Your dog's grass allergies are his immune system overreacting to airborne grass pollens. This allergy type is an inhalant allergy, or atopy, the second most common type of dog allergy. Your dog’s overreactive immune system is trying to rid itself of something it incorrectly considers dangerous. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has atopy -- without treatment, seasonal allergies can morph into a year-round problem and additional health problems.
Signs of a Grass Pollen Allergy
The most common symptoms of a grass pollen allergy in dogs are excessive scratching and licking. In particular, dogs tend to lick, chew and bite their paws, which may become swollen. Other symptoms closely mimic the human allergic response: itching, sneezing, watery eyes, snoring and digestive upset. A dog's scratching and licking will typically cause hair loss, creating uncomfortable “hot spots” on the skin. These can become infected. If you notice symptoms only during certain times of the year, odds are your dog has a seasonal pollen allergy. Your vet can perform allergy tests to narrow down the exact pollen types.
Cut your grass close so seed heads don't form. Vacuum your dog’s living areas and wash his bedding frequently. Bathe him at least weekly to remove pollens and relieve his itching; ask your vet about shampoos that won’t irritate or dry his skin. Don’t schedule vaccinations when your dog’s allergies are at his worst, as these stimulate his already overactive immune system.
Since your dog's moist paws attract pollen that accumulates in his living space, soak his feet nightly in a solution of povidone iodine and warm water, mixed to the color of tea. Doing so also removes toxins such as pesticides. An alternative to the iodine solution is a solution of a half-cup of Epsom salt per 1 gallon of warm water.
Your veterinarian may recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine to give your dog relief from symptoms. If this and diligent pollen-reduction measures aren’t effective, your vet may recommend allergy shots that should help your pet develop a resistance to grass pollen. Your vet will perform an allergy test to identify the exact pollen causing the problem. In severe cases, your vet may recommend a cortisone shot or the drug cyclosporine to treat his skin issues.
Ask your vet to recommend an appropriate dose of a fatty acid supplement that will give your dog relief from itchy skin. Fish oils such as krill, salmon, tuna and anchovy are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Karen Becker of Mercola's Healthy Pets website advocates coconut oil can enhance fish oil’s effectiveness. Look for topical over-the-counter remedies containing aloe vera for skin relief. A grain-free diet can quell your dog’s inflammatory response; ask a holistic vet to recommend other naturally derived substances such as quercetin, bromelain and papain. These remedies are found in retail pharmacies but the dosage must be prescribed for your dog’s weight and circumstances.