Every September, my Labrador bitch, Nell, itches like mad and then stops in October. Her belly goes red and eventually black, and she’s very uncomfortable. Her ears and feet are fine, but her body is a problem.

Nick Thompson advises…

I’m sorry to hear about Nell’s skin issues, but this is an all too common complaint.

If you suspect she has seasonal allergies because her itching happens at the same time every year, there are a few things you can do. The first is to get along to your vet. They can help you diagnose the problem and treat any secondary bacterial or yeasty infection that often accompanies skin sensitivities. Get them to check for harvest mites, too.

At home, you can prevent Nell’s access to individual plants during the pollen season. If you know what pollens she is allergic to, because she has been vet tested, and those plants are in an area that you can avoid, then this is a good plan. For example, if she is allergic to oak, then avoid the woods when the oak is pollinating. You can find tables online of when all the different grasses and trees/ bushes pollinate, to help you. Too bad if you live in the middle of a grassy area if your pet is allergic to grass pollen!

If the problem is mild, you may be able to hose or wipe her down after walks in her particular pollen season. You can’t do this all year for years and years, but for a month or two, it may save medical treatment. Commercially available wipes are handy but expensive.

I’m seeing some dogs with autumn itching, who I think are allergic to leaf mould; the more they go out in the rotting leaves, the worse they get. Obviously, the best thing for this is to avoid the offending mulch until it rots down.

Sometimes human antihistamines are useful, but they must only be given after speaking to your vet. If you have no joy, your vet has a range of treatments to suppress the itch or the inflammation of this type of allergy.

Homoeopathic remedies, such as mixed pollens 30c, urtica 30c, apis 30c or sulphur 30c, might be useful. They can be given once or twice daily during the itchy period. Certain herbs can be used to reduce inflammation, such as baikal skullcap root, urtica dioica herb, or albizia lebbeck bark, but it’s best to talk to a vet familiar with blending and prescribing herbs.

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