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Seasonal Pet Allergies Flare in the Fall & Spring

Seasonal pet allergies mean cone of shame for many dogs

I took Soldier to see the veterinarian earlier this week because, right on cue, his seasonal pet allergies have flared up. Every spring and fall like clockwork, he begins obsessively scratching himself and rubbing his ears on the carpeting. It takes just a day or two for the angry, red rash to appear on his belly and groin area. Within that same amount of time, Soldier usually starts chewing his feet, often until they are raw and bloodied. This morning his back left foot was a mass of raw skin and his belly was speckled with what looked like heat rash. So I called the vet and they got him in. On the drive to the animal hospital, I noticed another unpleasant sign of Soldier’s seasonal allergies – he was beginning to stink. When his skin is inflamed, it begins to have a weird, greasy odor. Yea, I know. Ick.

Using a Prescription Drug for Seasonal Pet Allergies

Fortunately, Soldier’s allergies were diagnosed several years ago and most years he doesn’t have a problem because he is treated seasonally (spring and fall) when his symptoms flair up. I know that the use of Apoquel (r) for pets is controversial, but I can only base my decisions on my experiences. I had tried many natural remedies over the years and never got his atopic dermatitis under control. Apoquel, on the other hand, quickly gets rid of the itching, the rash and the weird odor. Soldier has never had a side effect from this medication and his relief is palpable when he stops scratching and his skin can heal. To hasten the healing of his hot spots, we also apply a topical steroid cream, which reduces the inflammation and reduces the itching.

Signs of Seasonal Skin Allergies in Pets

There are a variety of allergy symptoms that dogs can develop, including upper respiratory responses such as sneezing and watery eyes. Soldier has skin allergies rather than respiratory allergies. Some of the signs of seasonal skin allergies include:

  • Excessive scratching, especially if your dog scratches more after being outside (pollen is often the culprit)
  • Red, irritated skin that may be inflamed – check areas like the belly and between the toes
  • Hot spots – red, raw patches where your dog has chewed away the fur and irritated the rash so that it won’t heal
  • Excessive licking or chewing, especially of his belly or feet
  • Repeatedly rubbing his face against the carpet or other surfaces to try to scratch the itch
  • A greasy feel to the fur and skin in the areas where a rash has spread over the skin
  • An odd odor that may indicate a secondary infection as a result of the allergies. This often shows up in the ears of an affected pet.

Other Treatments for Seasonal Pet Allergies

If your dog has any of the symptoms listed above, a trip to your veterinarian is in order. The vet may want to perform allergy tests to see what your dog is allergic to. If it’s something environmental that can be eliminated or reduced in your dog’s environment, you may be able to get rid of the allergens and the allergy. There are also a multitude of healthy, holistic treatments that can work on seasonal pet allergies, but I’ll discuss those at a later date. If your dog’s allergies are too general (he’s allergic to tree pollens, for example) to treat in a preventative sense, an allergy medication like Apoquel (r) may be a good choice for you and your dog.

Preventing Skin Infections from Seasonal Allergies

Regardless of whether your dog’s seasonal allergies are treated holistically, with OTC medications or with prescription anti-allergens, the important thing is to keep him comfortable and prevent secondary skin infections. Periodic oatmeal baths are very soothing to the skin, as are any number of anti-itch shampoos and salves designed specifically to calm the irritation. Be careful when you apply these, however; if your dog chews at those areas a lot, you’ll need to outfit him with a “cone of shame” or have him wear a shirt to cover areas he might chew on. You don’t want him to ingest too much of the topical treatment. In most cases, seasonal pet allergies only last a few weeks to two months at a time. During those times, however, you can greatly reduce your dog’s discomfort by beginning treatment immediately.

(BTW, that’s Soldier looking terribly sad in his cone of shame in the photo above. He’s staring at me with a forlorn, betrayed expression that says everything I need to know about his feelings regarding the cone. He doesn’t know that I hate having to put it on him almost as much as he hates wearing it.)


  1. Tenacious Little Terrier

    September 13, 2017 7:04 pm

    Recently we had the same issue with allergies! Although Mr. N’s isn’t seasonal. Usually his aren’t that bad but this time it flared up strongly. The vet prescribed Apoquel for two weeks (which he hadn’t tried before) but it solved the problem and he didn’t have any side effects.

  2. Monika

    September 13, 2017 7:41 pm

    Oh poor Soldier , I hope he gets better soon. Fortunately, my pets don’t have any allergies but they tend to pick up fleas on summer.

    • Lori

      September 13, 2017 7:58 pm

      Thank you! He’s actually kind of working the whole sympathy thing with my mom. She’s giving him extra treats and fussing over him, which means he doesn’t mind working the cone thing as much.

  3. Dear Mishu

    September 13, 2017 8:46 pm

    I get an itchy face, but my vet said it wasn’t bad enough to warrant taking a daily medication — I just rub a bit but don’t scratch myself raw or too much. I’m sorry to hear so many pets have bad seasonal allergies!

  4. Kate

    September 13, 2017 9:21 pm

    Great article on seasonal allergies. I agree, Apoquel can have side effects, but the vast majority of my patients do wonderful on it. Cytopoint is another new medication that is out that is helping many of my patients beat the seasonal allergies. Good luck with Soldier. Hope he can get out of his cone soon!

  5. Alix Mitchell

    September 13, 2017 10:30 pm

    Buster is a Pug mix, so he was basically bred to be allergic to everything, and he is. The end of July – end of September is by far his worst allergy season. I have been lucky to get his allergies primarily under control with Chinese herbs and a natural topical spray on his abdomen and feet daily, thankfully. I’m glad you at least found something that works for Soldier. Allergies are no fun!

  6. Lola The Rescued Cat

    September 13, 2017 10:41 pm

    Lola has been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis, but I’m questioning whether or not she has allergies. Now that fall is arriving she seems a little stuffier. I’m going to speak to my vet about it next time she goes.

  7. Clare Reece-Glore

    September 13, 2017 11:22 pm

    My Andy’s allergies definitely flare up in the fall. Andy is able to wear the padded collar “cone of shame”. Have you tried that type for Soldier?Thanks for the good info.

    • Lori

      September 20, 2017 10:21 pm

      I haven’t tried the padded collar alternative to the cone of shame, but it looks like it would be a better alternative. I’ll ask the vet about it next time we see him.

  8. Ruth Epstein

    September 13, 2017 11:52 pm

    Awwwww poor Soldier, Layla has environmental allergies and I broke down a couple of weeks ago and got her some apoquel, I hate medications but it was getting to the point where she was hopping from all the scratching so I spoke to my vet and we decided to give it to her to ease it. I was getting worried about her leg and back etc from it all. What I like about this medication is that it is not a steroid although as the vet knows I hate medications all together.

    Sending Solder a big hug and hope he feels better soon.

  9. Sandy Kubillus

    September 14, 2017 12:44 am

    I’m glad you were able to help Soldier out with medications. As pet parents, we often try so many things to help them with changes of food, habitat (if possible), and natural treatments. But sometimes medication is the best solution. Fortunately, I have never had a dog with allergies. My sister gave me her old cocker when she moved and she had thought he was allergic to grass, but he had no problems at my house. Maybe it was a change of food and households.

    • Lori

      September 14, 2017 2:24 pm

      Glad to hear that the change in food and households help your senior cocker spaniel. It’s always best to try environmental and holistic changes before prescriptions, but there are times when medication can be a game changer.

  10. The Daily Pip

    September 14, 2017 12:49 am

    Ruby just started getting seasonal allergies within the last year or so. We haven’t tried Apoquel, but are definitely curious. Glad to know it worked so well for Soldier!

    • Lori

      September 14, 2017 2:19 pm

      I hope things go well for Ruby and her allergies. If they get worse over time they can really be aggravating for both dogs and pet parents.

  11. Happy-Go-Doodle

    September 14, 2017 2:19 am

    Those eyes! Soldier, you would have me wrapped around your little paw. I’m happy to hear you’re feeling better.

    Thanks for sharing such a comprehensive list of seasonal allergy signs. While Chloe doesn’t have seasonal allergies, it’s good to know what to watch for.

    • Lori

      September 14, 2017 2:22 pm

      Soldier wants me to assure you that he almost always has me wrapped around his paw, and I can’t disagree with him. He seems to be able to make his eyes look larger and more pathetic every time he wants his way on something. I melt pretty quickly when he uses those eyes!

  12. Dash Kitten Crew

    September 14, 2017 4:22 am

    Our cats face fleas more than allergies but during the spring they have sneezing fits which we suspect is hay fever!

  13. Heather Wallace

    September 14, 2017 1:05 pm

    We know all about skin allergies in this house, although it’s usually my girls. Gonzo used to have itchy eyes and rub them pretty bald until we started him on a mix of homemade and supplements with his kibble. It sounds like Soldier has a pretty tough case. Glad you found something that helps him!

  14. Dolly the Doxie

    September 14, 2017 3:49 pm

    I’m glad to hear that you use Apoquel and that it works for Soldier. I’ve been writing about Apoquel since it came on the market and everyone got so mad because no one could get it. Dolly’s been diagnosed with allergies to just about everything outdoors, we finally started using it last year and she does well on it too. I’ve talked with an expert on the drug and have been assured that there is a long-term study and it is proven safe. I waited too late for Dolly this year trying to save money using OTC but gave up when you know they are suffering. She’ll be on it until the ground freezes. Sandra and Dolly

    • Lori

      September 14, 2017 4:01 pm

      Apoquel has really improved Soldier’s quality of life. I’m glad that it works well for Dolly without side effects. I’ve tried the OTC route myself, but in the spring and fall, I usually start Soldier back on the Apoquel as soon as the pollen count goes up to try and keep the chewing and scratching at bay.

  15. kelly

    September 14, 2017 4:37 pm

    UGH! Allergy season, I know about it very well! I tend to find many with pets that begin to itch, and scratch think they are dealing with food allergies, when in fact it’s seasonal allergies they are dealing with. Each Fall, when the leaves start to mold, and the pine needles start falling in my garden, my dog starts to chew her feet and scratch. I bath her regularly to help with the symptoms, but recently started giving her Apoquel and it works great for her without the side effects of some of the other medications out there. Great post!

    • Lori

      September 14, 2017 6:10 pm

      Thanks, Kelly! I’m the same way – but it’s when I see the goldenrod start to bloom that start worrying about Soldier. I keep a package of baby wipes next to the front door so that I can quickly wipe his feet off when he comes into the house after a walk outside. They are mild enough to use every day. Soldier sends kisses for Miss Edie (I think he has a bit of a crush on her).

  16. Dorothy "FiveSibesMom"

    September 14, 2017 7:50 pm

    Great article on those darn seasonal allergies! While I suffer from them (ugh), thankfully, my Huskies do not. I sure hope Soldier continues to feel better soon and is out of his cone soon! Awww…his cone of shame pic makes me want to give him a big ol’ hug! I’m sharing this on my Pinterest “Bark About” board!

    • Lori

      September 19, 2017 12:38 am

      I’m sure Soldier would love to have a few hugs from you, Dorothy. He’s been really down in the dumps about the cone of shame. Fortunately, the itching and chewing have stopped and his skin is healing quickly. Thanks for sharing on your “Bark About” board. You have so many helpful pins and I really enjoy your boards.

  17. Beth

    September 19, 2017 1:50 pm

    My Maltese suffers from both seasonal and food allergies. We can control the food allergies easily, but she has been miserable the last few weeks. I’ve been giving her Benadryl, but I’ll ask my vet about something else. In the past, the vet gave Nelly a dose of cortisone.

  18. CS

    September 20, 2017 1:25 pm

    He’s o.k NOW…the long term effects of APOQUEL are horrendous. Why would you want to slowly poison your dog? At least use Cytopoint once or twice not a month by month plan of ruining your dog’s health. There are so many natural ways to help your dog’s allergies….I’ve done them!
    Of course your Vet wants you to use it….$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    • Lori

      September 20, 2017 9:59 pm

      We are monitoring Soldier with regular blood and liver tests and will stop use if there are problems. We also use it only for a month or so in the spring and the fall, when Soldier is most miserable. We have tried a multitude of alternative and holistic remedies, none of which were helpful. Please remember the goal of this website: “…to provide several elements in one website that will inform, entertain and support pet owners without being intimidating or judgmental.” You are entitled to your opinion, but accusing others of poisoning their pets and insinuating that they haven’t done their due diligence is unacceptable. On this website, you can express your opinion, offer alternatives and support others. You cannot make this site a platform for criticizing other pet parents or trying to condemn the veterinary profession. Please keep this in mind with future posts.

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