Fleas and certain foods aren’t the only things that can give your dog allergies. Indoor and outdoor household allergens, found in everything from cleaning products to lawn fertilizers, may also be to blame.
Your dog seems to be scratching more than usual. Chances are, he’s allergic to something. Fleas or a certain food in his diet might be the first things you might think of, but both indoor and outdoor environments harbor potential household allergens that could be irritating your dog’s skin (or his respiratory system). Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of canine allergies, and what to do about them.
Inside the home
Your household cleaning products may be the source of your dog’s itchiness. Laundry soap, softeners and dryer sheet ingredients can cause skin, eye or breathing irritations in dogs. Commercial floor cleaners leave a residue on your floors, so when your dog licks his paws, he ingests it. Cleaning solutions with bleach can irritate a dog’s skin and eyes.
What to do: Switch to natural cleaning products, or make your own from simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and high quality essential oils – the internet abounds with recipes for natural household cleaners.
Home fragrances and sprays
Scented candles, air fresheners and perfumes are also potential allergens. Because a dog has a very keen sense of smell, these fragrances can cause a strong reaction. Symptoms your dog is allergic to commercial scents can include sneezing, biting, redness, itching and/or wheezing. Your dog may also have an allergic reaction to scented body products, such as shampoos, soaps and lotions.
What to do: Nix the scented air fresheners and synthetic perfumes and look for natural soaps and shampoos, especially for your dog. Buy unscented beeswax or soy-based candles.
Tip: Run an air purifier in the room where your dog hangs out most.
You don’t have to give all your houseplants, but here are a few that may cause an allergic reaction in your dog, according to 1st Pet Veterinary Centers:
What to do: Choose only animal-safe houseplants such as spider plants, Boston ferns, wax plants or African violets. It’s also a good idea to keep your houseplants out of your dog’s reach.
Cigarette or cigar smoke
Many people don’t realize that cigarette or cigar smoke can lead to allergies and other health problems in their dogs. Red or inflamed skin, scratching or sneezing are common symptoms in dogs reacting to cigarette or cigar smoke. Studies show that dogs exposed to secondhand smoke are also at risk for developing cancer, while ingesting a cigarette can cause behavior changes, seizures or even death.
What to do: Smoke outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in your house. They feed off dead skin cells found in carpets, upholstered furniture and mattresses. They also live in your dog’s bedding and cloth toys. Symptoms of dust mite allergies in dogs include:
- Hair loss
- Scratching (often around the tail, eyes or under the legs)
- Constant licking
- Dry cracked skin
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
What to do: You can’t eliminate all dust mites, but regularly vacuuming and cleaning carpets and upholstery, as well as laundering chair and bed covers, will help.
Carpeting and fabrics
Some dogs develop allergies to certain household fabrics and floor coverings, and/or the flame retardants and other chemicals used in their manufacture. Even some natural fabrics, like wool, can cause itching (just as it does in some humans!).
What to do: Purchase hypoallergenic fabrics and floor coverings if you can. At the very least, buy hypoallergenic bedding for your dog and wash it frequently. Avoid wool if it makes your dog itch.
In the yard and garden
Outdoor exercise is a necessity for your dog, but your backyard and garden can also host some allergens.
Some dogs develop allergies to garden plants, landscaping shrubs and trees, and/or the pollen they release. Keep the following out of your yard and garden:
- Juniper shrubs (male shrubs have a lot of pollen that can cause allergies in dogs)
- Mulberry trees
- Oak trees
- Oleander (dogs can have a strong allergic reaction if they touch or eat this plant)
- Bottle brush
- Bermuda grass
What to do: Landscape with safe non-allergenic plants such as roses, sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, snapdragons or asters.
Most commercial fertilizers are dangerous to dogs. Aside from causing possible allergic reactions, they contain ingredients like phosphorus and potassium, which can cause stomach problems or worse if ingested.
What to do: Avoid using commercial fertilizers on your grass. Consider growing clover, a nitrogen-fixing plant that will enrich the soil.
Pesticides and herbicides
These chemicals are also hazardous to your dog, and can cause respiratory or skin flare-ups, as well as serious illness if ingested. Cancer can result from long-term exposure.
What to do: Look for more natural products, or make your own. A mixture of soap and water, with a few drops of a neem or citrus essential oil, can be poured into a spray bottle and applied to plants to keep many bugs at bay.
Tip: Washing your dog’s feet after a walk removes any allergens she might have picked up outside.
Some dogs love the smell of mulch and may even snack on it. This is especially a problem with cocoa mulch, which contains theobromine, a natural chemical that’s toxic to dogs. Pine and cedar mulches are less risky, but some dogs may still have an allergic reaction to them.
What to do: Avoid cocoa mulch. Try another type, and watch for any reactions in your dog after he comes in contact with it. If he seems to be allergic to mulch in general, stop buying it or use grass clippings instead.
It might come as a surprise, but some dogs may be allergic to grass. Often, when the dog is younger, there are few symptoms, but as he ages, his intolerance increases. Grass allergy symptoms include watery eyes and nose, and itchy skin.
What to do: Keep the lawn mown so the grass doesn’t grow high enough to flower or go to seed. You can also create or set aside a separate spot for your dog to play in that doesn’t have a lot of grass. Artificial turf may be an option, although a few dogs have been known to develop allergies to this too.
If your dog is showing signs of an allergic reaction to something, the first step is always to see your veterinarian, who can help you narrow down the cause. Once you know the culprit, it becomes much easier to deal with the problem!