Controlling Allergies Caused by Dog Dander

Many people have an allergic reaction to dog dander that ranges from mild to life-threatening. Some people may be allergic to one breed or all breeds of dogs because they have a highly sensitive immune system that reacts to proteins in dog dander-which is dead skin that is shed-as well as to saliva and urine. Mild symptoms of allergy to dog dander includes a stuffy, itchy nose and red eyes. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and hives on the face, neck and upper chest. Anyone who is prone to dog dander allergies should see a physician before getting a dog.

A Common Misconception about Coping with Allergies to Dog Dander

Dander accumulates on a dog's coat and on surfaces in the dog's environment, remaining a potent allergen for months. Dander also sticks to walls, furniture, flooring and clothing; can travel on clothing to places not occupied by dogs; and, stay suspended in the air for a long time. For this reason, removing a dog from the home will not halt symptoms of allergy to dander. Moreover, bathing and grooming a dog can actually spread dander throughout the house. Keeping a dog is therefore more challenging for allergy sufferers.

Steps for Allergy Sufferers Who Want to Keep a Dog as a Pet

Disrupting canine coats through grooming and petting can spread dander and trigger allergic reactions. Here are some steps to avoiding or reducing your exposure to dog dander:

  • Keep your dog out of the house, though this will not eradicate dander already there
  • If this is not possible, keep your dog out of your bedroom
  • Avoid visiting other households with indoor dogs
  • Have your dog groomed by a professional
  • Ask others who are not affected by dander to comb and bathe your dog off-site
  • Replace furniture, upholstery and carpet if you move into a previously occupied house or you discover you have allergies to dog dander
  • Install an air filter that shields you from allergens
  • Choose only non-shedding breeds as pets

Non-Shedding Dogs Can Make Good Companions for Allergy Sufferers

If given the green light by your doctor to have a dog, spend time with prospective non-shedding breeds before accepting one into your household. This will allow you to test whether you have an allergic response to any one breed of dog. Never pick a shedding dog because you like it for other reasons; narrow your list to non-shedding dogs alone.

Here are some popular non-shedding breeds-realize, however, that all dogs shed at least a little hair and skin, and so spread dander:

  • American Hairless Terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Belgian (or, Brussels) Griffon
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Chinese Crested, Hairless and Powderpuff
  • Poodle, including hybrids
  • Portuguese Water Dog