My dog, Tony, a crossbreed, has started to itch and seems uncomfortable after returning from walks. He stratches and bites his body, and shakes his head from side to side. At first I thought it may be ticks or even fleas, but regularly check him over and find no evidence of either.
I have a feeling it may be an allergic reaction, almost like hay fever. Do dogs suffer from hay fever?
I'm desperate to find something to ease his itching - he's scratching so hard on occasions he pulls out his coat, and rubs his face on the floor, which doesn't look right. But I'm loathe to give him any chemical treatments - is there a natural remedy out there for Tony?
Philip Dunlop, by email
Dr John Howie, co-founder of Lintbells, says:
Dogs can indeed suffer from an allergic reaction to pollen and like humans they can be susceptible to hayfever. However, while hay fever in humans brings symptoms of sneezing and runny eyes, a dog is more likely to suffer the reaction to the pollen in its skin.
The signs of discomfort you describe in Tony – itching, shaking his head or rubbing it on the floor as well as pulling at his fur are all consistent with a pollen allergy. Many dogs with such an allergic reaction will show signs much earlier in the year than we see in human hay fever. This is because they are much more sensitive to tree pollen which is about from March, whereas human hay fever often starts in June with grass pollen.
If you are keen to try natural treatments for your dog it is first worth ensuring that his own natural skin defences are working as well as they possibly can. Skin health can be improved by adding Omega 6 and 3 oils to his diet to increase the essential fatty acids which they provide. Yumega Plus will provide the correct balance of these oils and will help calm the irritation and sensitivity in his skin. It will also make it more difficult for the pollen to penetrate the skin, so he would want to scratch less often. One of the natural ingredients in Yumega Plus is fresh salmon oil, which most dogs like and there is also more vitamin E than standard Yumega, to help dogs with sensitive skin.
Do make sure you brush his coat to remove any dirt, debris or trapped pollen and, at peak hay fever times, try wiping his coat with a damp towel after a walk to remove any pollen. Washing his bedding and brushes regularly will also help and, of course, do keep his flea control up to date.