Allergic to Dogs

Managing Your Dog Allergies and Your Dog

Mother and daughter (8-10) brushing dog in garden, smiling
Denis Felix / Getty Images

Are you one of the many dog lovers that can't be in the same room as a dog without having itchy eyes or a sneezing fit? You are not alone. Allergies to dogs are extremely common.

Thousands of animal lovers around the world are allergic to their pets, but that hasn't stopped many of them from finding a way to live with pets. Before you accept the fact that you'll never join the ranks of the dog-loving public, or worse, feel you need to find your dog a new home, learn how to keep your allergies under control.

Dogs Breeds for the Allergic

Depending on the severity of your allergies, you may be better off choosing a hypoallergenic dog breed. These dogs tend to shed very little, therefore spreading less dander throughout your environment. However, hypoallergenic dogs will still shed some dander. Note: if you are allergic to dog saliva, hypoallergenic dogs are likely to affect your allergies the same as other dogs.

However, not all people with dog allergies need to worry about getting a hypoallergenic dog. After all, dogs like Terriers, Schnauzers, and Poodles may not be among your preferred dog breeds. If you don't want to have to pay a lot of money for a purebred, or you would rather hit the shelter to adopt a dog in need, you may still be able to make it work. 

Living with Dogs When You Are Allergic

There are several ways to keep allergic reactions to a minimum when living with dogs. A lot of it has to do with how you maintain your home and your own health.

  • Visit your allergist. Many doctors are sympathetic to the pet lover's plight, and antihistamine therapy is available for minor allergies. Immunotherapy allergy shots may help with moderate to severe allergies. Ask your doctor about starting a therapeutic program to get a handle on your allergies.
  • Add one or more air filters to your home. A good air filter is essential in any allergic household, whether or not pets are present.
  • Remove carpeting from your home. This is actually a good idea even if you do not plan to get a pet. Carpet is one of the biggest allergen collecting items. With a pet, that effect is intensified

Daily Allergy Controllers

  • Brush your dog daily, especially during shedding season. Do this in a well-ventilated area or preferably outdoors. Daily brushing can minimize the dust from floating furballs inside the house. Wear a mask or have a non-allergic family member take on this daily task.
  • Vacuum your home regularly to remove the floating furballs and invisible dander around the home.
  • Keep your clothing away from of dander in the environment, ideally in the closet or drawers.
  • Keep your bed made when not in use. Consider covering your bedspread with an extra blanket or sheet on top that you can remove when sleeping. Dog dander in the air will land on this covering instead of your own bedding.

Weekly Maintenance

  • Wash sheets and bedding that the pet lays on with hot water if possible. This includes your own if your bed is a favorite resting place.
  • Bathe your dog or simply rinse your dog with plain water to reduce allergens. Even a dog with little dander will pick up allergens on his coat. Dust, pollen, and dirt all contribute to the "allergic" effect of a dog. Use plain water if your dog is not in need of a bath. When using shampoos and conditions, make sure they will not make your allergies worse. Perfume and dye-free shampoo and conditioner are best. 
  • Wash the walls, baseboards, and floors of your house with mild dish soap to remove accumulated dander from the environment.

It may be a lot of work, but nobody can deny the effect of a loving pet on the well-being of his owner. Many dog lovers agree that the rewards of having dogs far outweigh the inconvenience of a cleaning regimen or a mild allergy flare-up. If your allergies are severe, you may not be one of the lucky ones. However, many people with mild to moderate allergies find that they can enjoy the companionship of dogs with some extra effort.