Many Americans are allergic to dogs and experience allergic reactions when they come into contact with pets. Fortunately, several medications and lifestyle changes can alleviate dog allergy symptoms.
What Causes Dog Allergies?
Dogs produce several proteins that some people’s immune systems perceive as an external threat. This, in turn, results in an overactive immune response that creates anti-allergen antibodies, which also cause inflammation and allergy symptoms. The main types of dog allergens are proteins found in their skin cells and body fluids, such as dander, saliva, and urine.
Dog Allergy Symptoms
Dog allergy symptoms are similar to those caused by other allergies. Their severity will vary from person to person and depends on the level of exposure and immune system sensitivity. The following are some of the symptoms you should watch out for:
- Red, itchy, and watery eyes
- Runny noses
- Itchiness in the roof of the mouth, nose, and throat
- Trouble sleeping
- Sinus pain
- Post-nasal drip (mucus accumulation in the back of the throat)
In some cases, dog allergies cause allergic dermatitis, a type of skin inflammation with symptoms such as itchy skin, hives (red patches of raised skin), and eczema. You should consider talking to a dermatologist if your dog allergy results in topical symptoms. Additionally, people with asthma may also experience the following symptoms after exposure to pet allergens:
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Audible wheezing or whistling sound during exhalation
- Poor sleep due to wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath
How to Prevent Dog Allergies
The key to preventing dog allergy symptoms is limiting exposure to potential allergens. However, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid dogs altogether to get better. There are several methods you can use to reduce your exposure to dog allergens even when you own a dog.
If you are considering getting a pet, take an allergy test to determine if you do have a dog allergy. This test will allow you to know if you have any potential dog allergies before getting a dog. But, if you already own a dog and are experiencing dog allergy symptoms, you don’t have to give up your pet. There are several steps you could take to limit your exposure to allergens.
Use Dog Bed Covers
Your dog’s bed collects plenty of dander over time, as dander tends to adhere to fabrics. Use a washable bed cover to limit direct contact between the bed and the dog. Rather than accumulating on the bed, pet dander will collect on the cover instead. Consider choosing a waterproof cover to prevent mold growth and wash it regularly to keep pet dander from building up.
Clean Your Dog Regularly
Brush and wash your dog regularly to prevent dander build-up in its fur. Dogs with more fur, like longhaired dogs, will need more brushing, such as daily brushings to keep dander levels in check. However, you’ll want to also be mindful of how much you wash your dog because overwashing can be bad for their skin.
Vacuum regularly to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Focus on your dog’s favorite spots and places they like to hide to prevent dander buildup. You should also vacuum your carpets regularly if your pet spends much time on them. Use HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners or those made for houses with pets, as they pick up dander, hair, and dust more effectively.
Use Allergy Friendly Fabrics
According to the Allergy Foundation of America, some silk beds can effectively be allergy-friendly pet beds. Alongside silk, fabrics like denim, linen, leather, moleskin, microfiber, and microSuede are resistant to pet hair. Using these fabrics on dog beds and other household furniture items can prevent dander accumulation and reduce your odds of experiencing dog allergy symptoms.
Keep Your Dog Off Furniture
Some people limit exposure to allergens by keeping their dogs off of furniture. If, for some reason, you cannot purchase allergy-proof covers for your living and bedroom furniture, this will help you combat potential allergens. You could also go a step further and prevent your dog from accessing certain rooms, such as the bedroom, to make them more allergen-free.
Reduce Pet Dander Accumulation Across Your Home
Finally, you will want to adapt cleaning and hygiene practices meant to reduce the accumulation of pet dander and dust mites in your house. Make sure to vacuum soft surfaces such as sofas and bean bags and use lint rollers on flat surfaces and counters to eliminate dander. Use HEPA filters in your air conditioning system since they can remove up to 99% of allergens in the air. Furthermore, regularly clean your air filters, ducts, and HVAC unit to prevent them from accumulating dander.
Additionally, wash your hands after touching your dog to reduce the chances of getting allergens on your skin and eyes.
Types of Hypoallergenic Dogs
Hypoallergenic dogs are also a popular method of reducing exposure to dog allergens. These dog breeds typically shed less dander than other dogs. However, no dog is entirely allergy-free. While a hypoallergenic dog may help, there’s still the chance you’ll be allergic. Hypoallergenic dogs include:
- Afghan Hound
- American Hairless Terrier
- Bedlington Terrier
- Bichon Frise
- Chinese Crested
- Coton de Tulear
- Giant Schnauzer
- Irish Water Spaniel
- Kerry Blue Terrier
- Lagotto Romagnolo
- Peruvian Inca Orchid
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Shih Tzu
- Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
- Standard Schnauzer
- Yorkshire Terrier
When to See a Doctor For Pet Allergies
Since pet allergy symptoms such as sneezing and runny nose are similar to flu or cold symptoms, many people have difficulty determining if they have a cold or are experiencing allergic symptoms. Making an appointment with an allergist can help you determine what you’re allergic to and what treatments will be most effective.
How Are Dog Allergy Symptoms Diagnosed?
If you think you might be allergic to dogs, taking an allergy test will help you determine the exact cause of your allergies. If you don’t want to wait to take an allergy test until your local allergist has availability, you can take an at-home test allergy test kit to see if you have a dog allergy.
This simple finger-prick test from Wyndly allows you to take a small blood sample and send it to a medical provider for a comprehensive review. The at-home allergy test kit can be used to screen for allergies to pets, tree pollen, grass and shrub pollen, and other potential allergens. Once our allergy doctors have fully interpreted your test results they will meet with you and create a personalized treatment plan to get you long-term allergy relief.
How to Treat Dog Allergies
You can significantly reduce your symptoms by taking preventive and treatment measures. The following are some of the conventional dog allergy medications your doctor may prescribe:
Decongestants relieve nasal congestion by reducing swelling in nasal passage tissues. They include over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as Allegra-D and Sudafed. Note that oral decongestants can cause issues like high blood pressure in people with cardiovascular disease or glaucoma. Additionally, using a decongestant spray for several days in a row can eventually increase congestion levels.
These sprays can treat dog allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation in the nose. Nasal sprays tend to have a lower side effect risk and require a low dosage compared to oral corticosteroids. Corticosteroids for dog allergies can include:
- Nasacort Allergy 24HR
- Flonase Allergy Relief
Antihistamines temporarily reduce allergy symptoms by blocking the action of an immune system chemical called histamine that triggers an immune response. They can be effective at reducing sneezing, runny noses, and itching. They include OTC medications like:
Your doctor may prescribe leukotriene modifiers if antihistamines and nasal sprays aren’t treating your symptoms effectively. This medication works by inhibiting specific immune system chemicals and is especially effective at alleviating breathing problems caused by asthma-like symptoms.
Can You Build Up Immunity to Dog Allergies?
Yes, it is possible to steadily build up immunity to dog allergies via a treatment called sublingual immunotherapy. This immunotherapy exposes your body to small doses of pet dander to desensitize your immune system over a period of time. Over time, your immune system becomes desensitized to dog dander and exposure to dog allergens will not trigger allergy symptoms.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you are tired of regularly dealing with allergy symptoms and ineffective treatment, choose Wyndly. Our allergy doctors will help identify what you are allergic to and will create a personalized treatment plan to help you get long-term relief. Take our quick online allergy assessment now to get started!