Discovering you’re allergic to your dog is upsetting, but there’s no need to fret—dog allergies don’t have to undermine good times with your best friend. Unless the reaction is severe, you can take steps to make living with your beloved canine more comfortable. Here’s how to manage allergic reactions to your dog.
How to Manage a Dog Dander Allergy
Designate Dog-Free Rooms
Don’t allow your dog full access to the house if someone suffers from allergies. Choose a handful of rooms where your dog can spend most of his indoor time, and make sure he stays there. This isn’t a banishment—select rooms where the family spends time during the day so your dog gets plenty of love and interaction. The kitchen and living room or family room are good options.
Using dog gates instead of closed doors lets your dog see what’s happening around the house so he doesn’t develop < a href="https://www.orvis.com/separation-anxiety-in-dogs" target="_blank">separation anxiety or resort to destructive behaviors to draw attention.
It’s particularly important that the bedroom of the allergic family member remains a dog-free zone. People with mild allergies benefit when exposed to fewer allergens during the overnight hours.
Use Furniture Protectors
Keep your dog’s favorite hangouts covered with dog furniture protectors or throw blankets to prevent the buildup of pet dander on your couches and armchairs, and toss them into the wash regularly to clear them of dander. For the best results, be firm and consistent so your dog knows the covered couches and chairs are his only options. Basic obedience training techniques, such as offering his favorite dog treats when he jumps onto his section of the couch, can establish this habit.
Contain Pet Dander
In addition to using furniture coverings, localize pet dander by crate training your dog and giving him a dog bed. The crate serves as a comfortable den where he can spend a little ‘alone’ time, while the dog bed gives him a soft, warm spot to rest. Most importantly, both are easy to clean. You can hose the crate down and wash any crate padding or fabric dog toys he keeps inside, and dog beds come with a removable covering you can toss into the wash.
Frequent cleaning is a must to minimize pet dander throughout the house. Regularly vacuum the rugs, furniture, and curtains in the room where your dog spends most of his time. Wash hardwood floors regularly, using a wet mop rather than a broom, which can send pet dander airborne. Dusting is also important, once again using a cleaning tool that traps dust and dander instead of moving it around.
Give Your Dog Frequent Baths
Bathing your dog won’t eliminate dander, but a weekly bath will reduce the amount of danger clinging to your dog’s fur.
Use HEPA Air Filters
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters also help reduce pet dander in your home. HEPA filters are available for air-conditioning and heating vents, air purifiers, and vacuum cleaners.
For the Allergy Sufferer:
The person with dog allergies should adopt these habits to reduce reactions:
- Leave the cleaning and dog bathing to those without allergies.
- Wash your hands after every play session with your dog.
- Designate clothes just for snuggling and playing with your dog and wash them often.
- Keep rambunctious play outside so the extra dander stirred up stays outdoors.
Symptoms of Dog Allergies in Humans
Coping with dog allergies begins with knowing the symptoms. Here’s what to watch for:
- Itchy nose
- Runny nose
- Watery, itchy, and/or red eyes
- Postnasal drip
- Sinus pressure
- Skin rash
- Constant nose rubbing (in children)
Dog allergy symptoms run the gamut from mild to severe, asthma-like reactions that may constrict airways.
Do You Have a Dog Allergy?
When the above symptoms are chronic (i.e., not caused by a passing cold), your next step is determining whether your dog is the source, or if another allergen is to blame. If you recently moved, for example, it’s possible you’re allergic to pollen from plants and trees native to your new home and not your dog.
Testing through an allergist can help pinpoint the root causes of your symptoms. Be sure to provide your family history of allergies, and report on all exposures to allergens. The allergist will likely run a battery of skin and blood tests to determine your allergens and decide on the best treatment. Possibilities include antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroids that reduce sinus inflammation.
If your family is thinking of getting a dog for the first time, factor allergies into your decision making. To discover if someone has an undetected dog allergy, organize up-close and personal time with a few furry friends by dog sitting for friends and family, or fostering a dog from the local animal rescue.
If anyone in your family experiences a sudden onset of pet allergy symptoms, carefully weigh the negatives against the benefits of having a dog. If the symptoms are mild, you can research hypoallergenic dog breeds—generally light shedders who produce less dander. If symptoms are severe for any family member, unfortunately, you should forego getting a dog.
Why Are You Allergic to Your Dog?
Dog allergies are a response to dander—tiny flakes of dry skin that fall off your dog and become airborne—and dog saliva and urine. The immune systems of allergy sufferers overreact to these substances as though they are a threat, triggering allergies.
Can You Become Allergic to Your Dog?
Yes. Though allergies often present during childhood, adults may suddenly develop an allergy to dogs. Why some people develop allergies later in life and others don’t is unclear, however. A growing body of research suggests exposure to pet allergies during infancy or childhood may reduce the risk of allergies, and bolster overall immunity.
What If Your Baby or Child Is Allergic to Your Dog?
Although research suggests early exposure to a dog may help an infant or young child resist developing a pet dander allergy, babies and children do develop them, so it’s important to watch for symptoms if your family includes a dog. Symptoms of pet allergies in adults and children are similar; kids in particular may wipe their noses upwards with their sleeves and hands to relieve itchy, runny noses.
For children with mild dog allergies, the above strategies can help manage their symptoms. But sadly, when a child has serious pet allergies, finding a new, loving home for your dog may be necessary.
Except in serious cases, allergies don’t have to come between you and your dog. Managing symptoms may take extra time, planning, and cleaning, but the happy company of a four-legged friend makes it all worthwhile.