You may want a dog, but are concerned about your allergies or those of a family member. Or you may have a dog and know that your allergy is a problem. The good news is that dogs and people with allergies can live together.
What causes allergies from dogs? Allergies are caused by a reaction to certain proteins found primarily in oil secretions from a dog’s skin and in a dog’s saliva. It is not hair itself that causes allergies. When your dog sheds hair or its skin flakes, proteins are carried into the environment where they may cause an allergic reaction.
Some people report developing immunity to their dog. Others grow out of the allergy, but don't depend on it if you’re getting a new dog. It is possible that an allergic reaction worsens with greater exposure.
Are there hypoallergenic dogs? Contrary to what you may have heard, "hypoallergenic" dogs do not exist. It is suggested that the hair of some breeds (such as the poodle and bichon frise) helps prevent more allergens getting into the environment, but many report just as strong a re,action to these dogs. A small dog may provoke less allergic reaction than a larger one simply because he has less skin and hair to shed.
Employ diligence in the home to limit allergies:
- Wipe smooth surfaces in the home regularly and vacuum frequently.
- Frequently wash any bedding that your dog sleeps on.
- Possibly restrict access to certain areas of the house. The allergic person’s bedroom is a definite dog no-dog zone.
- Hardwood floors retain fewer allergens and are easier to clean than carpet.
- If you have only a few rooms in your house with carpet, you probably should keep your dog out of those.
- Upholstered furniture will retain a lot of allergens. You may choose to keep dogs off this furniture or not allow access to those rooms.
Brushing is key to controlling allergies. Providing the best dog care includes weekly brushing. This will be extremely helpful in reducing allergic reactions because it helps prevent loose hair from getting into the air. Groom more often in springtime when your dog sheds its winter coat. Also, whenever possible, grooming should be handled by someone who isn’t allergic to dogs. It should be done outdoors, too. Also consider buying Science Diet® dog food with precise nutrition for a healthy coat.
Ask your own physician about the possibility of prescribing anti-allergenic drugs or ask for suggestions to manage the problem.