagnosing the issue, treatment options, and think of ways to prevent it.
Understanding Dog Allergies to Grass
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is the immune system's overreaction to a harmless substance, treating it as a threat and causing various symptoms. Just like in humans, it can vary from mild skin allergies, to affecting the stomach and causing indigestion, a runny tummy, etc. When it comes to dogs, they can be allergic to a wide range of substances, with grass being one of the common environmental allergens.
Why are Some Dogs Allergic to Grass?
The exact reason why some dogs develop allergies to grass is unknown. It could be genetic or related to their immune system's response to certain types of grass.
Types of Grass That Commonly Cause Allergies
Different types of grass can cause allergies in dogs. Bermuda grass (common in southern Europe), Kentucky grass, and Ryegrass (most common type of lawn grass in the UK) are among the most common culprits.
In addition to grass however, dog may also have allergies to tree pollens and this can therefore affect them in the spring/ early summer.
Dog allergies to grass or other flowers however tend to occur after the summer months. This is when the plants start releasing their allergens into the air.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Grass Allergies in Dogs
Recognizing the signs of a grass allergy can help you take prompt action. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:
Common allergy symptoms include:
- redness, and
- inflammation of the skin, especially on the paws and belly. This could manifest by rolling around excessively, which helps with the itching.
- Dogs may also show signs of discomfort like excessive licking or chewing and biting of the affected areas.
- Constant head shaking and biting of the affected areas (which in turn can make the skin irritation worse) are also common signs.
Mild and Severe Reactions
While some dogs may only exhibit some mild symptoms as mentioned above, others may have a severe allergic reaction. This could lead to hives, facial swelling, or even difficulty breathing. If you observe severe symptoms, seek veterinary care immediately.
While severe dog allergies to grass are uncommon, they may react to an insect bite while playing outside, such as a wasp. Dog allergies to wasps are not uncommon and if you are worried about them you should also seek veterinary advice.
Diagnosing Grass Allergies
Your vet will typically diagnose a grass allergy based on your dog's symptoms and history. Allergy testing, such as intradermal skin tests or blood tests, can also help confirm the diagnosis.
Intradermal testing is usually preferred as it is quicker and can be less invasive.
The blood test for dog allergies, also known as RAST testing can take several weeks and involves withdrawing a blood test.
However, the majority of these tests are not entirely necessary. They can expose your dog to unnecessary stress, as the management may not change regardless. A good rule of thumb is to try treating the allergies and then see if the symptoms improve.
If the symptoms improve, then you know your dog is allergic to grass. You can then start treating the symptoms. The type of grass they're allergic to is irrelevant in most cases.
Treatment Options for Dogs with Grass Allergies
Once diagnosed, your vet may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
Antihistamines or corticosteroids can help alleviate symptoms by reducing the immune system's reaction to the allergen.
Antihistamines would be the first, but in more severe reactions a mild steroid may be used. This should only be given under the direction of a vet who has reviewed your dog.
Special shampoos or creams can help soothe the skin and reduce itching and inflammation.
Going for products marked for sensitive skin or hypo-allergenic is always a good idea.
If other treatments aren't effective, your vet may recommend immunotherapy, which involves exposing the dog to small amounts of the allergen to gradually build up immunity.
There are very few if any studies looking at the effect of immunotherapy on dogs however. Even on humans, it is still a relatively novel idea that does not work all the time, or it only works for specific allergens such as wasp allergies.
Natural Remedies and Dietary Changes
Some natural remedies like oatmeal baths can help soothe the skin. Dietary changes like adding Omega-3 fatty acids can also support the skin's health and reduce inflammation. Probiotics for dogs may also have an effect on alleviating dog allergies as after all, a healthy gut biome means a healthy body!
Managing Grass Allergies: Prevention and Maintenance
While it's not always possible to completely avoid grass, there are steps you can take to manage and prevent grass allergies:
Avoiding certain types of grass and opting for hypoallergenic grasses for your lawn can help. Also, wiping your dog's paws and belly with wet wipes after they've been in the grass can remove allergens.
Protective paw balms may also help with moisturising and shooting the delicate paws when walking outside.
Regular Grooming and Bathing
Frequent grooming and bathing can help remove allergens from your dog's skin and coat, reducing symptoms. Make sure you choose a hypoallergenic shampoo!
A Healthy Diet
A well-balanced diet can boost your dog's immune system and help them better handle allergies.
Regular Vet Visits
Regular vet visits can help manage your dog's allergies and monitor how they respond to specific treatments.. They can also provide advice tailored to your dog's specific needs and circumstances.
Dog Breeds with common allergies
Some dog breeds will have a higher chance of having allergies, either skin dermatitis or food allergy and intolerances. Here are some examples I can think of:
|Dog Breeds Prone to Grass Allergies||Common Symptoms of Grass Allergies|
|Boxer||Itchy, red skin|
|Labrador Retriever||Constant licking|
|German Shepherd||Ear infections|
|Bulldog||Hair loss (due to scratching)|
|West Highland White Terrier||Hives/ Atopic Dermatitis (in up to 25% of dogs)|
Dealing with a grass allergy in your dog can be challenging, but with a comprehensive understanding of the symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures, it can be manageable.
Remember, each dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Dog allergies to grass are common especially in early autumn or spring time. Remember, your dog's comfort, health, and happiness are worth the effort !