Hay fever in dogs

Can dogs get hay fever? Every time spring comes around, there’s the inevitable rise in the pollen count – and a similar rise in dog hay fever. Hay fever in dogs does indeed exist – but not in the same way it does in humans. While both are caused by an allergy to pollen, the dogs experience hay fever in very different ways, and with very different symptoms.

What is dog hay fever?

Hay fever in dogs is known as atopic dermatitis, or atopy. It’s primarily an allergic reaction to tree, grass or plant pollen, which presents as severely itchy skin. It can also be triggered by house dust or other allergens in the environment. Much like with humans, it’s largely a seasonal issue in spring and summer, but if your dog is particularly sensitive, especially to grass pollen, then it can affect them all year round.

What are the symptoms of hay fever in dogs?

The usual signs that your dog is suffering from atopy include:

  • persistent scratching
  • red or inflamed skin
  • hair loss, and greasy patches of skin in the armpit or belly areas
  • itchy feet
  • recurrent ear infections

If these symptoms persist and your dog’s skin is broken down from scratching too much, they may also suffer bacterial or yeast skin infections.

There may be the odd runny nose or eyes, but if your dog keeps sneezing, that’s not hay fever. Sneezing could instead be indicative of a different irritation, like dust, or something being stuck in the nose or throat.

What are the treatments for hay fever in dogs?

The good news is that there are lots of options to help alleviate the symptoms of hay fever for your dog. When they come in from playing or exercising outside, quickly bathe or wipe them down to remove the pollens that have settled on their coat. If their skin is already irritated, there are medicated shampoos available to help soothe the inflammation.

Preventative measures include keeping your dog indoors as much as possible on high pollen count days, even if they really want to go and play. This brings its own problems, however, as your dog won’t understand why they can’t go out and could cause further behavioural problems. So when you do let them out, ensure you follow some of the treatments mentioned above when you let them back in.

If your dog is particularly sensitive, you can speak to your vet for other treatment options. They may prescribe steroids or antihistamines to control the itch. In some cases, your vet may carry out blood tests to find out which allergens your dog is reactive to and develop an individual vaccination to desensitise them to these allergens. This treatment is known as immunotherapy.

How common is hay fever in dogs?

Certain breeds are more likely to have hay fever for genetic reasons. These include:

  • West Highland terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Pug
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Shih Tzu
  • Golden Retriever
  • Dalmatian
  • Standard Poodle

Around 20% of all itchy skin issues in dogs are caused by atopy alone, with another 20% caused by atopy combined with a food allergy.

Related blog: Allergies in dogs

If your dog does suffer from atopy (or a similar skin condition), we can help by providing a unique recipe that supports skin health and integrity, including ingredients like omega-3 and 6 fatty acids to help reduce dryness and irritation. If you suspect a food allergy might also be involved, we offer a hypoallergenic recipe that removes all of the most common allergens – beef, dairy, soya, egg and wheat. Alternatively, if you know or suspect which ingredients your dog is allergic to, we can create a recipe that leaves them out and uses other nutritious ingredients instead. Find out more.

17 thoughts on “Hay fever in dogs”

  1. I found this really helpful as my dog Jazz is a Jug (Jack Russel/Pug) and sadly suffers with allergies. We aren’t sure which type. However, she takes Apoquel 8mg daily and is currently on a course of Steroids as it’s flared up quite badly the last several months. We even had to give her some antihistamines with the Apoquel before the steroids started. I am concerned though as to how she’ll be after the steroids stop?
    The blood tests are extremely expensive too, £500. She’s 12 and half soon and so insurance has run out as it got so expensive, so I’ll just have to save it up.
    At least I can try bathing her after going out as something to help.

    • That sounds really tough Natasha! My dog suffers with allergies too, and keeping them manageable can be tough. Hopefully the steroids will help Jazz!

    • I have a Yorkshire terrier and has been on a apoquel course, did not helped much,she’s now on steroids sadly, as they affects her kidneys (I was told) I still don’t know what type of allergy she’s got ( dermatologist are expensive and so are blood test, she’s almost 9, any help from you guys would be much appreciated. Her diet is based of fish only(as meats goes) , I am beside myself with vet bills now, please help!! Thank you

      • Hi Rose, allergies can really be a minefield! We’re sorry to hear your pup has been suffering with them recently. A great method to try out is elimination – try a plan that omits a food or group of foods from her diet that you believe might be causing the reaction, you can also try this with environments too (though a little harder to control) try walking solely on dog-friendly beaches, mostly away from grass or trees for a while and see if this helps during the summer months. We’d also recommend consulting your vet for tests 🐾

      • Hey Rose…Apoquel made my dog completely deaf. Try and get your dog off it as soon as possible. I read a lot of bad things about it afterwards. There seems to be a lot of other remedies that should be a lot kinder. The vet warned me of side effects but I was too quick to just accept the course of Apoquel because I wanted to relieve my dogs scratching.

    • Hi I have a jug Ollie also he’s nearly 10. He has suffered from the age of about 1 with allergies. He had the blood tests and the vet said it’s a tree pollen. Which tree I have no idea lol Ollie starts end of March to end of august and also has to have apoquell. The vets are so expensive these days. Sometimes a piriton helps but not all the time sadly. I bath him in an oatmeal shampoo to try help relieve the itch. Such a shame for them.

      • Hi Carole, having a dog allergic to trees is certainly not ideal – especially not knowing which one! However, we’re pleased to hear that his medication is keeping most of his symptoms at bay for now. Why not try a run on a dog-friendly beach more often instead? This way he’s way from those pesky trees and you get a lovely walk by the sea side too 🥰

  2. My staffie constantly bites his paws so much they bleed and he can hardly walk on them, I have taken him to the vets on a few occasions but never got to the bottom of it, the las time we came away with a cone for his head to stop him biting but this is not the cure, Iv changed various food to try and see a difference but nothing, I’m sure it’s allergy related but what I don’t know

    • He might be allergic to something he’s walking on or something around him (washing detergents on blankets for example) – maybe have a chat with another vet to get a second opinion on allergies 🙂

  3. My chihuahua suffers from itchy feet, after taking steroids for 6 weeks she still suffers so the vet recommended Piriton, hakf avtablet a day. Early days but she does seem to be improving.

  4. My dog Olly, who is a Cairn Terrier. He’s 11 years old and has suffered Hay Fever for years. He Takes apoquel, which is on prescription from our vet for this and it works great. Also we’ve found that his food from tails is helping with his general health and weight. He’s a bright funny happy chappie

  5. My dog gets really itchy in Spring and Summer and is biting and scratching.

    I have tried medicated shampoo. regular bathing and ‘over the counter’ antihistamine tablets but she still has the problem.

    Anyone who has any suggestions as to how to help alleviate the symptoms would be very appreciated.

    Thank you.

    • They might need to try a different antihistamine – have a chat with your vet to see what your options are. Dealing with allergies can be really tough!

  6. My Gracie has nibbled her leg so much she’s pulled her fur out on her thigh and along her side, people think she’s had an operation! I bought a collar so she couldn’t reach it and put E45 on it. It is clearing up now but was thinking of getting some piriton for next time it happens!

  7. Our vet told us to use human anti histamines and they do the trick every spring/summer for our Jack Russell.
    Makes a nice change to be given a cheap option from a vet 🙂


Leave a comment