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Being allergic to dogs doesn't mean you can't have a dog

Nearly 15 percent of Americans suffer from pet-related allergies, but many of these people are still pet owners. How do they do it? Well, there are quite a few ways to enjoy a furry friend without all the sneezing and scratching. You just have to be a little more careful about what pets you choose to keep, how to interact with them, and how to take care of yourself when living with a dog. Just follow a few guidelines and you too can keep allergies at bay!


Do

Do talk to an allergist about dog allergies

If you are allergic to pet dander, or anything else pet-related, make an appointment to see an allergist. They can work with you to find a solution that will allow you to tackle your allergies head-on while remaining a dedicated dog owner. The most typical solutions involve the amount of contact you have with your dog, where you keep them (indoors vs. outdoors) and keeping your home clean and free of objects that are allergen attractants. In some cases, an allergist may recommend various medicines or shots if you are willing to go this route.

Do look for a dog that is hypoallergenic

The good news for many dog lovers that suffer from allergies is that there are quite a few breeds out there that are hypoallergenic, or have low levels of allergens. Although some debate exists about exactly which breeds are hypoallergenic, the most recognized ones include poodles, Bichon Frisés, Maltese, Afghan hounds and Chinese cresteds. President Obama’s family dogs, Bo and Sunny, are Portuguese water dogs, which are also hypoallergenic. All these dogs have very low levels of dander.

Do practice good personal and house hygiene

One of the best ways to keep dog allergies at bay is to practice good personal hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, especially after you pet your dog or come into contact with another dog. Regularly dust and vacuum your house, especially in rooms frequented by your dog. The same goes for any fabrics, including sheets, curtains, rugs and clothes that your dog touches. Through these methods, you are highly likely to reduce the amount of allergens in your environment and keep them off your skin.

Do groom your dog well

Even if you have a hypoallergenic dog, it is important to keep them groomed regularly in order to keep allergens at a minimum. Brush your dog daily and maintain a consistent schedule for bathing to eliminate dander from your dog’s coat as much as possible. Shampoos are also available that specifically target pet dander. If you are able and inclined, taking your dog to a professional groomer is also a great idea.

Do make sure your dog has the proper nutrition

The amount of allergens in your dog’s coat (and thus in your home and on you) can be a reflection of your dog’s diet. Diets that contain healthy amounts of natural fat help keep your dog’s coat from drying out and producing excess amounts of dander. Plenty of grocery stores and pet stores offer a wide range of dog food options that contain these natural fats that will keep your dog healthy and as close to dander free as possible.


Don't

Do not let your dog sleep in your bed

If you are allergic to dog dander, do not let your dog sleep in your bed. Their dander will rub off on your sheets, pillows and anything else they touch, which could lead to uncomfortable nights of sneezing and wheezing for you. Dogs should sleep elsewhere, preferably on their own bed in order to limit your exposure to dander. In addition, use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter to help rid the air in your bedroom of dander.

Do not be afraid to get shots if necessary

While there are many natural solutions to eliminating dog dander and keeping your allergies in check, shots may be necessary if other methods aren’t working. Immunotherapy happens in several doses over a set amount of time, and helps reduce (or even eliminate) allergy symptoms. Decongestants and antihistamines, which often require a prescription, are other methods of allergy treatment.

Do not forget to close your air registers

Forced heating and air conditioning can play a major role in spreading pet dander around your house and may make you very uncomfortable. If you do have a forced-air system in your home, don’t forget to close your air registers to keep the dissemination of dander at a minimum. Also don’t forget to regularly change your air filters. This is a standard housekeeping practice anyways, but keeping clean filters in your home will allow for pet dander to be caught more easily and will help you breathe better.

Do not smoke

It is always a good idea to avoid smoking at all costs, or to quit smoking as soon as possible. Not only does smoking enhance irritation of your lungs caused by inhaling pet dander, it also greatly decreases your body’s tolerance of this dander and other allergens. Commit to reducing dander by finding a way to quit smoking and request that your family and friends help keep your home smoke free. You’ll all breathe easier in the end.

Do not keep heavy curtains, carpets, or upholstered furniture in your home

Curtains, carpets and upholstered furniture often contain thick, heavy fabrics that act as a trap for dog dander. These items often require heavy cleaning to remove dander, and often it isn’t worth the time or money it takes to keep them dander-free. Choose lighter fabric or unupholstered options for your home if you can.


Summary
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While you may be one of the millions of Americans suffering from dog allergies, there are ways you can keep a dog in your home and greatly reduce the amount of dander present. Following a few key tips can make a world of difference in how you feel and how your body reacts to having a dog around. By choosing a hypoallergenic dog, keeping your dog groomed, your house clean and practicing healthy living habits, you’ll find that you and Fido can live in harmony.


More expert advice about Choosing a Dog

Photo Credits: alenkasm/bigstock.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Chessie GreenD.V.M.

Chessie Green, D.V.M., is a member of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association (NCVMA) and founding president of Friends of the NCVMA, the organization’s charitable arm. She is also a veterinarian at Falls Village Veterinary Hospital in...

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