Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog breed. Though, certain dog breeds cause fewer allergy symptoms than others. The misconception comes from the idea that a dog’s fur is the culprit of allergies. However, the real source is a protein that’s found in dog saliva and urine. This protein then sticks to dander, the dry flaky stuff that lives on your pup’s skin.
Some dog breeds are then somewhat misleadingly described as hypoallergenic because they don’t shed fur or shed very little. Because these non-shedding dogs rarely release fur, the allergy-causing dander doesn’t get released as often into the air, floor or furniture. Instead, the dander sticks to the skin.
If you or someone in your home does have allergies, there are ways to reduce allergy symptoms. Here are a few tips for managing dog allergies as best as possible:
1. Consider a smaller dog, as they will shed less and therefore release less dander into the air and your home.
2. Give your dog boundaries within the home to create allergy-free zones. For instance, don’t allow the dog in places where the allergic person resides most frequently, such as the bedroom. And, if you have a guest visiting who’s allergic, put the dog outside to keep your guest as comfortable as possible.
3. Ditch the carpet. A wood or tile-floor is easier to keep clean. Use a vacuum with a special micro-filter to collect all dust particles and get your carpet professionally cleaned on a regular basis. On a general note, learn to love housework. The cleaner the home, the less chance for dander to build up on surfaces, furniture and bedding.
4. Bathe your dog regularly for obvious reasons. A good cleansing and brushing will remove excess hair filled with dander, which would otherwise end up in your home.
5. Use an air purifier and HEPA vent filters to help reduce the amount of airborne allergens. Besides dander, these filters will also filter out pollen and dust mites from the air you breathe.
6. Wash your hands. Whether you’re frequently petting your dog, or just plain touching things that he may have brushed up against, frequent hand washing is helpful in preventing the dander from sticking to hands, which may then travel to your eyes and nose.
7. Mitigate with medication. There are plenty of over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, which can provide much-needed relief for allergy symptoms such as congestion or itchy eyes. For asthma or wheezing however, you may need a prescription from your physician.
8. Consider allergy shots. Allergy vaccinations can help you develop the antibodies necessary to combat common allergens. This option however should only be considered if you plan to live with a dog long-term and symptoms are too severe to take medications daily. While immunotherapy (allergy shots) can be an effective treatment plan, it’s quite a long road towards the potential of feeling relief. It can take a year of weekly injections before converting to monthly maintenance doses, and then another 3-5 years of monthly shots before you no longer have symptoms (and don’t need medication).
9. Invest in preventative products such as impermeable covers for mattresses and pillows because allergen particles brought into the room on clothes and other objects can accumulate in them and cause more intense symptoms.
10. Don’t blame the dog. While allergies can be terribly uncomfortable and frustrating to live with, remember it’s not your dog’s fault so do not get angry with him. Dogs can’t help the fur and dander they were born with. Plus, it’s not uncommon for someone prone to allergies to be allergic to other allergens in the home other than dander. So before attributing all symptoms to Fido, consider other allergens in your environment that could also be responsible for your symptoms such as dust, insecticides, pollen, or cigarette smoke.