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Dogs and Allergies: Living with a Dog When You're Allergic

Learn about how people with allergies can live with dogs.

If you or someone in your home is allergic to dogs, you know how miserable it can be. Some people are dangerously allergic and can't live with dogs. Others can live comfortably with a dog if they take certain precautions.

What Causes Dog Allergies?

People who are allergic to dogs have an immune system that overreacts to specific proteins produced in the animals' saliva. Those proteins get spread around the dog's fur and skin, and they show up in the urine too. They get into the environment, including the furniture and air.

Signs of Dog Allergy in People

People who are allergic to dogs may show some of the following symptoms (or others—check with your doctor if you suspect a dog allergy):

  • Runny, itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy rash on the skin

People with asthma may have that condition triggered by exposure to dog allergens, creating life-threatening difficulty breathing. Those people should not live with dogs.

Are There Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no hypoallergenic breed of dog. All dogs produce the protein, which is present in their saliva and urine, that triggers allergies in humans. Dogs accepted to be hypoallergenic may produce less of it, but that hasn't been proven scientifically. Ultimately, how many allergens produced comes down to that individual dog. Some people are triggered by certain dogs and not others.

Modifications for Allergic People Living with Dogs

An allergic person who decides to live with a dog should always check with their doctor first. Here are some tips for helping an allergic person be more comfortable living with a dog:

  • Brush. A non-allergic person should brush the dog daily, preferably in a room not used by the allergic person or outside. Removing dander and loose fur can decrease the amount of allergen in the allergic person's environment.
  • Vacuum. A non-allergic person should thoroughly vacuum the home routinely, perhaps daily, with a vacuum containing a HEPA filter. Without the HEPA filter, vacuuming can spread the allergen even more widely around the house.
  • Provide hard surfaces. As much as possible, remove soft surfaces that catch and hold onto allergens from the home. That can include carpet, rugs, and curtains. Hard, non-porous surfaces are easier to keep clean and allergen-free.
  • Stay clean. The allergic person should shower at least daily and change into fresh clothes often, especially before bedtime.
  • Keep the bedroom dog-free. It can be beneficial to a dog-allergic person to keep their bedroom and all the furniture in the house dog-free. Sleeping amidst allergens can cause even bigger reactions in an allergic person. If someone else sleeps in the room too, that person should shower and change before entering the room for bedtime.

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