As a dog owner, you might not be too concerned when your dog eats grass. They’re dogs, after all, it’s just kind of what they do!
Well, have you ever asked yourself can dogs be allergic to grass? It might seem unlikely given how much time dogs spend running around on it and, yes, eating it as well. But unfortunately, it’s true, and the problem is that your dog won’t know he is allergic to grass, and won’t understand that it’s causing him discomfort. He will keep on eating grass and frolicking around, then scratching away to the point it causes himself harm. Often, owners of dogs who are allergic to grass will have a difficult time reaching the correct conclusion. So what can you do if your dog is allergic to grass?
After all, grass is a pretty tricky thing for you and your dog to avoid, but the good news is you won’t need to stay away from the outdoors as long as your dog is given the proper treatment.
You and your dog will still be able to run and play without it being an unpleasant experience due to his allergy. However, without treatment, a grass allergy can cause a wide number of uncomfortable symptoms for your dog that will be difficult to relieve. And without treatment, those symptoms will only get worse.
This post will discuss the potential causes and symptoms of a grass allergy that can be seen in dogs. It will also dive into how a grass allergy is diagnosed, your treatment options, and long-term outlook.
Let’s start with how exactly a dog can even be allergic to grass in the first place.
How Can My Dog Be Allergic to Grass?
Surely you know that people suffer from seasonal allergies, but guess what, your dog can too. Sometimes the culprit can even be the green grass underneath your feet.
Of course, this won’t be an obvious source of allergies at all. You may notice your dog is biting his paws, scratching, and clawing himself to the point that he is taking out his own fur or creating wounds. Tests will show no signs of any other possibility, including canine parasites, food allergies, ticks on dogs or fleas, or any other common cause of itching in dogs.
When all these causes are ruled out, it may be time to look at the environment around your pet. And yes, even that grass. But how can grass be the cause of allergies? The answer lies in a common cause of human seasonal allergies: pollen.
What Causes Grass Allergies in Dogs
Now that you know that dogs get seasonal allergies just like we do, you might not be surprised to learn that the cause is the same. Dogs aren’t allergic to the grass itself, but rather the grass pollen that is floating through the air.
The pollen is microscopic and only seen when it accumulates in mass quantities in the spring. Your dog may absorb these tiny spores in his skin, which will cause the allergic reaction in dogs. Their fur may also pick up the pollen from grass and other surfaces that have pollen on them. You can even bring the pollen to your dog on your clothes or shoes by accident without even realizing.
Pollen can even come in through the windows, so keeping your dog inside won’t stop the pollen invasion. If it is in season, it will find a way to reach the animal. Your dog can have allergic reactions to pollen through contact with his skin or even when breathed into his lungs. In fact, it is more commonly inhalation that causes allergic reactions in dogs rather than actual skin contact.
Symptoms of a Grass Allergy in Dogs
There are many potential symptoms of a grass allergy in a dog. It can be easy to assume these symptoms are the result of some other trigger or event, and grass may be the last thing you suspect, especially if you don’t even have a yard. However, keep in mind that the fine, powdery pollen spores can travel quite far in the wind, so you may encounter pollens even if you aren’t routinely near grassy areas.
The most common symptoms of a grass allergy is excessive scratching and licking. This may cause redness, a canine skin rash, oozing skin, and watery eyes and nose. Severe reactions may cause an inflammation in a dog’s airway, a condition known as anaphylaxis, which can cause a constriction that will make it difficult for the dog to breathe.
Anaphylaxis is not commonly recorded in dogs due to grass pollen inhalation, however, it is thought to be a possible occurrence. No matter what, if your dog is excessively wheezing, sneezing, and coughing, it could be a sign of a serious reaction and you will need to take your dog in to see your veterinarian or to an animal hospital as soon as possible.
The excessive scratching caused by a grass allergy can, in turn, lead to the dog creating bald spots in his fur or even opening wounds. Unfortunately, this scratching and canine inflammation, redness, and/or baldness and wounds are commonly misdiagnosed for dry skin, chronic dermatitis, fleas, or another cause, when it is actually the grass pollen causing issues.
If you notice that your dog seems fine during the fall and winter but is very itchy and irritated during the spring and summer months, it may point to a grass allergy. The scratching is commonly seen in a dog’s underarms, abdomen, muzzle, eyes, ears, groin, anus, and even paws. Your dog may also have canine diarrhea, hives, and may suddenly begin to snore because of an inflamed sore throat.
Grass allergies can be seen in any species, gender, and age of dog, but is most commonly seen in dogs over the age of three months. Grass allergies are more common in certain breeds, including German Shepherds, Bulldogs, Pugs, Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, Setters, and Irish Terriers.
Diagnosing a Grass Allergy in a Dog
Diagnosing a grass allergy can be a tricky process, and often, a grass allergy is determined by a process of elimination. You should visit your veterinarian immediately if your dog displays any or several of the symptoms listed above to determine the cause. Your vet may prescribe some treatment right away or order a round of allergy testing to give you a conclusive diagnosis.
Often, a grass allergy is misdiagnosed because the pet’s itchiness symptom can be easily mistaken for dry skin, chronic dermatitis, or caused by another common source. However, if you notice that your dog is only itchy during certain seasons, it will help to tell your veterinarian to make a proper diagnosis. If the allergy does appear to be seasonal, a full round of allergy testing will be ordered.
During your dog’s diagnosis, you will need to provide your veterinarian with a full health history of your pup. Your vet will perform a full physical exam to check on your dog’s skin and coat and order lab tests to check for the underlying cause of the allergy.
These lab tests may include a complete blood count, a blood chemistry profile, bacterial and fungal swab, urinalysis, electrolyte level testing, and a fecal examination. Because skin infections are so common, your veterinarian still may not suspect a grass allergy after initial speculation.
This is why observing when your dog seems to be itchy in relation to the seasons is so important. Make sure to also mention any secondary symptoms that are present, including the coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose that is commonly seen in dogs with grass allergies but not related to chronic dermatitis.
Your veterinarian may also conduct a serum allergy test to see if a grass allergy is the cause of your dog’s issues. In this test, your veterinarian will take a blood sample and examine it under a microscope to check for signs of an allergic response. If this test turns out to be positive, your vet will refer you to a pet dermatologist for an intradermal allergy test.
The intradermal allergy test will be done by the dermatologist and will cost a bit more than the other tests. However, this test is considered to be the most accurate procedure for topic allergens in dogs. During this intradermal allergy test, your dog will be sedated, and the dermatologist will shave an area of your dog’s fur, typically on his side. The dermatologist will then inject your dog with a few different allergens and wait to see if your dog exhibits any signs of inflammation or redness. Generally speaking, this process should only take around five minutes.
Treatment of a Grass Allergy in Dogs
There are many treatments available for dogs with grass allergies, including antihistamines, corticosteroids, and topical ointments such as a cortisone cream or gel. A special shampoo may also be prescribed to help decrease the itching. In some cases, your vet may even prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent infection to your dog’s scratching sites.
Treatment generally will first address your dog’s skin to help get it back to normal and reduce the itching. The hypoallergenic shampoo and cortisone cream or gel will be used here to treat the rash and inflammation. The itching should be relieved within a matter of a few days. Keep in mind you will likely have to bathe your dog frequently during allergy season.
Omega-3 (fish oil) and omega-6 fatty acids are common supplements used to help with itchiness and inflammation caused by a grass allergy. Dog foods will often contain these healthy ingredients, but your veterinarian may also prescribe a pill or liquid form to up the levels of these supplements.
In more severe cases, antihistamines, steroids, or allergy shots will be used. Immunotherapy shots are also available which act just like allergy shots for humans. They are generally quite effective but do take a long time to take effect.
Recovery from a Grass Allergy
Depending on the severity of your dog’s allergy, it may take anywhere from a few weeks to 12 months for your dog to show improvement from his grass allergy. Even if immunotherapy, shampoos, and skin creams do not effectively treat and cure the allergies, they should at least make your dog more comfortable and help to prevent a secondary infection caused by the excessive scratching.
When you find a treatment that works, you will have to resume it for the rest of your dog’s life. If you were to stop the treatment, your dog’s symptoms would come back and be much more severe than they were previously.
Preventing Grass Allergies in Dogs
Just like with human children, catching an allergy early and treating it can help to successfully treat the problem before they are well-established in the dog’s system. However, since the outdoors can’t be avoided and pollen can reach your dog even if he doesn’t leave the house, there are certain measures you can take to help lessen the effects.
First, you can make sure your lawn is mowed often so you don’t have long grass, which will carry and produce more pollen. This will help reduce the chance