What to Do When You're Allergic to Your Dog

Dog licking woman's face

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The major dog allergen, called Can f 1, is primarily found in dog saliva. Unlike cat allergen, which is found in the dander from sebaceous glands in the skin, the skin of dogs does not appear to be a major source of Can f 1. Dog albumin, a protein found in the blood, is also an important allergen and may cross-react with albumin from other mammals, including cats.

How Common Is Dog Allergy?

Allergy to dogs is relatively common, as dog allergen can be found in public places, including daycare facilities. However, cat allergy is far more common, which may be related to the higher potency of cat dander as an allergen, as well as the fact that cats are not generally bathed at the same frequency as dogs.

Regular bathing of pets, particularly dogs, would be expected to reduce much of the allergens released from the animal.

Why Exposure to Dogs Can Help Build the Immune System

Recent studies show that dog ownership can protect against the development of allergies in young children. This is due to endotoxin, a protein released from dogs (and other animals, particularly farm animals) that stimulate the immune system away from allergies. Infants living in homes with indoor dogs are far less likely to wheeze compared to infants living in homes without dogs.

However, it is important to note that endotoxin may also worsen allergies and asthma if present in the home after a person living in the home has already developed allergies or asthma.

How to Control Allergy Symptoms When Around Dogs

For people with a dog allergy, avoidance of dogs is the mainstay of therapy. Allergy medications are likely to help control symptoms, but in many instances, symptoms may persist if the person owns one or more indoor dogs. Allergy shots may also be a good treatment option for people who are allergic to their pet dogs.

Dog owners may not want to part with their pets, despite the symptoms they endure. Short of getting rid of the dog, here are some ways to decrease dog allergen exposure for dog owners:

  • Ensure the dog is neutered
  • Bathe the dog at least once or twice a week
  • Wipe the dog with a wet cloth or hand towel daily
  • Remove the dog from the bedroom, close the bedroom door and air vents to the bedroom
  • Keep the dog outside or in the garage, or in a part of the home with an uncarpeted floor
  • Vacuum frequently with a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner
  • Purchase a HEPA room air cleaner for use in the bedroom and/or other parts of the home (it is best to keep the HEPA filter off of the floor so as to not stir up more dust)
  • Follow house dust mite avoidance precautions

If the above measures do not help to reduce allergic symptoms, getting rid of the pet dogs may be needed, particularly for people with uncontrolled asthma.

Dog allergens may persist for months to years in the home even after the dog is gone – therefore it is important to clean thoroughly. Be sure to:

    • Steam clean all carpets and upholstered furniture
    • Launder or dry clean all bedding and curtains
    • Vacuum all hard floors
    • Wipe down all hard surfaces and furniture
    • Replace any air conditioner and heater vent filters

Do Some Dog Breeds Cause Fewer Allergies?

Possibly. It appears that some people can be allergic to certain breeds of dogs and not to other breeds. While there is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog, some breeds can cause fewer allergies than other breeds.

Look for low-allergen dog breeds that may be better tolerated by people with a dog allergy.

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Article Sources

  • Weber, RW. Dog Dander and Allergy. Asthma Immunol. 2007; 98: A4.