Given how ubiquitous dogs are, being allergic to them can make life quite tough indeed. Not only will you have to control exposure to any dogs in your own household but you will also have to be mindful when visiting friends or simply taking a walk in the park. Allergies to cats may be more commonplace, but dog allergies tend to be more severe, especially for asthmatics. Fortunately, with the right medication and lifestyle changes, it is possible to control allergic reactions to dogs.
Dog allergy symptoms
If you are allergic to dogs, the symptoms can vary greatly depending on your sensitivity. If you have low sensitivity, the dog allergy symptoms may not appear for several days and could be quite mild. However, for those who are more sensitive, the symptoms can be severe.
Allergic reactions can include a rash on the face and body, red skin in places that have been licked by a dog, and itching and swelling. You may experience watery eyes and a runny nose. Asthmatics run the risk of having a severe asthma attack, and you may also develop nasal congestion, shortness of breath, coughing, sneezing, and wheezing after being exposed to a dog.
Children who are allergic to dogs can develop all the above symptoms. In addition, they also have a tendency to develop eczema. It used to be believed that a family dog can cause newborns to develop asthma or a pet allergy, but science has proven that, on the contrary, exposure may actually protect young children from developing an allergic reaction.
Causes of dog allergies
An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s oversensitive immune system overreacts to a harmless foreign substance. Dogs secrete proteins in their saliva, dead skin (dander), and urine. Some people have allergic reactions to these proteins. The proteins being secreted differ between dog breeds, so it is possible to be allergic to some breeds but not others.
Many dogs shed fur, which can find its way to the clothing, carpets, and cushions in your house. Since the fur contains the dog’s dander, this can exacerbate the allergic reaction that a person is suffering from. In addition, pet dander can remain in the air for a considerable period and eventually be breathed in or come in contact with the eyes.
Top ways to get dog allergy relief
The most sure-fire way of getting rid of a dog allergy is to avoid being exposed to a dog. But that may not be practicable as you may be reluctant to give up a family pet or have to regularly visit a household that has a dog.
There are, however, several things you can do to limit your exposure to an allergy-causing dog. If this is a family pet, limit its access to certain areas of the house, such as the bedroom and dining room. It may even be possible to keep the dog outdoors permanently, weather permitting, though you will have to ensure that it gets plenty of companionship and contact with the family.
Bathing the dog weekly will reduce the amount of dander it produces and mitigate the effects of the allergy. If you are allergic, have another member of your family do this. Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter to reduce the number of airborne allergens inside your house. Upholstered furniture, carpets, curtains, and cushions all attract allergy-causing pet dander, so try to reduce them as much as possible.
Hypoallergenic dog breeds are popular among people who suffer from allergies. However, it is still possible to be allergic to a hypoallergenic dog. Unlike normal dog breeds, hypoallergenic dogs don’t shed hair, reducing the amount of dander that is spread around the house. But they do produce other substances that can provoke an allergic reaction. If possible, try to interact with a dog of the breed that you are considering adopting to see if this reduces your allergies.
It is often necessary to take medication to manage your symptoms. Nasal corticosteroids can reduce inflammation and manage the allergic reaction. Flonase, which you can buy over the counter, and Nasonex are some of the corticosteroids that you can use. Antihistamines are also available as over-the-counter medicine. Allegra, Benadryl, and Claritin are examples of this kind of medication and are useful in alleviating sneezing, itching, and a runny nose. Another over-the-counter medication is cromolyn sodium, a nasal spray that can reduce symptoms, especially if they have just started developing.
Allergic reactions can cause the tissues in your nasal passage to swell, making it difficult for you to breathe. In such cases, you may want to take a decongestant, which is available as a nasal spray and tablet, to shrink the nasal tissue. If you aren’t responding to antihistamines and corticosteroids, your doctor may prescribe leukotriene modifiers. Since these come with side effects such as severe mood and behavioral changes, they are only used as a last resort.
Several natural alternatives can give you dog allergy relief. Many people find that rinsing their nasal passage with salt water is helpful in removing allergens. You can buy a saline spray for this purpose from your pharmacy. If you prefer, you can create your own saline solution by mixing ⅛ teaspoon of table salt in distilled water.
You might also want to try some herbs that have shown promising results. Butterbur, an herb that comes from a European shrub, acts like an antihistamine and has played a beneficial role in alleviating allergy symptoms. Quercetin also functions as an antihistamine and is found in black tea, onions, and apples.
Basil, eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oil have also shown potential in fighting inflammation and boosting the immune system. Apple cider vinegar has a similar effect, and people are advised to take one or two teaspoons of it in a glass of water and lemon juice three times a day to help fight allergy symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
• How can I stop being allergic to dogs?
If you have an allergic reaction to your dog, you can reduce and alleviate the symptoms by reducing exposure to the animal and taking natural and over-the-counter medicine. If that doesn’t reduce your symptoms, you will have to see a doctor. Lifestyle changes play an important part in enabling you to coexist with a family pet. Remember to wash your hands with soap after touching the dog and avoid touching your face after petting the animal. Regularly clean your house with a vacuum cleaner that traps allergens, and make sure to change the bedsheets frequently. Don’t allow the dog to get onto the bed and chairs. Regularly have the dog bathed, and consider wearing a mask when you are near the dog.
• Can you build up an immunity to dog allergies?
You can build up your immunity by taking allergy shots or allergen immunotherapy. Allergy shots involve exposing the body to a minute amount of the allergen. This amount is progressively increased during the course of the treatment, enabling the body to build up an immunity or tolerance to the allergen. The effects of successful allergen immunotherapy are long lasting, lessening the allergic symptoms on a permanent basis. You will, however, have to take a periodic booster shot with an allergist prescribing the correct amount for a maintenance dose. Allergen immunotherapy is effective for children as well, though it is not recommended for kids who are less than five years old.
A development of allergen immunotherapy has been rush immunotherapy. This is similar to normal immunotherapy, but the initial stages of the treatment are rushed, with the first few doses being given every few hours rather than spread over days or weeks. The treatment is greatly speeded up, and the patient quickly develops immunity to the allergen. The frequency of the doses is tapered off after that and, as with normal allergen immunotherapy, you will have to receive maintenance shots for a period of three to five years.
• How do you help a dog with allergies?
Dogs, too, can suffer from a range of allergies. Usually, allergic symptoms appear when the dog is one or two years old, and they can develop in any dog irrespective of breed or whether it is purebred or mixed. Most allergens that affect dogs are proteins found in plants, insects, and other animals, but small chemical molecules may also trigger an allergic reaction. Many dogs are allergic to dust mites, mold spores, dander, and flea saliva. They may also develop allergies to food items and medications.
The protein from an insect bite can easily cause an allergic reaction in your pet. Fleas, flies, ticks, mosquitos, ants, bees, hornets, wasps, and spiders can all affect an allergic dog. Flea bites, however, are by a considerable margin the most common cause of an allergic reaction, and they can lead to flea allergy dermatitis. While most dogs suffer minor skin irritation around the area where they have been bitten by fleas, dogs that have flea allergy dermatitis will experience very severe itching and will bite and scratch the affected area. The tail-base area is usually affected, and the dog may remove large clumps of fur. The chronic biting and scratching may also result in broken skin that can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
Inhalant or atopy allergy is also very common in dogs. Airborne allergens such as dust mites, molds, and mildew can affect your pet throughout the year. Other inhalant allergies can occur seasonally. This happens when the dog is allergic to pollen from grass, ragweed, and trees such as ash, cedar, and oak.
Any carbohydrate or protein in your dog’s diet can cause it to develop an allergic reaction. Food allergies are generally triggered by dairy products, wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, chicken, beef, and lamb. The allergy can develop at any age, even to a food item that the dog had previously not been allergic to, leading to symptoms such as itching, respiratory issues, and digestive problems.
Your dog could also develop an allergic reaction through contact with wool and synthetic material found in carpets and bedding, pesticides, cement, and flea collars. Dogs that have allergies may react to several allergens. For example, dogs with inhalant allergies may also suffer from food or flea allergies.
The most common symptom of an allergic reaction is itching. This may occur in only one part of the skin or be spread throughout the body. The allergy may affect the respiratory system, leading to wheezing, coughing, and sneezing. A runny discharge may develop from the eyes and nose, and the dog may suffer from vomiting and diarrhea.
Skin or blood tests may have to be performed to identify the offending allergen. While exposure to the allergen should be avoided as much as possible, sometimes it may not be practicable. Fortunately, there are a number of therapies that will help your dog to control its allergies, though a permanent cure is not available.
Since itching is the most common feature of an allergic reaction, regular bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo may be prescribed to soothe your pet’s itchy skin. The shampoo may contain an anti-inflammatory agent that will further benefit the dog.
Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be prescribed to quickly suppress the allergic reaction. Adding fatty acid supplements to the dog’s diet will enhance the response to the antihistamine and corticosteroid medication. Newer drugs have been developed that are capable of blocking the itchiness that allergic dogs experience. These drugs are available as both oral medicines and injections, and include medication such as oclacitinib.
If your dog suffers from a food allergy, things become a little trickier as the allergy can’t usually be treated with usual medication such as corticosteroids. You will have to feed your dog a hypoallergenic diet. If the symptoms disappear after eight weeks, you can be certain that the dog is suffering from a food allergy. Treatment is made more difficult by the fact that treats, flavored supplements, and table scraps should not be given to the dog during the treatment period.
Some dogs respond well to hyposensitization therapy, where, after dog allergy testing, the allergen responsible is discovered. A minute amount of the antigen is included in an allergy injection serum that is given to the dog weekly. These repeated shots are given to desensitize the dog’s immune system. This treatment has a success rate of around 50%, with a further 25% of dogs being able to reduce their dosage of corticosteroids.
• What home remedies can I give my dog for allergies?
Allergies can’t be cured, so your dog will require long-term treatment. While your veterinarian will prescribe suitable medication, you can help boost the efficacy of the treatment and enable your pet to feel more comfortable by trying a variety of home remedies. These treatments are harmless.
Regularly bathing your dog will help to reduce its symptoms by removing the allergens in its hair, thus reducing its exposure to the trigger. Use a hypoallergenic shampoo to soothe the skin and reduce the itching.
You can also give your dog an oatmeal bath, which will relieve its itchy skin. Use a blender to turn the oatmeal into a fine powder and mix with water. Bathe the dog for about ten minutes before rinsing it off. Oatmeal is completely safe and functions as a natural moisturizer for the skin.
If your dog loves bathing, you can soak it in a tub of water that contains ½ a cup of Epsom salts. If the dog isn’t particularly fond of water, you can soak a washcloth and press it against the affected skin to help relieve the itch.
Coconut oil is another natural remedy that can reduce itchiness. Massaging the oil into the affected skin to reduce inflammation can mitigate the itchiness. The oil can also be used as a lotion for the dog’s paw pads.
Chamomile is used as medicine by veterinarians, and you can use the healing properties of chamomile tea to help your dog. Boil the tea and keep it in the refrigerator to cool. Spray the irritated areas to provide cooling relief to your dog. You can also soak your pet’s paws in a bowl of cold tea to relieve irritation.
A very popular product for home cures is apple cider vinegar. It has the advantage of being inexpensive and not only soothes irritated skin but also helps keep fleas away. You can dilute a couple of cups in a bathtub of water for your pet, but this vinegar does have an unpleasant smell that your pooch may not appreciate. Alternatively, spray the diluted liquid on the irritated areas of the dog’s skin. Remember to part the dog’s hair before spraying to ensure the treatment gets on the skin.
Break open a capsule of vitamin E and apply it to irritated or inflamed skin to provide immediate relief. Vitamin E can also be given orally by adding a capsule to the dog’s food, helping to boost its immune system. Other popular additions are fish oil blends, which are believed to calm inflammation and mitigate allergic symptoms. Other food additives that are useful in reducing itchiness while providing added nutrition to the dog are nutritional yeast, kelp powder, spirulina, lecithin granules, and alfalfa. Probiotic yogurt is another great addition to your dog’s diet. Add a dash to check how your dog will react, as some dogs are lactose intolerant. A tablespoon of yogurt will help build up your dog’s immune system