How to Help Your Pet's Autumn Allergies

It's Fall and there's something invigorating about a brisk walk in the crisp air with your dog, both of you kicking up the falling leaves, taking a brief run for a block or two, letting your buddy stop and use his sniffer to catch up on the neighborhood news. But by the time you get home you're sneezing and wheezing -- you didn't think you were in that bad a shape -- and Buddy's eyes are watery and he's pawing at his nose in between plopping down to scratch his ears.

Autumn allergies can affect your dog as easily as they do you. More so, sometimes. After all, he's right down there close to all the leaf mold, the mildew, the ragweed pollen, all those things that can make both of you miserable on even the most stupefyingly brilliant blue sky afternoon.

There are serious treatments for your dog's allergy symptoms, but those tend to have acute side effects and should be remedies of last resort, particularly the steroids, like prednisone. The immediate relief is dramatic, but the long term effects have the potential to be tragic. If your veterinarian prescribes a regimen of steroids for your dog, educate yourself so that you can ask questions and intelligently monitor your dog's treatment. Remember, remedies of last resort!

If your dog only has seasonal allergies, you have a good chance at being able to control them and give him relief through safe and simple methods, perhaps even as simple as brushing him thoroughly after being outside to remove most of the pollens and spores that are causing the problems and wiping his face and inside his ears with a clean cloth and warm water. Giving him more frequent baths with a soothing shampoo, perhaps an oatmeal based product, being sure to rinse very well might be all that's necessary to keep allergic reactions at bay until the itchies are gone for the year. There's nothing wrong with simple avoidance, either. Pollens are worse in the morning hours, usually between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Avoid unmowed grass and tall weeds and take advantage of walks after a rain when everything is plastered down to the ground instead of flying around.

Some herbs are worth a try. Burdock, dandelion and yellow dock are all safe for most dogs (provided yours doesn't have an allergy to them) and are effective for removing toxins -- including pollens and molds -- from the blood and filtering organs, relieving the overload on the system so that the body can better ignore the allergic triggers. Antioxidants also remove toxins from the system, and probiotics help regulate the beneficial flora in the intestines so it can do its job and kill off any unfriendly yeast growing where it shouldn't. Systemic yeast will often manifest as allergies, and even a low grade yeast infection can set the body up to be susceptible to allergens that normally would have little or no effect.

An old timer's remedy that works well for many people and their dogs is to find a local source for raw honey. Try a farmers' market or check to see if there aren't some apiaries nearby. You want honey produced within a 50 mile radius -- but the closer the better.

The object is to gradually desensitize yourself and your dog to the local pollens. Try eating a tablespoon a day yourself and gauge how much to give your dog accordingly. It's also full of vitamins and other nutrients -- good for man and beast. The only care that needs to be taken is to avoid giving it to puppies and babies. There's a bacterium in raw honey that, while our bodies pay no attention to it, young ones haven't had enough gradual exposure to build up immunity yet.

Plenty of fresh water helps, too, flushing out the system as often as possible.

Severe allergic reactions should always be dealt with swiftly. Keep Benadryl in your first aid kit and ask your vet how much to give your dog. Write it down and tape the dosage information to the inside of the kit so you won't have any doubts when you absolutely, positively have to do something fast.

Remember, too, that sometimes an itch is just an itch and all you need to do is scratch it.

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