Allergies To Dogs: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments
If you or a loved one are among the roughly five million Americans with an allergy to dogs, your relationship with humanity’s best friend may be somewhat challenging. But that doesn't mean you have to rule out a loveable, fluffy friend altogether.
There are plenty of ways to alleviate the symptoms of a dog allergy.
By recognizing the signs of allergies to dogs you can better manage your condition, and find relief, allowing you to feel more positive about the company of canines after all.
What Causes Dog Allergies?
People with allergies to dogs typically react to traces of their saliva, urine and dander (flakes of dead skin)1. This is because immune systems treat the protein they contain as dangerous, reacting to them as such.
Most people with a dog allergy aren't typically allergic to dog fur itself. Instead, they're allergic to the dander, urine and saliva that builds up on that hair over time2. Because dander and saliva are easily transferred and can stick to the fibers in clothing, it's possible to have an allergic reaction to dogs even if there isn't one present2, as triggers could be lingering on the clothing of someone nearby2.
Dander and dried saliva can also be carried in the air2, so if you’ve sat close to somewhere a dog has urinated recently, it may lead to you developing symptoms.
Symptoms Of An Allergy To Dogs
The common symptoms of being allergic to dogs can be similar to those of other allergies, colds and flu. However, specific symptoms will vary from person to person.
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms, as they could help you determine whether you or someone close to you is allergic or not1:
- Blocked or runny nose
- Sore, red or watery eyes
- Itchy eyes, nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Postnasal drip
- Sinus pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Frequent upward rubbing of the nose
You may sometimes notice dog allergy symptoms in adults and children developing on the skin too1. These can include3:
- Itchy skin
If you notice any topical symptoms developing on your skin, it’s best to speak to your doctor or a dermatologist to work out the most appropriate treatment.
Treatment And Home Remedies For Dog Allergies
When managing the symptoms, you can try two main methods – medical treatments or home remedies.
Medical treatments for allergies to dogs3
- Antihistamines block the effects of histamines, which trigger your allergic reaction. They're available over the counter and can help relieve itching, sneezing and runny noses.
- Corticosteroids can be delivered as a nasal spray and may reduce inflammation.
- Decongestants can help reduce swelling in your nasal passages and sinuses, making it easier to breathe through your nose. Some over-the-counter allergy tablets combine the effects of antihistamines and decongestants too.
- Immunotherapy involves gradually building your immunity to specific allergens, through a series of shots that increase your exposure in stages.
Home remedies for dog allergies4,2
- Nasal irrigation can help flush out the thick mucus from your nose and sinuses. Just fill a neti pot or squeeze bottle and use this to flush saline rinse through your nasal passages.
- Keep dogs out of the bedroom by closing the door and clean the room regularly.
- Use a HEPA air cleaner to remove allergens from the air inside your home. It's usually best to place the cleaner in the room you use most, so either the bedroom or living room.
- Don't let dogs on soft furnishings as their fur, dander and saliva are more likely to stick there than they are to hard surfaces, like wooden floors and plastic chairs.
- Get low-pile carpets if you don't want hard floors in every room. Remember to vacuum and steam-clean your carpets regularly to remove any ground-in dander and saliva.
- Change your clothes after playing with or being around a dog for a long time.
- Bathe the dog every week to help reduce airborne allergens. If it is your friend or family member’s dog, politely ask them to do this.
- Groom your dog outside to remove dander and built-up saliva from their fur, and potentially reduce shedding. Again, you can ask a friend or relative to do this if you spend a lot of time around their home. Of course, avoiding contact with dogs is typically the best way to prevent an allergic reaction, but that's not always possible.
DOG ALLERGY TIPS
NO DOGS IN THE BEDROOM
USE A HEPA AIR CLEANER
NO DOGS ON SOFT FURNISHINGS
CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES
GET LOW-PILE CARPETS
BATHE YOUR DOG WEEKLY
ONLY GROOM PETS OUTSIDE
Reducing dander and pet bed allergens
Use a pet bed cover to reduce allergens
Protect your pet’s bed and reduce dander at the same time with a cat or dog bed cover. Look for a cover that’s machine-washable, has a zipper enclosure and is dust-mite proof. If you can find one that’s waterproof, it can help to prevent mold from growing. Be sure to wash your pet's bed cover often to keep it nice, clean and allergy-free.
Wash or spray your pet’s bed frequently
You can keep dander and pet allergies down even if the bed has a custom cover that you can’t or don’t want to replace. Just remember to wash the bed weekly in hot water to remove dander build-up. For other soft surfaces in your home that you can’t easily clean, like sofas and carpets, allergen-reducing fabric cleaners may help.
Look for silk or other allergy-friendly fabrics
The Allergy Foundation of America has certified some silk beds as an allergy-friendly option, so be sure to look for a cat or dog bed with a reputable certification.
Vacuum your pet’s favorite spots regularly
Looking to keep dust-mites and dander under control? Remember to vacuum each and every one of your pet’s favorite hiding places. Additionally, look for vacuums explicitly made for households with pets, or asthma-friendly certified devices. These are a bit more suitable for those with allergies, since they’re designed to pick up dust, hair and dander.
Keep your pet’s bed out of the bedroom
Doing so will help you combat allergens. Try using dust-proof or allergen-proof covers on your bed, as well as on your dog or cat’s beds. Allergy bed covers can control dander and other pet allergens and will help to reduce your exposure.
Again, if it is your friend or relative’s dog, politely share this information and explain how it may be beneficial to you.
What are hypoallergenic dogs?
There’s no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog4. Not even the expensive purebreds often marketed as "low shedding" are completely allergen-free, as all dogs produce dander, urine and saliva. That said, some breeds may shed less hair, spreading their allergens less frequently and triggering fewer or less severe reactions6.
Is my dog making my asthma worse?
Dog lovers should be aware that canines can trigger asthma symptoms when they shed their dander. Thankfully, there are things you can do to limit asthma attacks caused by the family pooch. This could involve managing your close contact with the dog, keeping the dog out of your bedroom, and keeping your home well ventilated.
Is there a link between pet allergies and conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis, sometimes known as “pink eye”, can be caused by bacteria, viruses or allergens like pet dander. When allergies are the cause, it is known as allergic conjunctivitis5. Unlike bacterial conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis isn't contagious1.