Has being around the family's fluffy canine reduced to you to fits of sneezing and sniffing uncontrollably yet again? Admittedly dogs are man's best friends, but the fact does remain that in the UK, pets are the second most common cause of allergies in the home. The effects of pet allergies can be even more difficult to cope with for those with asthma, as studies show that 50% of asthmatic children are sensitised to the allergens of cats and 40% to the allergens of dogs.
What is a dog allergy?
A person is considered allergic to dogs when they experience common allergy symptoms while around, or just after being around, a dog. Signs that you may be allergic to dogs include:
- coughing and wheezing
- runny, itchy, stuffy nose
- red, itchy eyes
- itchy throat
On some occasions, skin reactions can be the result of a person being allergic to dogs. The skin may break out in hives in places where the dog has licked the individual. In more severe cases hives may develop on the face and chest and the person may experience shortness of breath and asthma-like responses.
What causes a person to be allergic to dogs?
Dog allergies are not caused by the length of the fur or the breed of the dog. Instead, it is caused by the individual being allergic to a specific protein found in pet allergens like dog dander, flakes of dead skin, saliva, and urine. Almost every other allergy is a reaction to a protein in the substance that your body is reacting to. Allergen proteins found in pet dander are extremely tiny, and easily airborne, this is what causing a person to develop a pet allergy even by just walking into a room with pets in it.
In most cases a person is allergy prone because of an overly sensitive immune system. The body overreacts to harmless foreign substances and attacks it the same way it would attack bacteria or viruses. Sneezing, watery eyes, and coughing are side effects of the body attempting to flush out the allergen.
Testing for dog allergies
In some cases, depending on the severity of your allergic reactions and your relationship with the pet in question, you may consider taking your pet to the vet for a skin or blood test to detect allergen-specific iGe (Immunoglobulin E). Even if you are certain that you are allergic to pets, it's generally a good idea to confirm your suspicions, because in some cases your dog might not be the cause of your allergy. If you're leery of taking your pet for testing, you can try living in the same environment without your pet for a few days and see if the allergies subside. If it doesn't, chances are that you are allergic to pollen, mold, or other allergens.
Practical advice for avoiding allergic reactions when living around dogs
- Keep your pet pooch clean. Even though pet allergies are caused by an allergic reaction to proteins in pet allergens, there are some cases where you might be allergic to dust, and a pets that go for weeks without a bath are breeding places for excessive amounts of just that. Certain pet-friendly shampoos, like those found in our Dog Grooming section, can help reduce hair fall, musty odours, and dust buildup in your dog's coat.
- Consider a no-pets-in-the-bedroom policy. Sad as this might sound to pet lovers, keeping your bedroom pet-free can help to greatly reduce the amount of allergens in the air.
- Keep your home environment clean. Vacuum frequently and keep furnace filters clean to reduce pet dander in the air. Shampoo rugs, or don't avoid the fluffy sort that collect dander easily. Change bedding frequently and wipe down walls where your frequently pet rubs up against. Reduce the number of places where dust and allergens can build up by minimizing upholstered furniture.
- Keep over the counter allergy tablets handy. It's not always possible to simply avoid being around pets, so having a back up plan is smart idea. When traveling to places where you know there is a pet present, it's always a good idea to take some allergy relief tablets with you. If you have a family member visiting, or staying with you, who has a hard time not sneezing when around your pets, try keeping over the counter allergy relief tablets like BecoAllergy, or Benadryl for Children Allergy Solution, handy in your medicine cabinet.
- Do you need a HEPA filter at home? HEPA filters are used for removing airborne pollutants like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander. Having one in your home might help reduce your exposure to sneeze-invoking elements.
- Wash your hands throughout the day. It's important to wash your hands regularly throughout the day to avoid spreading germs and bacteria from pet to person. Washing your hands will help to limit the amount of exposure to pet allergens.
- Change your shoes when coming in from the great outdoors. If you have contact outside of the house with animals, then it's generally a good idea to change your shoes and clothing, bathe and wash your hair, before settling down at home to avoid tracking in pet allergens.
- Keep the litter box away in an isolated area of the house. Most of the times a litter box a little too near by is the cause of pet allergies because pet dander has been allowed to affect the home's circulation system. Avoid having pet-allergic family clean the litter box.
- Avoid having carpets in pet-frequented areas. Carpets are often an unseen buildup of pet dander. If you can, avoid having carpets in the place of your home where you pet spends most its time. Clean the walls, floor, bedding, and baskets where your pet is regularly.