Fall Allergies – and Planning Ahead

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My dog Otto (now resting in peace) used to get a flare-up of allergies every spring. His body knew before any human in our area was aware when the first plants in our area started flowering and producing pollen. It would start with mild scratching – a distracted, half-aware scratching of his tummy with a hind paw as he stood and gazed off in the middle distance. But within a week of the first appearance of that behavior, I’d catch him chewing at his flank in earnest, and I would start taking the steps I’d take every year to reduce his exposure to the pollen that started blowing around and covering our cars, lawn, and decks: limiting his time outside, rinsing his feet and ankles with a hose and wiping his coat with a damp microfiber cloth when he came in from his daily constitutional around our property, putting a clean sheet over his dog bed every day, and increasing my vacuuming and mopping the floors in the house.   

I’d also put a note on my wall calendar, indicating when I first noticed him scratching. I stored the old calendars on a shelf for years after each year passed – so I was able to prove that it was always in early March when I first saw Otto starting to react to higher pollen counts. (By the way, a hard-copy calendar that’s dedicated to just your dogs is a GREAT way to keep track of any symptoms your dog may experience throughout the year – and WDJ’s 2024 calendar is dedicated to the memory of Otto. I’m just sayin’. The calendars are available for purchase here.)   

However, spring is not the only season that triggers environmental allergies in dogs. Some dogs are unaffected by tree or grass pollen, but suffer mightily from mold or fungal spores, and it’s these that I suspect my sister’s mostly white wire-coated Jack Russell-mix is affected by each fall. Daisy just started rubbing her itchy body raw, and my sister just asked me if I would make a veterinary appointment for her. (A prescription for Apoquel has been a life-saver for the pink-skinned little dog each fall for the past few years.) The temperatures have been sinking, there is more moisture in the air, and mushrooms and other fungi have started sprouting in the woods – and likely in the shady, irrigated parts of my sister’s yard, too.  

But, judging from the only available appointments I could get at any of the three veterinary hospitals I have relationships with, my sister’s dog is not the only one who suffers from fall allergies; not one of the three has an available, non-emergency appointment within the next month! 

Here’s another use for those calendars: If you know your dog has had the same health problem at the same time of year more than once, make yourself a note on your nextyear’s calendar about a month prior to the anniversary of your dog’s last episode, reminding you to make a veterinary appointment close to the time you might expect another episode. If my sister had a vet appointment scheduled for early September each year, she could avoid having to watch Daisy itch and scratch and rub for a month while waiting for her after-the-fact appointment and administering the usual not-very effective Band-Aids: lots of baths and wipe-downs, Benadryl, topical treatments, and perhaps a cone or cone alternative.  

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