There’s a stretch in the evenings as we edge closer to spring – a great time of year, but one where seasonal dog allergies can be a pain for you and your dog. Here we answer some dog allergy questions and give you some tips on relieving that itch

Allergic when? You’ll know it’s a seasonal allergy if your pet only shows symptoms for a few weeks in the year. The peak times are spring and autumn, and the allergy will disappear as the allergen leaves the environment.

Allergic to what? Like humans, dogs can be allergic to grass, pollens, moulds and dust mites.

What are the signs? The ESP Test – which stands for Ears, Skin and Paws (not Extra Sensory Perception!) – is a simple check you can do:

Ears: strong smell or discharge, ear infection (pawing at ears or shaking its head can be a sign)

Skin: itching, scratching, rubbing against furniture, obsessively grooming; hair loss, skin lesions and redness are also symptoms.

Paws: excessively chewing at paws, discolouration from licking or red/sore paws.

What to do?

Bathe: if your pet has irritated skin, a bath can rinse the allergens away and make her feel better immediately. There is a huge range of medicated shampoos available; ask your vet to recommend a good one. Some shampoos can dry out the skin making skin conditions worse. There are also sprays containing oatmeal, aloe and other natural products that can be helpful.

In between baths, do foot soaks (a bit of pampering won’t go astray); chances are the allergen is coming inside on your pet’s feet and being spread right through the house.

Medication: Antihistamines (like Benadryl) can be used, but they only help a small percentage of dogs. Again, ask your vet about using these. If the problem is severe you might have to resort to steroids (like cortisone). However, these are very strong, and while they will work to control allergy symptoms they can also have side effects. Only use these under the guidance of your vet.

Food supplements: having healthy, intact skin can provide an effective barrier to seasonal allergens that get absorbed through skin, as opposed to being inhaled. For dogs prone to allergies it might be a good idea to invest in some specialised food products (for example, a complex of B vitamins and histidine (an essential amino acid), have been found to promote a healthy skin barrier by reducing moisture loss). Fatty acid supplements (for example, fish oil) might help relieve your dog’s itchy skin.

And just as you’ve sussed out what works best for your itchy dog, the allergy is gone….but not forgotten… and next time you’ll be ready for it!