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Are you Allergic to Your Dog?

When I was dating my now-husband, he was severely allergic to dogs. After his first visit to my home –…

What to Do if You Are Allergic to Your Dog

When I was dating my now-husband, he was severely allergic to dogs. After his first visit to my home – where my spoiled rotten beagle resided – he was in bed sick for 3 days! Little by little, mostly because I couldn’t live without a dog, my husband was exposed to dogs and eventually developed a tolerance to them. Thank goodness. It’s a happily ever after story as my husband and I have owned and loved many dogs over the years we have been married.

That’s good news for those of you who are allergic to your dog! Building a tolerance to an allergy is possible. In fact, that is basically the way an allergy shot works. The allergen itself is injected little by little into your system, developing a tolerance. Wonder who ever thought of doing something like that? Allergies can change too, not specifically after a set number of years, but they do change based on people’s exposure to different environments. It may take months or years, but don’t lose hope.

Allergies are miserable, aren’t they? Sneezing, shortness of breath, runny nose, coughing, hives, itchy eyes…everyone’s reactions to allergens are different. For asthma sufferers, it’s even worse, and can be severe. Most of the time, it’s obvious that you’re allergic to your dog, but if you still question it, you can go to your doctor for a simple skin prick test. Some doctors recommend being tested even if you feel sure your allergies are to the dog, as there could be other environmental factors at play.

When you have an allergic reaction to a dog, your body is reacting to the dog’s dander. Dander comes from allergens in your dog’s skin and saliva.  If you are allergic to a dog in your home, it’s going to be a challenge, because dander gets EVERYWHERE. It’s in the rugs, in the furniture, on your clothes, on your curtains, even in the fabric of your car. What’s worse is that dander can stay airborne for long periods of time. So that means it can settle in your eyes and nasal passages. Ughh… But wait! Don’t kick the dog out just yet!

Here’s the good news: Where there’s a will, there’s a way! You can learn to live comfortably with a dog that you are allergic to. Let’s talk about that!

What can you do to reduce an allergic reaction to your dog?

Stay on top of your medications

This goes without saying, really, but let’s just get it out of the way… The most common and effective way of controlling allergies is to take oral antihistamines. Claritin, Benadryl, Allegra, Zyrtec… all these over-the-counter antihistamines do quite well at relieving allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchiness, and runny nose. Topical antihistamines, like nasal sprays and eye drops, are also incredibly helpful (spoken from experience). As in my husband’s case, over-the-counter antihistamines were not strong enough. He needed to visit his doctor for something a little stronger. Prescription antihistamines are available from your doctor for more severe symptoms.

Frequent dog grooming is key

One of the best things you can do to keep allergies at bay is to have your dog on a regular grooming schedule. Consistent and frequent bathing will significantly reduce your dog’s dander. Dog baths at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts begin with a good brushing to loosen that dead skin and dander so that it can be whisked away in the bath. While in the bath, we use a Hydrosurge bath system which propels the soapy water through the coat and right down to the skin, breaking up all the oils, dead skin and dander and washing it away (and the pups love the massaging action of the warm water against their skin!). Our high-efficiency blow dryers are also furrmazing at ridding the fur of irritants.

Our Shedding treatment is highly recommended if you struggle with allergies to your dog. Many of our customers find it very helpful in reducing hair and dander in the home. The treatment involves not only the brushing and bath as mentioned, but more advanced de-shedding tools and shampoos formulated to help rid the coat of irritants. An incentive for making it a regular habit is to schedule your next appointment at check-out and receive $5 off your dog’s next grooming appointment.

Keep ‘em clean in-between baths

In between baths, brush and wipe down your dog often. Any time my dog comes in from outside, I use a baby wipe on his legs and “privates”. This not only keeps him from dragging pollen and other irritants into the house but reduces any dander that has made its way to the surface of his coat. As an itchy dog, baby wipes help to keep him from scratching himself so much too.

Consider asking a non-allergy suffering family member to brush the dog daily. If that’s not possible – and you are capable (meaning, your allergies are not life-threatening) – put on a facemask and brush away. Brushing releases dander and other irritants from your dog’s fur and gets rid of it. It also breaks down that nasty allergen-causing saliva that has dried on your dog’s fur. If you can brush your dog outside before bringing them into the house, that’s even better. It’s a good idea to do this just before you shower. Be sure to change/wash your clothes afterward because the residue will no-doubt settle on the fabric of your clothes.

Changes at home can make a big difference in your reaction to dog allergens

Up your cleaning regimen

A good cleaning regimen will go far to control dog allergies in the home. Unfortunately, we allergy sufferers have to work a little harder at house cleaning than most people.

Remember, dog dander sticks to any type of fabric, which includes rugs, carpet, and upholstery. If you are fortunate enough to have hardwood floors (or tile of some sort) and leather furniture, half the battle is won. Mopping (often) and damp wiping the furniture will work for you. If you do not have easy clean floors and furniture, roll up your sleeves… We need to get busy.

Here are some tips for cleaning your home to help manage dog allergies:

1) Wash sheets and other bedding weekly, changing your pillowcases every couple of days. 

Research shows that washing in hot water removes nearly 90 percent of dog dander compared with about 60 percent removed in warm water washing. Similarly, it was learned that rinsing your laundry twice in cold water removes ALL dog dander, regardless of what temperature the laundry was washed in.

Of course, as much as I don’t want to say it, your dog should sleep on the floor and not in bed with you. I know… makes me sad too. If you can’t stand it and absolutely have to have your dog sleep in your bed (that would be me), keep several sheet sets clean and available to change out every 2 – 3 days, depending on the severity of your allergies.

2) Wash your dog’s bedding and toys often.

Remember, allergens also come from your dog’s saliva, so it’s all over the toys.

3) Dust your house well and frequently.

Use a dusting spray on a microfiber cloth. Dusting sprays will capture dust and dander and bind it to your cloth until you shake it out or wash it. I just checked and this is way cool… I use a dusting spray called “Endust“. The label reads “Certified Asthma and Allergy Friendly”! Yay! A damp microfiber works well in a pinch. Feather dusters do nothing but spread allergens around.

4) Keep humidity regulated.

Pet dander, as well as other allergens like mold and dust, are affected by humidity. When the humidity in your home is too high, pet dander will stick to everything – including you. If the humidity in your home is too low, mucus membranes get too dry which will trigger allergy symptoms, compounded by dog dander. The desired humidity in your home should be between 30 and 50%. By the way, you can purchase an indoor humidity monitor on Amazon for under $10.

5) Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum…


Your home vacuum may not be sufficient in removing allergens and contaminants from your home. It has to have a good filtration system. The air suction of a vacuum pulls whatever is picked up (dust, dander, other particles) through the “chamber” (a bag or “bagless” container) where it is filtered. Once the air is filtered, it is recirculated back into your home. If you have a poor filtration system on your vacuum, it can allow contaminates to be dumped back into your home. So what good is it, right?

A study by the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association has shown that HEPA filters in vacuums work better at filtering out fine particles. But just buying any ole vacuum with a HEPA filter is not enough. The vacuum must be properly sealed and airtight to prevent particles from escaping. Some vacuums have HEPA filters but are not sealed properly so they do little good. Properly designed vacuums cost a little more but consider it an investment. They will likely last longer too.

Vacuum not only your flooring, but your furniture’s upholstry too.  Blinds also need to be vacuumed and curtains/draperies need to be washed.  Here is some food for thought…  If a home renovation is in your future, consider removing the carpet and installing wood or tile flooring. New window coverings too? Great! Wider, non-textured blinds are easier to clean than draperies.

6. Air filters

Change the air-filters in your central heating and air conditioning system regularly. Spend a little extra money on an air filter that specifically states it filters allergens and/or pet dander. The Environmental Protection Agency says the HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter)filter removes 99.97% of airborne particles, and it gets high praise by allergy sufferers. Make sure the filters are the correct size and fit properly. If not, the allergens will pass around the edges of the filter, rendering it useless.

7. Do Air Purifiers work?

Do they work? As with anything, some do, some don’t. Some are just blowing smoke (had to say it… sorry). Air purifiers are designed to take in polluted air, filter and trap particulate contaminants, and then release newly filtered air into the home. They can be very helpful for anyone who suffers from allergies.

A good air purifier usually has a multi-stage filtration system, preferably including activated carbon and a HEPA filter. These two filters working together can retain even more particles to improve air quality. Make sure your air purifier is the right size for the room(s) you intend to use them in, and remember that filters will need cleaned or replaced regularly.

Unfortunately, the air purification industry is rampant with scams. You really need to do some research and perhaps talk to an air quality professional. Look for the asthma & allergy friendly® certification. This certification by the Asthma and Allergy Association helps consumers make informed purchases through testing against strict standards.

The good and the bad

As we discussed in a blog a few years back, all dogs produce allergens, even those labeled “hypoallergenic”. The production of allergens is your dog’s way of shedding dead skin cells. We wouldn’t really want to stop that healthy process, even if it does make us sneeze. However, a dog that produces too much dander is a problem. If your dog has persistent flakiness, particularly if accompanied by itching, odor, irritated skin or hair loss, a visit to the veterinarian is warranted. And that’s a subject for another blog…

We wish you well!   Good luck!

Interested in Holiday Barn’s grooming services? Contact us today at our Glen Allen or Midlothian locations!

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