A dog is sitting in the grass looking up at the sun while experiencing seasonal dog allergies.

Sniffles and Scratches: We Asked a Vet About Seasonal Dog Allergies


Recent Blog:

Does your pup seem to get super itchy at certain times of the year? They may have seasonal dog allergies. This is when they react to something that’s more prevalent during certain times of year. Your dog may have an allergic reaction to pollen, for instance. Or the hot sun (yes, really).

Having an allergy is a lifelong condition, so you’ll need to be committed to the treatment plan your choose for your pup. It’s best to be worded up on what this condition is, for the wellbeing of your best mate and your peace of mind – knowledge is power, after all.

We spoke to Dr Cath Watson, Kiwi vet, Healthy Pets New Zealand Chair and a proud PD contributor, about dog allergic reactions and how to treat them.

What are seasonal allergies?

Red, inflamed skin. Runny eyes, scratching, sneezing. These are just some of the signs that your dog may have an allergic reaction to something. And if it seems to get worse certain times of the year, like spring for instance, it may be a seasonal allergy.

“Seasonal allergies are just that,” says Dr Watson. “They come with various seasons, which usually means that there’s an environmental trigger.”

Here’s a breakdown of what typically causes these dog allergic reactions:

  1. Pollen: During spring and summer, trees, grasses, and weeds release pollen into the air. Dogs can be allergic to these pollens, just like people. They inhale them or get them on their fur and skin when they’re outside, which may lead to a reaction.
  2. Mould spores: Mould allergies can be more common during rainy seasons. Mould grows in damp areas and can be found both outdoors and indoors. Wet conditions in these seasons promote mould growth, leading to higher spore counts in the air.
  3. Dust mites: Although dust mites can be a year-round issue, they can be more problematic in certain seasons, especially as households turn on heating for the first time in autumn or when humidity levels change.
  4. Outdoor fungi: Various types of outdoor fungi, including yeasts and other microscopic fungi, can have seasonal growth patterns, leading to increased exposure during certain times of the year.

PS: If you’re looking for how to deal with your own allergy to cats or dogs, check out Cat and Dog Allergies: Why It Happens and How to Deal!

A small white and brown puppy gnawing at an itchy spot caused by seasonal dog allergies.

Symptoms of seasonal allergies

So, what are signs your dog may have an allergy?

  • Itchy skin: Dogs might scratch, lick, or bite at their skin, leading to redness or sores. Note that skin allergies are number one on our list of top 10 pet insurance claims for dogs.
  • Runny eyes and sneezing: Similar to humans, dogs can have respiratory symptoms from allergies.
  • Ear infections: Allergies can cause their ears to become itchy and inflamed. Read more about dog ear infections.
  • Paw licking or chewing: Your pup may excessively lick or chew their paws if they’re irritated by allergens.

Keep an itch diary

If you suspect your dog has a seasonal allergy, you may want to create an ‘itch dairy’ for them.

“Write down where you’ve been, what you’ve been up to with your dog and try and get a feel for what the triggers might be,” says Dr Watson.

Keep a record of when the allergy season seems to start for your dog and how long it lasts. Mark down if there are certain periods in that time that they’re worse and whether there are certain treatments that seem to work really well.

“Are there changes that you make that seem to stop the allergies?” she says. “Take some photographs as you go so you know what your dog’s skin looks like when it’s really good. That way you can compare when you’re not sure if their skin’s starting to flare up.”

A dog allergic to seasonal dog allergies jumping over a field of greens.


Treatment for seasonal allergies includes medications to control symptoms (like antihistamines or steroids), and sometimes allergy shots.

Here are the main seasonal dog allergy treatment options:

Topical treatments

In some cases, you may be able to manage your pup’s allergens with topical treatments, including medicated shampoos, conditioners, and topical ointments.

These can help relieve itchy and irritated skin. Regular bathing with hypoallergenic or oatmeal-based shampoos can also help remove allergens from your pup’s skin and coat.


“In a lot of cases dogs will need some form of systemic treatment,” says Dr Watson. “That might be as basic as antihistamines or a short courses of steroids.”

Antihistamines like cetirizine, diphenhydramine, and loratadine are commonly used, as they can help reduce itching and other allergic symptoms. It’s important to consult your vet for the correct dosage and to ensure these medications are safe for your dog.

Corticoid creams such as prednisone can be highly effective in controlling severe allergic reactions. However, they’re usually used for short-term relief due to potential side effects with long-term use.

Monoclonal antibodies

Monoclonal antibody treatments are being developed and researched for their effectiveness in treating seasonal allergies in dogs. They work by targeting specific pathways in the immune system to reduce allergic reactions.

The most notable among these treatments is Cytopoint. A vet administers it via injection, and the frequency of injections varies depending on the individual pup’s needs but typically ranges from once every 4 to 8 weeks.


Also known as allergy shots, this treatment involves exposing your dog to small amounts of allergens over time to build tolerance. It’s a more long-term solution that can be effective but requires commitment.

The treatment begins with regular shots, usually every week, that have a bit of the allergen in them. As time goes on, these are given less often. There are also some types of this treatment that can be given as drops under the tongue instead of shots.

        Description: Shetland sheepdog with seasonal dog allergies in tall grass.

Preventative measures

Another big part of helping your dog with their seasonal allergies is through taking certain preventative measures. Seasonal allergies may be a real bummer, but armed with knowledge and a good vet by your side, you can help your pup sail through allergy season with a wagging tail.

Get to know about:

Flea treatments

“Things like fleas are really common in New Zealand, especially in summer, and play a massive role in itchiness in a lot of dogs,” says Dr Watson.

Be sure you’re treating your dog correctly for fleas, especially when they’re out and about. Check out our article on flea treatment in NZ (and ticks too!).


“And then have a look at the bedding. Are you washing it? Are they sleeping somewhere that’s particularly dusty or prone to collecting pollen?” says Dr Watson.

Bedding is a common place where allergens can collect. By regularly cleaning or checking their bedding, you can get rid of the dust, pollen, or even fleas that can make their allergies worse. It’s a simple and vital step that can really help your dog feel better.

Regular bathing and grooming

During allergy season, try to bath or groom your dog more regularly to help wash off the allergens from their fur and skin. Use a gentle, hypoallergenic, or oatmeal-based shampoo to avoid drying out their skin.

Paw cleaning

Another step you can take is to wipe your dog’s paws with a damp cloth after walks, to remove particles. This simple step can significantly reduce the amount of pollen and other allergens they bring into your home.

Air quality control

Using air purifiers in your home to reduce airborne allergens like pollen and dust can also help. If possible, keep your windows closed during high pollen seasons to prevent allergens from entering your home.

Diet and nutrition

Did you know that what your dog eats also plays a role?

“There are specific food allergies that tend to be year round. However, sometimes a food can help lower your dog’s response to seasonal allergies as well,” says Dr Watson.

Certain foods can help boost your dog’s overall immune system and reduce the severity of allergic reactions.

Quercetin, for instance, is often referred to as a natural antihistamine, and can be found in certain foods like apples and broccoli. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish oil, flaxseed oil, and certain types of fish can also be helpful, plus fresh fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, like blueberries, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

A pup scratching due to a dog allergic reaction

Be realistic about seasonal dog allergies!

“Allergies are often lifelong, so once your dog starts showing signs of being itchy in certain seasons it’s likely to continue for life,” says Dr Watson.

Allergies may get better or worse over time. Some will require time and effort on your behalf to manage for your fur kid, others might be very straightforward.

(PS – Read the story of Rebel, a Staffie pup who also struggles with dog allergies.)

Dr Watson says that when it comes to managing seasonal allergies in dogs it’s important to be realistic about what you can and can’t manage.

“Things like being able to handle your dog – can you look in their ears?” she explains. “Can you check their feet? Can you have a look underneath? Are you able to give them a bath if you need to? Can you medicate them?”

You need to be honest with your vet about what you can really do. This way, they can give you advice you can actually follow, and it helps a lot in managing your dog’s seasonal allergies over time.

A young woman gently strokes the soft fur of a golden retriever, who suffers from a dog allergic reaction

Insurance for any season

Did you know you get one or more months of free pet insurance when you sign up online with PD Insurance? Taking out a dog insurance or cat insurance policy means your pet can visit the vet in times of accident, illness or another health emergency, without you needing to worry about the bills.

Plus, depending on the plan you choose, you could even get their allergies checked out and treated. Why not get a quote today?

Share on :