We seem to have lurched from late summer into deepest winter over the last couple of weeks.

With the sudden drop in temperatures and the recent wind and rain, it feels as though all the leaves have fallen off the trees within a matter of a few days.

While initially rustling and crispy, the unrelenting rain has turned the piles of leaves into a damp, soggy mess which can make pavements slippery and treacherous.

In addition to the slip hazard, the soggy decomposing leaves can harbour another potential hazard for our pets…leaf moulds and fungi.

As the leaves decompose, moulds and fungi multiply and release spores and it is these spores that cause the allergic reactions in people. Spores are microscopic particles released by moulds in their millions into the atmosphere. Spores contact skin and nasal and bronchial membranes, causing symptoms such as rhinitis, itchy eyes and, especially in dogs, skin irritation.

Unfortunately, some dogs are extremely allergy prone and lots of dogs suffer from allergies resulting from exposure to pollens through the summer months. For many of those dogs, just as the pollen exposure drops at this time of the year, it is replaced by exposure to moulds and fungi. Sometimes, the extent of the reaction to the moulds and fungi can be even more severe than the pollens so the severity of the skin irritation becomes worse at this time of the year.

Limiting the exposure to moulds and fungi is an obvious aid to controlling signs in these dogs. Raking up leaves in your garden and avoiding walks where the leaves collect will certainly help. Rinsing the feet, legs and underside after woodland walks is also helpful for many.

In dogs who become very sensitised, even low-level exposure can trigger problems so we often need to look towards medication to control the signs. Some medications dampen down the immune system and therefor reduce the reaction, some switch off the itching mechanism and some improve the skin’s natural barrier preventing the allergy causing spores from penetrating the skin.

Obviously, there are many potential causes of a skin irritation so, as ever, if you notice your dog scratching excessively you should seek Veterinary advice.