Does your dog scratch excessively after spending time outside? Unfortunately, dogs can develop allergies to various things, including grass.
Grass allergies can make your dog uncomfortable and lead to serious medical conditions such as skin infections. Luckily, there are some things you can do to provide your pup some relief and make their outdoor activities more enjoyable.
In this article, I’ll discuss what you need to know about your dog’s allergies and the best grass for dogs with allergies.
How Do I Know if My Dog Has Allergies?
Dogs with allergies experience many of the same symptoms that people do. Many dogs experience itchy eyes and ears, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.
Additionally, allergy symptoms can progress into more severe conditions. Some of the signs you should look for include:
- Red bumps on their stomach and groin area
- Excessive Itch
- Chewing or licking of paws
- Inflamed or painful ears
Not only can these symptoms cause significant discomfort, but they can also have a severe impact on your pet’s long-term health. Some dogs develop secondary bacterial infections due to excessive scratching and licking.
Recurrent ear infections can also cause permanent damage to your dog’s ear canal and affect their hearing.
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s essential to take them to the vet.
What is My Dog Allergic To?
Dogs can develop allergies to various things, including food and environmental factors. When your dog has an allergy, their body mounts an immune response to a specific substance known as an allergen.
Allergens are typically proteins that your pet has previously encountered. In an allergic reaction, the body flags the protein as a potential threat and triggers an overreaction of the immune system.
When it comes to grass, the primary problem is the grass’s pollen. Grasses produce pollen as an essential part of their lifecycle.
The specific proteins of grass pollen vary depending on the species of grass. Additionally, some grasses produce more pollen than others, and the pollen cycle can vary throughout the year.
Best Grass for Dogs with Allergies
When it comes to picking the best grass for dogs with allergies, the key is to look for grasses with low pollen counts. Here are a few grass options you should consider.
• Bermuda Hybrid
Bermuda grass is one of the most popular grasses for lawns. Unfortunately, regular Bermuda grass contains a large amount of pollen and can trigger your pet’s allergies.
Luckily, Bermuda hybrids are available and can be a great option for dogs with allergies.
The most desirable factor of hybrid species is that they contain little to no pollen. This can significantly reduce your pet’s symptoms and make playing in the yard a more enjoyable experience.
Bermuda hybrids produce a dense turf that stands up well to pet traffic.
It’s essential to keep in mind that there are some challenges when planting a hybrid species. In most cases, hybrids produce sterile seed and must be installed using sod or grass plugs.
Ryegrass is a temperate grass that is commonly found in pastures. It comes in a variety of species, including annual, biennial, and perennial grasses.
Perennial ryegrass is commonly used in lawns throughout the United States. Ryegrass is a cool-season grass that thrives in areas where summers are mild and winters aren’t too cold.
Although ryegrass commonly causes allergies, the pollen comes from the flowers that are only found on stalks 2-6 inches high.
Keeping your grass short reduces flowering and the amount of pollen the grass produces.
Fescue is a hardy grass, tolerant of a wide range of climates. In the past, fescue has primarily been used as pasture grass. However, new species have been developed for turf.
Fescue species fall into two major categories: tall fescue, and fine fescue. While there are benefits of both, tall fescue is often best for pets with allergies.
Like ryegrass, tall fescues only flowers when it reaches a certain height. When the grass is mowed regularly and kept below 3-4 inches, you can significantly reduce pollen production.
• Buffalo Grass
Buffalo grass is known for its ability to thrive in areas with very little water. This grass is low maintenance and is a great option if you live in a drought-prone area.
When picking buffalo grass, it’s essential to choose a species that produces only female plants. These species don’t flower and don’t produce pollen.
This will help reduce your pet’s symptoms and keep their allergies at bay.
• St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass is a short, dense grass popular in warm and humid climates. While this grass is heat tolerant, it’s not drought-resistant like some of the other grass options.
However, St. Augustine grass can tolerate salty soil conditions and is an excellent option for people who live near the coast.
Although St. Augustine grass does produce pollen, pollen production is limited and rarely becomes airborne. This makes it easier to reduce your pet’s exposure and control allergy symptoms.
Allergy Diagnosis and Testing
Figuring out your dog’s specific allergy can require some patience. You need to pay close attention to what your dog comes in contact with and when their symptoms occur.
If you think your dog has a grass or environmental allergy, you can also check your local pollen counts. This can help you determine which pollen spikes coincide with your pet’s symptoms.
Depending on your pet’s symptoms, your vet may recommend allergy testing for more conclusive answers about your pet’s specific allergies.
This testing is usually a combination of blood testing and skin testing to identify specific allergens that your pet reacts to.
If your pet has a grass allergy, allergy tests using blood will look at your pet’s exposure to allergens, but does not tell exactly what their allergy may be. For example, a test could come up positive for bahia grass, but it may or may not mean your dog is actually allergic to that type of grass. It may just mean that they were exposed to it.
If allergies are suspected, and numbers are very high, it’s fair to say that whatever species of grass comes up on the test could trigger an allergy. And that’s what is put into immunotherapy for treatment. Intradermal skin testing tends to be a little more accurate.
Allergy testing can be expensive and often requires a veterinary dermatologist. Your veterinarian can provide guidance on the best options for your pet.
Every dog’s allergies are different. Without professional allergy testing, it’s impossible to say with certainty which grasses your dog will have a reaction to and which will leave them symptom-free.
Additional Care for Your Dog’s Grass Allergies
While selecting an allergy-friendly grass is great, there are some additional steps you can take to help your dog’s allergies.
• Reduce Your Pet’s Exposure
When planting any grass, it’s essential to understand the grass’s pollination season and when your pet is most at risk. Reducing your pet’s exposure when pollen counts are high can significantly reduce your pet’s symptoms.
If your pet’s symptoms are severe, you may need to avoid certain grasses altogether. Try to keep your pup on the sidewalk or non-grassy areas when walking outside.
You may also want to consider increasing your dog’s indoor activities when pollen is at its peak.
• Cut the Grass Frequently
Grass pollen usually comes from flower heads found at the top of the grass. Mowing your grass frequently can help reduce these flower heads from developing and reduce pollen levels.
• Pick Up Yard Clippings
While it’s important to cut the grass frequently to reduce the amount of pollen, you also need to remove the clippings from your yard. If clippings are left sitting on top of the grass, it can increase your pet’s likelihood of coming in contact with grass pollen.
• Keep Your Dog Clean
While running around the yard, pollen from the grass can stick to your dog’s hair coat and get lodged between their paw pads.
After your dog plays outside, take a moment to perform a quick cleaning and remove any pollen lurking in their hair. Baby wipes or a damp towel work great for this.
When wiping down your pet, always pay close attention to their paws. Your dog’s paws have the most direct contact with the grass, and it can be tricky to clean between their toes and paw pads.
If your yard has been recently mowed or its peak pollen season, you may want to take some additional precautions.
Bathing your dog once a week can prevent pollen buildup in their coat and provide some extra itch relief.
• Eliminate Pollen From Your Home
In addition to keeping your pup clean, you’ll also need to clean your home frequently. Pollen can be tracked in on your dog’s fur and even on the bottom of your shoes.
Eliminate excess pollen by taking off your shoes when you come inside and cleaning your home regularly.
• Visit Your Veterinarian
In some dogs, allergies can become a serious problem. Even if you’re taking the above precautions, you need to discuss your pet’s condition with your veterinarian. Allergy medication is available for pets and comes in a variety of forms.
Your vet may also be able to provide additional guidance on how to reduce your pet’s exposure.
Summary on Best Grass for Dogs with Allergies
Selecting a low pollen grass can play a significant role in reducing your pet’s allergies. Remember that every dog’s allergies are different, and it may take some patience to find out what works best for your pet.
Additionally, cutting the grass frequently and keeping your pet clean can significantly reduce your pet’s symptoms.
If you have additional questions about your pet’s allergies or would like to discuss allergy testing, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your local vet.
By the way, once you’ve chosen your grass, Dog Endorsed has an article on the best pet friendly weed killer to keep your lawn looking good.