Your precious pooch brings you daily joy, but also coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes and other uncomfortable allergic symptoms. You're not alone: Approximately 15 to 20 percent of Americans suffer from animal allergies, according to the ASPCA. No need to give your furry best friend away -- bathing him every two weeks can help reduce allergens.
Dog Allergy Causes
It's not Fido's beautiful fur that's giving you allergic symptoms, but proteins in his urine, saliva and dander, which are dried flakes of his skin. After you inhale the allergens or get them on your skin, your hypersensitive immune system misinterprets them as dangerous invaders, causing inflammation in your nasal passages and lungs. Your symptoms may include congestion, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, sore throat, asthma and other respiratory conditions; or eczema, rashes and hives. Dander particles are extremely small and collect in furniture, carpeting, curtains and clothes. They can also remain airborne for long periods of time.
Bathing your pooch will help keep him fresh and clean, and wash those allergens down the drain that are making you sick. Don't share your own shampoo with Fido. Shampoos for humans have their own specially formulated pH level and use strong detergents that can irritate your dog's sensitive skin. Ask your vet which brand of shampoo she recommends for the most effective removal of allergens. Giving Fido regular baths will also help remove allergens that he collects from the outdoors, such as pollen, which many allergic individuals are also sensitive to.
Before bathing your pooch, comb out his coat to remove any matted or knotted fur. Carefully follow the directions on the shampoo bottle for the best results; many products recommend leaving the shampoo on the dog's coat for a certain amount of time for better penetration. Begin gently shampooing your pup's shoulders to help relax him and then move to other areas of his body. Use a hose or detachable shower head for the most effective soap removal. Avoid bathing your pooch more than every two weeks. Frequent bathing will strip natural oils from his skin and lead to dryness and flaking, which will increase the amount of dander being released, defeating the purpose of the baths.
Place air cleaners with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters throughout your home to further reduce dog allergens. Vacuum upholstered furniture, carpeting, curtains and drapes with a machine that also uses a HEPA filter. Regular vacuum cleaners aren't as effective at removing dander and can even keep it circulating in the environment. If you've been sleeping with Fido, give him his own bed in the bathroom, service porch or other non-carpeted area and make your bedroom dog-free by keeping the door closed at all times. Many allergies become worse at night, especially asthma and other respiratory disorders. Keep your pooch outdoors as much as possible when the weather allows, unless he's a brachycephalic breed like a bulldog or pug, which can't withstand much variation in temperatures, especially heat.
By Liza Blau
MayoClinic.com: Pet Allergy
WebMD: Dog Allergies
Asthma and Allergy Center of the Rockies: The Truth About Pet Allergies
HappyDogConnections.com: Allergic to Your Dog? Proper Grooming Can Help!
ASPCA: General Dog Care
Environmental Protection Agency: Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home
WebMD: Grooming Your Dog
About the Author
Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.