Anyone with a dog would tell you what a wonderful experience it is. The companionship and unconditional love can warm even the coldest heart. Owning a dog can have a number of physical and mental health benefits. That being said, many people are allergic to pet dander, and these allergies can manifest in a number of ways. None of these are particularly pleasant. Often, they are enough to put sufferers off from getting a dog.
Luckily, there are a couple of solutions. While allergies obviously cannot be cured, there are a few things that you can do to alleviate the symptoms, which means that you could totally have a dog if you wanted to. Let's get into it!
Allergies to Pet Dander
An allergy is caused by your immune system overreacting to an environmental trigger. In terms of an allergy to dogs, it could be caused by any number of things. Some people react to pet dander and fur, while others react to the proteins in a dog's saliva, feces, and urine. Knowing what sets off your allergy is important because it will impact your approach to owning a dog.
The first step, then, is a diagnosis; if you haven't already, you should undergo allergy testing. Many people fall into the trap of self-diagnosis, but this does not provide you with a clear picture of the cause and effect.
Many allergy sufferers have more than one allergy, and the triggers can add up and culminate in a reaction. Conversely, managing most of your allergies can be enough to keep the rest of your symptoms at bay. Regardless, allergy testing can help you decide if getting a dog will work for you.
In most cases, an allergy test will consist of either a skin prick test or a blood test. These tests have come a long way in recent years, with clinicians able to identify specific molecular proteins causing your symptoms. For wannabe dog owners, this is great news. You could discover that you are allergic to a protein only produced by male dogs, in which case getting a female dog or having a male dog neutered could be enough to ensure that you do not experience any symptoms.
So-Called Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds
It's important to have an understanding of your allergies so that you can make well-informed decisions. If you are allergic to pet dander, you might be interested in the idea of a hypoallergenic dog breed. Truthfully, there is no guarantee that a so-called hypoallergenic dog breed will make you any less likely to react.
They are thought to be less risky, but it really comes down to the individual and the severity of their allergy. Certain dog breeds shed less and are ideal for those with pet dander allergies. However, you will need to think about the other characteristics of the breed and whether or not they will fit into your life. You need to think about the breed as a whole.
Once you have found a breed that you think will fit into your lifestyle and that you think you are prepared to take on, you should think about exploring its allergy status. There are a number of resources online that can help. For example, Native Pet has some informative blog posts that could answer some of your questions, like ‘Are Australian shepherds hypoallergenic?'
Always Meet the Puppy First
Once you have done your research and you have settled on a few different breeds that you think could work for you in terms of your allergies and that you think you are capable of caring for, it is time for the next step. You should try to spend some time with those breeds; now, this might be easier said than done.
If you know anyone that owns a dog breed that you are interested in, you should ask them if you can visit or watch the dog. You could also look at local rescues or fosters to see whether they have any.
The only thing that will tell you definitively whether you will react is meeting the breed and spending time with it one-on-one. This is why physical interaction with the breed before you make any commitments is key. You might want to have a few different meetings just to make sure because a single visit might not yield any allergic reaction, but as the factors change, this could change too.
Reducing Allergic Reactions in the Home
Even if you choose a hypoallergenic breed that you get along with allergy-wise, it is worth thinking about your lifestyle and a few changes that you can make within the home to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Allergy particles are tiny, they tend to cling to fabric, and it can be hard to get them out.
If you can, it might be worth reducing these surfaces in your home by either physically swapping out curtains for blinds or choosing wood floors over carpets. You could also try to limit where the dog goes. For example, you could keep the dog out of your bedroom where you sleep.
You should also start to clean more regularly. You can remove the particles by vacuuming, washing, and wiping surfaces. An air purifier can help to combat airborne particles.
Your personal hygiene can also affect the likelihood of an allergic reaction. Wash your hands after touching the dog. Regular bathing and grooming for your dog can help reduce dander levels at home too.
Lastly, antihistamines will likely become your lifeline – especially to start with. You could also see your doctor and ask them about other treatments available to you.
You absolutely can get a dog if you have an allergy if you approach it in the right way. Remember to get tested for allergies and do your research on finding the best breed of dog for you. Lastly, before you commit, research hypoallergenic breeds that fit your lifestyle and make adjustments at home to reduce allergic reactions.