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Do I have an allergy to my dog?
Dogs are man’s best friend, unless he is allergic to them.
The United States is home to many pet allergies. According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation Of America, between 15 and 30 percent of Americans are affected. Allergies to cats are twice as common as those to dogs, but these tend to be more severe. This is particularly true for asthmatics.
Continue reading to find out about lifestyle changes that you can make and the medications that are available to treat allergies in dogs.
What causes allergies in dogs?
It can be caused by saliva, urine, and dander from dogs or by pollen, dust, or other allergens that are carried on the fur. As high as 10% of the population may have allergies to dogs.
Dogs secrete proteins which end up in their urine, saliva, and dander. When a person’s immune system reacts abnormally against these normally harmless proteins, it is called an allergic reaction. Different breeds produce different amounts of dander so you might be more allergic to certain dogs than others.
The allergen eventually makes its way into animal fur. It can then collect on carpets, clothing, walls and cushions. Although pet hair is not allergenous, it can collect dust and dander. Pet dander can also remain in the air for long periods. It may eventually get into your eyes and lungs.
Symptoms and signs of dog allergies
A dog allergy can be mild or severe. For people with low sensitivity, symptoms may not manifest for several days.
Here are some signs you might be allergic to dogs:
- Itching and swelling around the eyes or in the nasal membranes
- After being licked by dogs, the skin becomes red.
- After being exposed to allergens for 15-30 minutes, you may experience symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
- Rash on the neck, chest, or face
- A severe asthma attack in someone with asthma
Eczema is a condition that can be caused by allergies in dogs. Eczema can be described as a severe, itchy skin condition.
It was once believed that exposing a baby to the dog’s family could lead to an allergic reaction. Dog owners are relieved to learn that the opposite is true. Numerous studies have been done over the years. They found that the risk of asthma or allergies in babies who are exposed to pets is not increased. The child may be protected from developing allergies or asthma in the future.
How to manage dog allergies
You can only get rid of pet allergies by removing the pet from your home. If Fluffy is not available, there are ways to reduce your allergy symptoms and minimize your exposure.
These are some treatments and medications that can help with asthma and allergies.
- Antihistamines can be used to relieve itching, sneezing and runny nose.
- Nasal corticosteroids such a Flonase or Nasonex can reduce inflammation and manage symptoms.
- Cromolyn salt can be used to reduce symptoms, particularly if used before they become severe.
- Decongestants help you breathe easier by shrinking the tissues of your nasal passage. They are available as an oral spray or nasal spray.
- Allergy shots are used to expose the body to the allergen (animal protein) that is causing the allergic reaction. This helps reduce symptoms and makes the body less sensitive. An allergist will give shots and may use them in severe cases to provide long-term treatment.
- Leukotriene modifieres may be prescribed if you are unable to tolerate nasal antihistamines and corticosteroids. Montelukast, also known as singulair, will not be prescribed unless there aren’t suitable alternatives bcause it can cause severe mood and behavioral changes.
A daily saline (saltwater) rinse can be helpful for people suffering from dog allergies. The nasal lavage can help with symptoms like congestion and postnasal drip.
OTC nasal lavage kits and nasal saline sprays are easily available. Mix 1/8 teaspoon of table Salt with distilled water to make your own.
Dog owners have many options to help reduce allergens in their home. These include:
- Setting up “Dog-free Zones” (certain rooms such as a bedroom where dogs are not permitted)
- Weekly bathing of the dog with a pet-friendly shampoo (done in a non-allergic manner)
- Remove carpeting, upholstered furniture and curtains.
- High-efficiency particulate (HEPA) purifiers can be used to reduce allergens in the house
- You can keep your dog outdoors in certain conditions, but only in well-contained areas and under humane conditions.
- Looking into hypoallergenic breeds of dog breeds
- To test the reactions of family members to the new pet, you can use a trial period to introduce it to your family.
If you are a dog lover and want to keep them close, many of the lifestyle and allergy changes listed can help reduce your discomfort.
An allergist will perform tests to determine if your dog has an allergy. Discuss your allergy with your doctor and discuss your options for treatment.