When you think of seasonal allergies, springtime undoubtedly pops into your head, and for good reason. All the pollen from grasses, trees, and flowers swirls through the air, causing major allergy issues for dogs and people alike.
Surprisingly, the winter season can prove just as problematic. The allergens change, but the symptoms remain, resulting in nearly year-round discomfort for allergy-prone pups and their human counterparts.
So, if your pup starts to experience symptoms in the winter, it’s wise to think about winter allergies in dogs as you track down the cause. To help you out, here’s what you need to know about how allergies present in dogs through the cold season.
Common Allergens in the Wintertime
As the cold weather arrives, it’s the leaves, not the pollen, causing many allergy symptoms as dogs go outside. The fallen leaves trap moisture, which causes mold and mildew to grow and thrive. Then, as dogs sniff around the leaf debris, they inhale the allergens, causing their symptoms to start in earnest.
Indoor allergens are an even bigger problem, especially when it gets cold enough to keep the windows firmly closed until the sun reappears in the spring. Dust mites, mold spores, and the like tend to circulate through the heating system as a result, which keeps your dog’s allergy symptoms going all season long.
Food allergies can arise year-round, although most cases occur during the wintertime. Holiday events may result in new foods getting introduced to your dog’s diet by well-meaning visitors sharing tidbits or busy children dropping snacks.
Symptoms of Winter Allergies in Dogs
When winter allergies become a problem, your dog may exhibit a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Skin irritation
You might also notice your dog making a strange snorting noise while rapidly inhaling air through their nose. Called reverse sneezing, this symptom results from irritants in the nose and airways. Although it often resolves without incident, some dogs may gag or even vomit at the end of the reverse sneezing session.
Alternative Causes of Allergy Symptoms
If your dog starts experiencing allergy symptoms out of the blue, winter allergies could be the cause, but that’s not always the case. So, it’s important to get them checked out by a vet to rule out other causes, such as:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Dietary imbalances
- Irritant exposures
- Behavioral issues
Your vet will complete a full exam and other diagnostic tests as needed to figure out the cause. Then, they’ll help you learn about how to complete the necessary treatments for the condition at hand.
Diagnosis of Winter Allergies
When winter allergies are the likely cause of your dog’s symptoms, they’ll need to undergo testing to confirm the diagnosis. There are two main types of allergy tests available:
To complete the blood test, you will need to bring your dog into the clinic to have their blood drawn. The vet will send out the vial of blood to the lab, so they can test it for IgE antibodies. The presence of antibodies will indicate if your dog’s system has been reacting to allergens in their environment.
For even more in-depth results, your dog can undergo a skin test to see which allergens cause a reaction. For this test, the vet will shave a large patch of your dog’s fur down to the skin level. Then, they will inject a small amount of different allergens to gauge what causes a reaction.
Both of these tests can confirm the vet’s diagnosis of winter allergies. With that info, they can decide how to best treat your dog’s symptoms and help them feel their best through the winter season.
Just keep in mind that when food allergy symptoms arise, you may also need to put your dog on an elimination diet to fully determine the cause. To do that effectively, just pick a hypoallergenic food, like insect-based dog food, and stick with it for at least three months. Then, add certain food items back in one by one to see what causes the symptoms to return.
Common Winter Allergy Treatments for Dogs
To find the best winter allergy treatment, vets look at the type of allergen causing the symptoms and the severity of the reaction. More often than not, veterinary professionals will aim to treat the allergies as a whole with steroids. This medication stops the immune system from overreacting to allergen exposure, helping reduce or even eliminate your dog’s symptoms.
If certain symptoms remain, it’s possible to reduce your dog’s comfort by treating those items one by one. Medicated baths and cortisone creams can help with itchiness and skin irritation, for example. Running a humidifier in the house can add moisture to the air to reduce coughing and sneezing. Your vet will let you know how to best support your dog and can assist in troubleshooting any issues that arise as you give each method a try.
Over time, your efforts will help your dog feel much better through the winter season. You can then use what you’ve learned in the springtime and beyond if their allergies continue.
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