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Autumnal Allergies

"Moss" and "Fern"

I love the beautiful, colourful, Autumn season, and the crisp air and walks in the surrounding woods. Our Collies “Moss” and “Fern” also love the Autumn too and chasing each other through piles of leaves.  

However, they both have had itchy, watery eyes throughout this Autumn season so far. Bathing their eyes with tepid water compresses twice a day has helped a little. However, our wee” Moss” has had a secondary conjunctivitis, so he did have to have some eye ointment applied to clear this up.  

The autumn heavy leaf and tree fall with leaves and seeds flying around can cause eye irritations at this time of year, due to contact allergies to leaf and tree pollens.  

The damp wet autumn days and heavy leaf fall can also cause and exacerbate allergic skin conditions. So, keep a regular check on your pet’s skin and bathe their skin checking their ears, eyes, legs, paws, and abdomen for any signs of inflamed skin or rashes. 

Dogs can succumb to seasonal skin problems due to skin allergies due to an underlying "atopic dermatitis" and the Autumn season with the heavy leaf fall can cause a lot of allergy flare ups. 

Atopic dermatitis can be a debilitating skin condition triggered by a specific allergen sensitivity. There are an enormous number of potential allergens that a cat or dog can be exposed and allergic to, and each pet can be reactive to multiple allergens, so establishing the cause of the skin reaction can be extremely difficult. Skin allergies are one of the most common causes of itchy skin in dogs.  

Allergens surround us and our dogs all year round so they difficult to avoid. With the summer at an end, and the weather cooling down many of you will be hoping that your pets will be finally getting that break from those spring and summer pollen allergens. As the weather cools, we see a break in the summer grass and flower pollen load, however, the leaf, tree and weed pollen count still stays high throughout the autumn months. As tree foliage, leaves and flowers begin to fall, and the autumn winds pick up, the tree, leaf and weed pollens start flying.  As these tree pollens increase, so does the incidence of atopic dermatitis in our allergic pets. In the autumn months it is suspected that many of these animals are allergic to leaf moulds. Mould spores are everywhere and at all times of the year. However, they reach their peak in the wet autumn weather. When the leaves fall from the trees in large numbers they then start to decompose, the number of leaf mould organisms then multiply many folds, and these leaf moulds are a source of great sensitivity for our allergic pets. The mould spores are microscopic particles that are released into the atmosphere causing allergic symptoms. Mushroom spores can also be the cause of allergies. 

Skin sensitivities are usually seen in younger dogs under the age of three. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include itchy skin, inflamed skin, hair loss, and repeat skin and ear infections. Allergies can cause itchy, inflamed eyes, and also runny eyes and noses. Affected dogs and cats will constantly scratch themselves vigorously, and sometimes self-inflicted scratched skin lesions can then become infected and cause a secondary skin infection called a skin “pyoderma.”  Dogs often will exhibit signs of allergy with a rash and itching on their muzzle and eyes, underside of their tummy, under their fore limbs, in their groin and on the inside of their thighs and on all their paws.  Occasionally, these rashes can extend to their neck, back, and head and ears as well. Affected dogs and cats will often scratch or lick incessantly and they can become very uncomfortable and miserable.  The self-trauma from this vigorous, constant scratching often can cause more problems than the initial allergy symptoms.  

Depending on the severity and frequency of the symptoms, these allergies can be treated symptomatically: Meaning that the allergic flare-ups, and secondary skin infections, can be treated with medications to settle down the itch and infection, along with regular bathing with a dog-safe sensitive, medicated skin shampoo, topical skin products and with oral skin supplements containing Omega 3 fatty acids. Antihistamines, though not always effective in controlling all the allergic symptoms, may help a little. Prescription anti-inflammatory medications may be required to reduce itching and skin inflammation, and antibiotic treatment may be required if the skin becomes secondarily infected.  


If your pet continues to succumb to recurrent seasonal skin allergies your Vet may advise on further allergy testing to provide more information on the specific allergens causing the problem, or in severe cases refer your pet on to a consultant Veterinary Dermatologist.  Rather than symptomatic treatments, a longer-term solution for chronic cases may be to build up a pet’s own immune system specifically against the offending seasonal allergens. This process requires intradermal skin tests and blood tests for specific allergy testing, then based on those results immunotherapy treatments are given to desensitize the patient to these allergens. This is done via regular repeated Immunotherapy injections to build up their immunity specifically to the agents that patient is sensitive to.  

Avoiding exposure to an allergen is always the best way to control an allergy, so, if possible, try to avoid your pet having any prolonged contact with rotting piles of leaves in the Autumn months. Also, you can wipe your pet down well after walks in the woods with his own flannel and plain tepid water, rinsing off his paws and cleaning eyes, ears, and muzzle to reduce and clean off some of the allergens on their skin.  

Allergies are often seasonal and can be particularly noted in the Autumn. It looks like our twosome “Moss” and “Fern” may have a mild seasonal allergy to leaf moulds, causing them to have itchy eyes. Hopefully, with careful management we can keep this under control.  

If you are concerned about your own dog’s skin or allergy symptoms, do contact your Vet clinic for an appointment and good professional advice. 

Alison Laurie-Chalmers,  

Senior Consultant,  

Crown Vets. 

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