Can dogs be allergic to grass? What to look out for
Wondering if your dog can get hayfever like a human? We answer ‘Can dogs be allergic to grass’ with input from a vet
If you’ve noticed your dog acting strangely when the pollen count is high, you might have wondered, ‘can dogs be allergic to grass?’ In fact, dogs can indeed be allergic to grass – and it’s important for owners to be able to recognize the signs in case their own pup is suffering from an allergy that needs attention. From sore paws to ear infections, a grass allergy can cause wider issues that you might not initially see.
Luckily, there are plenty of things owners can do to help ease problematic symptoms. However, it’s important to note that while switching to the best dog foods for allergies can help dogs that are allergic to something in their food, grass allergies are treated slightly differently.
We sat down with veterinarian Jo Woodnutt to find out what symptoms a dog with a grass allergy might display, what owners can do to help relieve those symptoms, and whether it’s worth a vet visit.
Dr Joanna Woodnutt is a veterinarian who qualified from the University of Nottingham. She then went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. Nowadays, Dr Woodnutt spends most of her working day on the consulting side of things and helping clients understand their pets better especially when it comes to medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition.
Can dogs be allergic to grass and what are the signs?
Jo Woodnutt says that, “Dogs that are allergic to grass often have itchy paws, which might be displayed through them licking their feet more often or ‘chewing their fingernails’. They may also be itchy all over, or have sore-looking skin.” Skin issues are very common with all types of allergies in dogs, so even if your itchy dog doesn’t have a grass allergy, there might be something else in their food or environment that they’re reacting to.
Jo adds that, “Another really common sign of grass allergies is recurrent ear infections, smelly ears, large amounts of earwax, and head shaking. This is because the ear canal is irritated, making it more prone to infections.” If you’re noticing your dog is scratching its ears or shaking its head more than usual, this might be a sign that something is bothering them.
“Anal gland impactions are another common sign of a grass allergy,” Jo adds. While this might sound gross, anal gland impactions can be seriously uncomfortable for your dog – and can even lead to infections if left untreated. If you ever notice your dog scooting along the carpet, or biting or licking the area under their tail, this is a telltale sign that they might have an issue with their anal glands that needs to be investigated.
However, while all of these signs can point towards your dog having a grass allergy, diagnosis is not quite as simple as that. Jo says, “Unfortunately, these signs are also common in other allergies.” If you’re wondering how you can possibly tell what type of allergy your dog has, Jo says that “The only differentiating factor is that dogs that are only allergic to grass are more likely to get symptoms in late spring and early summer – like hay fever sufferers – and otherwise be asymptomatic for much of the year. This does depend on your region though, as well as the exact grasses your dog is allergic to.”
What can you do about dog grass allergies?
If you suspect that your pup is suffering from a grass allergy, you might feel bewildered at what the next steps might be. After all, if a dog is allergic to chicken, then you simply stop feeding them chicken. However, you can’t coop your dog up inside every time the pollen count is high!
Whenever you’re in doubt about something to do with your dog’s health, the best person to consult is your vet. Jo says, “Allergies are uncomfortable and can make dogs miserable, as well as putting them at risk for other conditions like ear and skin infections, so it’s always best to get them seen by a vet.”
Jo adds, “While there’s no treatment for allergies, there are lots of things you and your vet can do to help manage your dog’s allergies. This can involve medication, immunotherapy, changes to your home and habits, and nutritional supplements to help improve your dog’s skin.”
While you might feel convinced that your dog has a grass allergy, it’s useful to try to keep an open mind until you have a definitive diagnosis. Jo says, “It’s important to understand that your dog can have more than one allergy, and your vet will have to rule out some other common allergens before settling on grass.” While getting to the bottom of your dog’s allergy might take some time, being patient will pay off in the long run when your dog is able to live their life without being in discomfort.
Should you see a vet for grass allergies?
Seeing a vet is all very well and good, but we all know that the bills can start to get expensive. We asked Jo whether dog owners necessarily need to see a veterinarian if they think their dog has a grass allergy. After all, there are plenty of allergy testing kits that can be bought online for owners to use instead.
Sadly, Jo says, “Allergen testing can help, but it’s important that this is done by your veterinarian. In recent years, unscrupulous companies have set up, offering to analyze hair samples and saliva samples for allergies. Unfortunately, these tests have no scientific basis, and one study to test their authenticity showed them to be unable to differentiate between real dog hair and fur plucked from a soft toy!”
At the end of the day, your dog’s vet is best placed to ensure they get the best possible care – even if your wallet feels the pinch. Plus, even if you feel certain that your dog has a grass allergy, discussing treatment and management options with your vet is essential before you try any home remedies for dog allergies – even if they sound perfectly harmless. Allergies can be very uncomfortable for our dogs, so you don’t want to waste time with ineffective (or potentially even harmful) remedies when you could consult your vet and get a treatment plan in place as soon as possible.
For more on this, we've compared food vs environmental dog allergies and what to do about them.
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Louise Carey is a freelance writer and the Editor of sister website Top Ten Reviews. She has been working in publishing for seven years, contributing to publications including The Independent, TechRadar, Digital Camera World and more. As the proud pet parent of a reactive border collie with a food allergy, it’s been necessary for Louise to explore a variety of fun and exciting ways to enrich an energetic dog that can’t always go on walks. She’s passionate about sharing the information she’s learned to help other pet owners as well.