Ragweed Allergies in Dogs
Veterinarian Reviewed on September 6, 2012 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
It is late summer and the living is easy except for those pets with ragweed allergy. If you do not have ragweed in your area, you are fortunate indeed. In Southwestern Ontario, Canada where I live we not only have ragweed, we have giant ragweed! These weeds grow up to 10 feet tall and are enormous, with enormous amounts of pollen. Dogs that have ragweed allergies are generally fine all summer until the end of August when they suddenly start chewing their feet, sneezing, coughing and itching like crazy. These symptoms look the same as any other allergic symptom in dogs, but the very short seasonality of the problem is the clue. Schnauzers, Irish setter and Terriers seem particularly prone to ragweed allergy.
So what do you do? First of all pull out or chop down any ragweed on your property. This might not seem important but if everyone did it there would be less ragweed.
The conventional treatment for ragweed allergies is antihistamines and corticosteroids. The combination of these two medications allows for a lower dose, particularly of the steroid. When combined with Omega 3 fatty acids, most dogs will improve significantly.
Because the pollen is absorbed through the skin, shampooing the dog, particularly the feet makes the dog less itchy. There are some good new products that contain Phytosphingosine Salicyloyl, a skin barrier repair molecule and these products can be applied as a spray or shampoo. Soaking your dog’s feet in cooled black tea for 5 minutes after he comes in, will help significantly.
Allergy “shots”( hyposensitization) have been used for a number of years in humans with ragweed allergies. These shots are also available for dogs. Use of this, in effect, reprograms the immune system to not react to the offending pollen. Many dogs who get these shots have allergies to other weeds and grasses and are itchy year round. These shots do seem to be effective for some dogs, but have a down side–you are tinkering with the immune system and, it is expensive to have the dog diagnosed and treated. However, for some dogs it is a life saver.
Complementary therapies for ragweed allergies include food therapy with natural anti-inflammatory foods, acupuncture, Western herbal therapy ( with ragweed and nettles tincture), and combination Chinese herbs. Pet Wellbeing has an herbal allergy remedy called Nettle-Eyebright Gold which can help with itching.
Your pet does not have to suffer with ragweed allergies. There are plenty of options to treat this problem.
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan