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How to Eliminate Dog Allergies and Pet Dander

You love your dogs like a member of the family. In fact, you’d prefer a walk with Fido over a conversation with any other person. But you’ve recently discovered that when the dog comes around, your nose runs, your eyes water, and throat becomes hoarse.

You have dog allergies.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, roughly 30% of allergy sufferers have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. A pet allergy can be a significant problem, affecting how we live, where we travel, and who we visit.

Whether you are suffering from dog allergies or you want to make your home more welcoming for friends with allergic reactions, there are some important steps you can take. By cleaning the air and making a few lifestyle adjustments, you can have a healthy home and allow Fido to remain a part of your family!

What are Allergies, Anyway?

We hear about them all the time, but do we truly understand what they are and what causes them? Allergies can range from a slight annoyance to a life-threatening problem, but, like most health issues, the first line of defense is knowledge.

Allergic reactions, whether they are caused by food, pet dander, or pollen, result from an over-reaction by the body’s To fight against foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, our bodies come equipped with an aggressive immune system that attacks and eliminates foreign substances.

In most cases, the immune system protects us from danger, but when it overreacts to a specific substance, the result is an allergic reaction. During allergic reactions, the immune response, ironically, can be more harmful than the foreign particles.

People with pet allergies, for example, have immune systems that are oversensitive to pet dander, causing a reaction in the body that is above and beyond the necessary level.

What is Pet Dander?

Some people assume that pet dander, which causes allergic reactions, is another way to say “pet hair.” This is not the case. Pet dander is tiny, often microscopic bits of skin shed by cats, dogs, birds and other animals. These bits of skin are the cause of people’s allergies.

Pet hair, in fact, does not actually cause pet allergies, but acts as a vehicle for spreading the dander. Hair and fur can collect particles of dander, saliva, and even urine, allowing these substances to move throughout the home.

While dog dander may be the most common type given the popularity of dogs, we talk with a lot of people who have issues from cat dander and bird dander. More people are allergic to cats than dogs because cats have a certain protein called FEL d1. When cats lick us, this highly allergic protein is transferred.

Bird dander works a little differently. The allergic reaction here stems from the feather dust.

Common Allergic Reactions to Pet Dander

People who suffer from pet allergies react in different ways. In most cases, the microscopic pet dander will land on membranes that line the eyes and the nose. This can quickly cause itching, inflamed, and agitated eyes. A common allergy symptom is to experience itchy eyes after petting a dog and then touching your face or eyes. Allergy sufferers will often experience a stuffy or runny nose, creating cold-like symptoms that are common in allergic reactions.

When pet dander lands on the skin, it can cause rashes. In some situations, a pet scratch or a lick can cause that specific area to become red, itchy, irritated, or even painful.

It is also possible to breathe in pet dander and other particles, causing allergic reactions in the lungs. This can cause severe breathing problems and often leads to coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. Often the most delayed allergic reaction, issues in the lungs can take as long as a half hour for symptoms to occur.

What is “Hay Fever?”

“Hay fever” is a term that is thrown about a lot, especially during the spring pollen season. However, hay fever is essentially a layman’s term referring to nearly all allergic reactions. Most often this is cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose and sneezing.

Hay fever doesn’t necessarily have to be caused by hay, or even plant material of any kind. Pet dander, for example, can result in hay fever. Perhaps most interesting, hay fever doesn’t actually involve a fever.

Are these Allergic Reactions or a Common Cold?

Understanding whether you are suffering from a basic cold or an issue with allergies is one of the most important steps you can take. While the symptoms of allergies and common colds can overlap, such as runny and stuffy noses, there are some distinct characteristics of each.

There are a few symptoms that are common in colds but less likely, or completely unheard-of, in allergies. Aches, for example, sometime occur with colds but are not part of allergic reactions. Fevers, while rare in colds, are also never found with allergies.

Itchy and watery eyes, on the other hand, are very common with allergies but rare with colds.

Pet Dander and Asthma

Unfortunately, allergies are not the only health issue that can be triggered by pet dander. Asthma attacks can also be triggered, creating serious, sometimes life-threatening problems among those who suffer from asthma.

Asthma is a condition in the lungs that causes inflammation of air passages. This inflammation results in a temporary narrowing of the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Like allergies, asthmatic airways can overreact to certain triggers, including pollen, dust, smoke, and pet dander. Airways can be extremely sensitive, leading to asthma attacks at even the smallest irritation.

Treatments for Pet Allergies

If you suffer from a pet allergy, but can’t bear the thought of removing your pet from the home, then you need to take careful, intentional measures to relieve your symptoms.

These steps generally fall into two categories. The first is changing the way you live and interact with your pet. The second is making efforts to clean and purify the air.

By making small changes to your home and large changes to your air-cleaning efforts, you’ll have healthier air for you and your family.

We need to be frank. If you have dog allergies, Fido is no longer allowed on the bed! There, we said it. In fact, he’s no longer allowed in the bedroom. Get used to the words “get down” and “get out.” We know it’s tough, but Fido is resourceful enough to find another place to sleep!

In all seriousness, we spend roughly a third to half of our time in the bedroom, so if you let your dog sleep on the bed or even in the room, it’s likely the biggest cause of your pet allergies.

While you’re re-training Fido (and yourself), keep the dog off furniture too. Like the bed, this is a place where people spend a lot of time, and pet dander on the furniture can be a major agitator.

Cleaning is another important step for handling pet dander and the allergies they can cause. You don’t have to be a fanatical duster. But taking the time to clean dust, vacuum carpets, and wipe hard surfaces will help you control airborne particles that irritate your allergies.

If your allergies are particularly strong (or if you’re simply dedicated to clean, healthy air), then you should invest in a reliable vacuum. Having this addition to your home will be an important tool for removing dander and controlling dog allergies.

Be sure to wash bedding often, even if you’ve managed to keep Fido off the bed. At least once a week, wash your bedding in hot water to thoroughly remove dander and other allergy-inducing particles.

To remove the dander in your home and rein in your pet allergies, you need to purchase a high-quality home purifier. These air purifiers clean particles from the air, creating a safer, healthier environment and can significantly reduce allergic reactions to pet dander.

Learn about the best air purifiers for pets, including purifiers that target pet odors and pet dander from dogs. 

As any asthma sufferer knows, there are over-the-counter and prescription medications for allergic reactions. These medications can be effective for relieving itchy eyes, sneezing, and runny noses, but you should first attempt to reduce or eliminate the cause, then use medication when needed. Start with dander reduction, cleaning, and air purification and you may discover that medications are no longer needed.  

What about a Dog’s Allergies?

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about people’s allergic reactions to dogs, but what about a dog’s allergies?

Believe it or not, dogs can suffer from allergies like humans, so taking steps to clean the home and purify the air can help your dog’s health as well as your family’s.

Dogs can develop allergic reactions to trees, grass, weed pollen, mold spores, dust, and even another animal’s dander. Cigarette smoke can also be an airborne trigger for a dog’s allergies.

Like humans, any dog can develop allergies at any point in their lives. This can occur in all breeds, but certain dogs are more susceptible to allergies. Terriers, setters, and retrievers are more likely to have allergies, as are breeds with flat faces, such as pugs and bulldogs.

To help prevent or reduce a dog’s allergies, take the same basic measures that you would take for yourself. Clean the dog’s bedding about once a week and vacuum frequently.

A dog’s fur can act as a carrier for particles, such as dust and pollen, that causes allergic reactions. For their own sake, as well as yours, give them a bath about every other week.

Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds? The Best (and Worst) Dogs for Allergies

As we discussed above, many people assume that dog allergies are caused by fur, and therefore assume that the best dogs for reducing allergic reactions are short-haired animals, while the worst are long-haired breeds. This is not exactly the case.

Once again, it’s the skin (and drool) particles that cause allergic reactions, so there are actually some furry animals that are very good for people with allergies, and vice-versa.

It’s important to note that there is no 100% “hypoallergenic” dog breeds. All dogs, even “hairless” breeds and ones the shed less dander, can cause allergic reactions.

However, some will certainly cause fewer, or less severe, reactions than others. 

The Worst
Let’s start with the worst dog breeds for allergic reactions. These dogs typically have lots of dander, as well as hair to help spread it around. However, even some short-haired breeds can be nasty on your allergies.

Boston terriers and bulldogs for example, have shorter hair but can be bad for allergy sufferers.

Thick-coated German shepherds and Saint Bernard’s are also rough on people with allergies.

The Best
According to the American Kennel Club, there are many breeds that are less likely to cause allergic reactions, and they are not all exotic, rare animals like the “logotto romagnolo.”

Well-known breeds, such as schnauzers and poodles are popular because they give off less dander. Even long-haired, furry friends like the Irish water spaniel and the soft-coated wheaten terrier are popular breeds for people who have pet-dander sensitivities.

HEPA Filters, Dog Allergies, and Pet Dander

One of the most effective and convenient ways to control pet dander, and an essential step if you have dog allergies, is to invest in a high-quality air purifier with HEPA filters and a strong motor. These filters have fine sieves that trap small, microscopic particles, keeping them from landing on your eyes, skin, or nose. A strong motor will ensure your purifier has strong air flow to clean your indoor space. 

Whether you need to reduce dog allergies or simply want to reduce airborne particles in your home, you can find the perfect room air purifier for your needs and your budget from Oransi!