City Paws:Fall Dog Allergies

By Penny & Ed Cherubino

As the leaves turn color into the brilliant hues of fall, does your dog begin to itch? While leaves may be part of the problem, the biggest culprit is probably ragweed.

As reported on, Dr. Kimberly Coyner, a veterinary dermatologist at the Dermatology Clinic for Animals of Tacoma, advises, “Pets with fall symptoms are often allergic to weeds that pollinate in the fall, especially ragweed.” She says, “Other weeds that can cause allergic reactions in the fall include sagebrush, Russian thistle (tumbleweeds), plantain, cocklebur and lamb’s-quarters.”

As a dog’s best friend, there is a lot you can do to prevent a mild itch from becoming an infected skin sore. Check your vet records and any health logs you may keep for your dog. Itchy skin, eye infections, ear infections, or sores from licking or biting at one spot can also come from allergies.


A Staged Approach

When we had allergic dogs, we always began with topical and barrier interventions. Give your dog a rub down with a damp towel when you return from a walk to remove surface irritants. A full rinse with tepid water or extra baths with anti-itch shampoo can also help.

A daily skin check for redness, scabbing, or raised spots will enable you to react to the first sign of a break out. Careful observation of new scratching or rubbing behavior should put you on high alert. Certain dogs may also show some sneezing and goopy eyes.

Barriers work well, but be very careful not to trap moisture in the fur and against the skin. We’ve used t-shirts to keep foster dogs from scratching their sore skin. For a dog licking a paw or foreleg, we dry the area gently and cover it with a soft felt bootie/baby sock or gauze held on with a self stick bandage.

Our second line of topical defense is keeping any sore spot very clean with an antifungal and antibacterial veterinary flush solution. Occasionally we have used an antibacterial powder with anti-inflammatory and mild anesthetic effects (supplied by our veterinarian) to dry and soothe the sore spot. Your vet can also provide a leave-on hydrocortisone lotion that will not only make your dog itch less, but will also make her smell much better if she has one of the stinkier skin issues.

If all else fails, you may have to add antihistamines or powerful steroids, antifungal medications, and antibiotics to the mix. Working closely with your veterinary team and strict compliance with the staged doses will enable you to use these treatments as your last resort and for as short a period as possible.


Avoid Playing in Leaf Piles

For some dogs (and people), leaf piles can be a source of an allergic reaction. Even after the hard frost kills off ragweed and other fall irritants, dogs may still be bothered by leaf mold.

The website has a great description of the symptoms, “Mold-allergic dogs sneeze frequently, and they may develop a cough or have watery eyes. Other dog-specific signs of a mold allergy include recurring ear infections and licking, scratching and biting at their skin because it becomes itchy.”

If this sounds familiar, check with your veterinarian for treatments and avoid those leaf piles. Try to stick to the paths when outside and restrict time spent exploring damp piles of leaves.

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