Broom full of dog hair

Do you suffer from continuous cold symptoms, such as a runny nose or cough? Or struggle to get a good night’s sleep but aren’t sure why?

If you own a dog, these symptoms may be caused by an allergy. In this article, I’ll take you through three effective techniques for relieving symptoms that don’t involve getting rid of your beloved pet.

Before attempting to reduce symptoms, however, it’s important to understand what causes them. Dog allergies are usually caused by dander, not hair. Symptoms can also be the result of saliva, which is why some people come up in a rash when a dog licks them.

The reason an allergy develops isn’t always known (although it’s possible early exposure to pets could reduce the risk), but symptoms are the result of an over-sensitive immune system. When a person with an allergy encounters dander or saliva, the usually harmless substances are identified by the body’s immune system as dangerous, triggering an allergic response.

Contrary to popular belief, this reaction can be caused by any dog, as there is no such thing as a true “hypoallergenic” breed. While certain breeds shed less hair, all dogs release dander into the air, and this can cause potentially severe reactions.

In most cases, getting rid of your dog is simply not an option. In years gone by, doctors regularly advised owners to give up their dogs, but began realizing many would prefer to suffer than live without their pet. The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to relieve symptoms without a heartbreaking separation.

What are the symptoms of a dog hair allergy?

Symptoms can vary greatly depending on your sensitivity to allergens. Some people’s symptoms are so mild they don’t notice them for years, while others may have severe reactions when near a dog.

Common symptoms of a dog allergy include:

  • “Cold” symptoms caused by nasal inflammation, such as a runny nose and constant sneezing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Facial pain
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Swollen skin around the eyes
  • Itchy or red eyes
  • Red skin patches
  • Skin itchiness

As you can see, a dog allergy is easy to confuse with a common cold. In general, if symptoms continue for more than a couple of weeks, you should see a doctor about a potential allergy.

A dog allergy can also make asthma symptoms worse. If you suffer from asthma and have an additional allergy, dander may cause chest pain and difficulty breathing.

How to relieve dog allergy symptoms

The three tips below are all natural solutions for alleviating allergy symptoms. Each can be effective on its own, but your doctor may recommend combining them with medication such as nasal sprays, eye drops or even immunotherapy.

1. Keep your dog away from the bedroom. 

If you’re the type of dog owner who loves their dog sleeping on the bed, this is something you should stop immediately. We all spend a lot of time in our bed, and breathing in allergens all night can greatly reduce quality of sleep. At night, try to keep your dog as far away from the bedroom as possible and make sure the door is closed.

2. Choose a vacuum with an HEPA filter. 

Vacuums are great for sucking up dirt, dust and other particles—including dander. The downside is these allergens can be released back into the air if the vacuum doesn’t have an efficient filter. For this reason, there is now a subset of vacuum cleaners built specifically to clean homes with pet hair. These are more powerful than regular vacuums and usually come with motorized upholstery tools.

Many of these vacuums also come with HEPA filters. These are highly efficient at removing allergens from the air so they don’t get pumped around your home. If you suffer from a dog allergy, you should always buy a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

It’s also important to vacuum regularly. Some experts recommend vacuuming every day if you have a dog allergy, as this keeps dander at manageable levels. Also, remember to regularly wash the cover of your dog’s bed and clean walls near where it sleeps.

3. Replace carpets with hard flooring and rugs. 

This is a more radical solution, but can have a big effect. Dander is sticky and becomes trapped in carpets, so switching to an entirely hard-floor home makes it easier to reduce dander quantities. If your family doesn’t like the idea of walking on hard floors, you can use rugs to provide softer flooring. These are much easier to wash than carpets.

Bonus Tip: Wash your dog at least once a week.

This is a bonus tip, because there is debate about its effectiveness at reducing allergy symptoms. There’s no doubt regularly washing your dog reduces skin particles though, so it’s worth trying. You may want to get someone else to wash the dog, as it can briefly stir up allergens.

Concluding thoughts

The days of doctors telling everyone with a pet allergy to get rid of their dog are almost over. By keeping your dog away from your bedroom, vacuuming regularly with an HEPA filter model vacuum cleaner and replacing carpets with hard floors, there’s a good chance of quickly relieving symptoms.

Read about the (possibly surprising!) connection between dogs and mindfulness in HOW TO LOVE MINDFULLY: Just ask a dog!»

Paul Helms is a writer and holistic health enthusiast from the UK. You can hear more from him on Twitter or visit his personal website.

image via Pixabay