Allergic to Your Dog? – Tips to Control Symptoms

It can be more than a little disappointing for people who love dogs, to discover they are allergic to them. However, it is possible for dogs, and people with allergies, to live successfully together. This Holidays4Dogs article will discuss what causes allergic reactions in people and ways this can be minimised.

The good news is, if you don’t already suffer from an allergic reaction to your dog, the chances are – you never will. In addition, it is perfectly possible to live with dogs or other pets, even if you know you suffer from allergic reactions.

Usually, people decide to get a dog, even if they know they are prone to allergies. In other circumstances, people acquire a dog without realising a member of the family is allergic – quite often – to a child.

The immediate reaction of many people is to re-home the dog thinking the problem will create health issues which they may not be able to tolerate. Pet allergies are the second most important cause of allergy within families. 40% of asthmatic children in the UK are sensitive to dog allergens.

However, re-homing a much-loved pet is a drastic measure that many owners are not prepared to take. Indeed, there are other options to consider before such a decision is reached.

What causes allergies to dogs?

It is important to understand that a person is, not so much allergic to the actual dog, but to substances the dog is releasing into the environment – namely, proteins that the dog secretes through the skin. These include microscopic skin flakes, saliva and urine. It is not dog hair itself that causes an allergic reaction, but the proteins which are carried into the environment.

The trick is to reduce these allergens in the environment.

People with allergies often have an overreactive immune system which causes the body to react to non-harmful substances.

Symptoms will usually manifest themselves in the same way a cold might. Therefore, people with a pet allergy will suffer from a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing.

The severity of symptoms can vary, but it is always worth having a test to find out exactly what is causing allergic symptoms. Not all allergies are caused by pets. Therefore, removing the animal may not be the solution.

However, for those who already suffer from asthma which is exacerbated by pets – particularly when it comes to children –  it is essential to weigh up the consequences.

What about hypoallergenic dogs?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Even hairless dogs are just as capable of shedding allergens into the environment and all dogs will shed allergens, to one degree, or another.

It is possible that long-haired dog breeds may harbour more allergens in their coat than dogs with shorter fur and, as a result, might create more sensitivity in the human individual.

There are a few breeds of dogs which are said to create less sensitivity in people with allergies, but this cannot be guaranteed.

Any breed with a ‘wire’ coat, such as border terriers, or any breed with a ‘curly’ coat, such as poodles, are reputed to be suitable for allergy sufferers.

Double-coated dogs, such as German shepherd dogs can exacerbate allergies. Dogs with a lot of skin such as bulldogs or bloodhounds can as well. More skin means more proteins being shed. Broadly speaking the smaller the dog, the less allergens are shed into the environment.

How to limit pet allergens in the environment. 

Restricting the dog’s access – no dogs in the bedroom.

Hardwood floors are easier to keep clean and will prevent allergens from ‘sticking’ to carpets.

Keep dogs off soft furnishings which will retain a lot of allergens.

Vacuum frequently – preferably with a vacuum designed to pick up pet hair effectively.

Wipe hard surfaces regularly.

Change the dogs bedding frequently.

Avoid very close contact with the dog – avoid ‘kissing’ your dog.

 Brush the dog regularly and preferably outdoors – if possible, have someone who is not allergic to dogs to groom your dog for you.

It is possible that bathing your dog more frequently may help – although this need not involve shampooing the dog. Rinse the dogs coat with water, or, wipe down with a cloth.

Wash your own hands and face frequently during the day.

Room air purifiers equipped with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) can be very effective in reducing dander in the air.

There are products available which will help condition the dog’s skin to reduce allergens.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there is no single answer that works for everyone who suffers from allergies to dogs.

It is worth spending time with a particular breed, before making a decision to purchase a dog. This is particularly crucial if you already know you are allergic to dogs.

Speak to your GP if you suspect you already have allergies or suffer from asthma and you are concerned your dog is causing this – request an allergen test.

For some people, it is not possible to live with a dog around the house. With serious cases of allergic reactions, the consequences of keeping a dog clearly must be taken into account. For others with milder symptoms, a few lifestyle changes may make it possible for allergy sufferers to live happily with their beloved dogs.