Have you noticed that every time you interact with a dog your eyes water or your nose runs? According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, 50 million people suffer with indoor and outdoor allergens, which includes those who are allergic to dogs and cats. If these are symptoms you experience, there is a good chance you also fall into this category.
What Causes Dog Allergies?
If you're a dog lover but you break out in hives every time you get near one, then you definitely have a problem. Contrary to popular belief, this is not actually because you are allergic to dogs, or even their fur. You are experiencing an allergic reaction to the proteins contained in some of a dog's by-products. These proteins can be found in several places.
Pet dander is dead skin cells that are shed periodically, more often on some breeds than others. These dead cells are too small to be seen by the naked eye, but they become airborne whenever a dog scratches or if dust is stirred up in a room. Take special care to remove unwanted pet hair and dust often.
Saliva is another protein-containing irritant that can cause dog allergies. As the saliva dries, it flakes off a dog's coat or other surface and contaminates the air, finding its way into human airways and causing a reaction in anyone who is sensitive to the proteins.
The Paw Rescue website states that dog urine also contains these same allergy-inducing proteins, and since urine crystals never completely break down, you can encounter them long after a dog urinates on something.
There is no fixed set of symptoms suffered by all people who have dog allergies. Each person's reaction to the irritants can vary. Some people may only have mild symptoms similar to the common cold while others will have severe attacks that can become life threatening. According to the Mayo Clinic symptoms can include:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Constriction of the airways
- Watery eyes
People with certain illnesses may be especially prone to the affects of dog allergies. For example, asthma sufferers are at particular risk for dog allergies, and even the smallest amount of pet dander can trigger an asthma attack.
How to Deter Allergy Symptoms
The surest way to deal with dog allergies is to avoid contact with dogs. However, if you love your friendly canine and do not think you can bear being separated from him, this can be hard to do. If the allergic reaction is mild to moderate, the following measures, combined with the appropriate allergy medication, may lessen the symptoms to a level you can live with.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter: Vacuuming can help to eliminate allergens and dander that can collect in the fibers of the carpet, but only if your vacuum cleaner has a HEPA filter. Otherwise vacuuming will pick allergens up off the carpet, but rather than eliminate them, it will redistribute them into the air.
- Consider removing carpeting: Carpet is known far harboring allergens and switching to hardwood floors or linoleum could help to alleviate some of your symptoms.
- Remove loose hair and dander from your pet: Use a special vacuum attachment to remove loose hair and dander from your pet's coat. Brushing is good, but may stir up dander in the air and therefore, should be done outdoors or by another family member if possible, according to PAWrescue.org.
- Bathe your dog weekly: StopGerms.org also notes that regularly bathing your dog with allergen-reducing dog shampoo may help to decrease the amount of dander produced. Allergen pet shampoos are usually safe for regular use on your pet.
- Run a high-efficiency air filter or purifier: According to the Mayo Clinic, an air purifier with a small particle or HEPA filter will help to eliminate pet dander.
- Wash your dog's bedding on a regular basis: Your dog's bedding can be full of dander. Investing in a soft collapsible bed that can be tossed in the washer may help.
- Change clothing after cuddling with your pet: Dander can collect on your clothing, continuing to cause irritation long after playtime is over. Be sure to change after close contact with your dog to avoid prolonged exposure to pet dander.
Seek Medical Advice
All in all, you can do many things to avoid experiencing symptoms of dog allergies, but if your condition is severe, there may be little relief no matter what you do. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor if you suspect that you are allergic to dogs, or any other pet. Tests can be performed to determine the severity of the problem and a plan of treatment will be recommended.