Sure, there are hypoallergenic breeds out there. Beyond that, we’ve rounded up some practical strategies to help keep your allergies at bay.
What Makes Me Allergic?
Studies show a whopping 15% of the population is allergic to pets, and 30% of those with allergies of another kind are also allergic to dogs and cats. One study showed that even if advised to give up their pet by their doctor, only one of five people did.
What makes a person allergic? A secreted protein released by dander and saliva is to blame—these allergens are sticky, clinging to pet fur but also clothing, mattresses, drapes, or bedding for long periods of time. They also stay suspended in the air for several hours.
For these reasons, allergens can remain in a home for up to six months, even after a pet is gone. If you’re not willing to say goodbye to your furry friend—who is?—we’ve got you covered with 10 tips for controlling dog allergies.
1. Get Rid of the Carpet
Why it works: As mentioned, allergens are sticky and need a surface on which to attach. They stick much easier on cloth and are harder to clean from these surfaces. So keep your home as allergen-resistant as possible:
- Replace carpet with hardwood or laminate flooring, and replace drapes or curtains with shutters or blinds.
- If replacing carpet is out of the question, get your carpet professionally deep-cleaned at least twice a year.
- Choose leather sofas over fabric couches, or cover fabric couches with plastic so allergens cannot attach.
2. Clean Baby, Clean!
Why it works: Vacuuming frequently can keep allergens from piling up. The single most important key to vacuuming frequently is to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which removes 99.97% of all tiny particles.
Even more important is a vacuum that can trap allergens instead of redistributing them through the air. According to Dyson, the vacuum must be properly sealed or dirty air can bypass the filter, sending allergens right back into the home.
Once you have the right vacuum, make sure you empty it outside in your outdoor garbage can to prevent spreading the trapped allergens in your home.
3. Frequent Baths and Grooming
Why it works: Remember how soft your dog’s fur feels after he’s had a bath? That’s because the dirt has been washed away, along with the allergens.
Frequent bathing removes the dead skin flakes—a.k.a dander—from your pet’s skin and can reduce allergens by as much as 84%.
Most veterinarians recommend weekly baths but consult your own vet to determine what’s best for you and your dog. You’ll need to be careful not to dry out your pet’s skin—certain shampoos can help. Don’t forget wipes, which can be less harsh on your pet’s skin yet still remove a good percentage of built-up allergens. There are even shampoos and wipes specifically designed to reduce dog allergens.
Don’t forget to brush your dog frequently—and take it outside! Wear a mask if you’re allergic, but preferably a non-allergic family member or professional would handle the grooming.
No time for a full bath? No problem! Rub this product on your dog using a washcloth—but don’t soak it in—and dry it with a towel to easily remove dander and saliva without the hassle of a full bath.
Also wash your hands frequently to keep allergens at bay, especially after petting your dog. Maybe even change your clothes several times a day.
4. Wash Pet Beds…A Lot
Why it works: Pet bedding is another source of piled-up allergens, so wash it frequently. You may even want to consider replacing pet beds every few months or so. You can always donate lightly-used beds to your local animal shelter, where homeless dogs are sure to appreciate the plush bedding. If you’re worried about cost, discount retailers like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Ross all have pet beds—as well as toys, poop bags, and treats—at a fraction of the cost.
If you decide to hold onto your pet beds a little longer, try this specially formulated laundry detergent designed to remove allergens at all water temperatures.
5. Create Dog-Free Zones
Why it works: Keeping your dog out of certain areas of the house creates safe havens for allergy sufferers in the home. Keep the door shut and do not allow the pet inside these areas under any circumstances. If your allergies get bad, you can simply head to your allergen-free room for some reprieve. Most recommend making the bedroom this pet-free zone, as it’s where you’re likely to spend quite a bit of time.
6. Install HEPA Filters
Why it works: As we’ve mentioned, HEPA filtration is the ultimate in controlling allergens. These filters remove nearly 100% of the microscopic allergens that are keeping you miserable.
You won’t just remove dog dander, but you’ll also remove other potentially risky indoor air pollutants. Although HEPA filters offer the best quality control with an efficiency rating of 17 out of 20, Angie’s List has a handful of cost-effective alternatives.
7. Go Hypoallergenic
Why it works: According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, there is no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic dog, but people may be sensitive to some breeds more than others.
The American Kennel Club says these dogs are among the most hypoallergenic:
- Bichon Frise
- Chinese Crested
- Afghan Hound
8. Allergy Testing and Therapy
Why it works: Think you’re allergic to dogs and/or cats? What if you weren’t? There’s only one way to find out for sure—allergy testing.
Allergy testing will pinpoint exactly what you’re allergic to and if you decide to go the immunotherapy route (allergy shots). You’ll not only work towards reducing or eliminating your allergy to pets, but also, your allergies to everything else.
Here’s how it works: the doctor will insert small amounts of allergens into an area on your body—usually your back—to see what you react to and what you don’t. They will then formulate an allergy shot with allergens you react to, which you’ll take in increasing doses over time to reduce your body’s sensitivity.
This can be an expensive treatment and is not guaranteed to work, but it can make a world of difference.
9. Take Medication
Why it works: Though merely masking your symptoms, medication can help you cope. Bulk stores offer the best deals on medications like Zyrtec and Claritin, as well as generic versions.
Decongestants, like the over-the-counter versions mentioned above, and antihistamines are the first step in medication. Usually, your allergy symptoms can be managed with these medications. If not, your doctor may suggest you advance to an anti-histamine/steroid combination, or full-on corticosteroids. Prolonged steroid use can have negative side-effects and would typically not be recommended for controlling pet allergies—doctors would prefer other methods, like the ones listed above.
10. Good Training
Why it works: Since pets also release allergens through their urine, it makes sense to have a well-trained pet who will not have accidents in the house. Those allergens stick around long after the pee has dried and can spread easily throughout the air, where they linger. Make sure your dog is 100% potty trained and reliable in the house.
The Bottom Line
You don’t have to wear a face mask or put your dog in a bubble to coexist! There are plenty of ways to deal with dog allergies so you don’t have to live in misery to experience the joys of pet parenthood.