Could Dogs Prevent Allergies Versus Cause Them?

January 23 2014

Many people are allergic to dogs and can suffer reactions ranging from itchy eyes to severe wheezing and sneezing. However, new studies report that having a dog in your home may actually prevent babies from getting allergies and asthma later in childhood versus causing them.

Researchers from the University of California and the University of Michigan exposed mice to dust in homes where dogs live. They found that the mice developed a certain type of bacteria in their stomachs that protected their airways against allergens and viruses that cause respiratory infections, in addition to reducing immune system responses to common allergens. Although the tests were done on mice, the findings help to confirm why infants who grow up in houses with dogs are not as prone to allergies or asthma. It may also help researchers to identify a type of beneficial "gut bacteria or microbiomes" to prevent allergies in the future.

Dog Allergies
This could be great news not only for kids who suffer from allergies in general, but from allergies to pets as well. Nearly 40% of U.S.households have a dog, and the pet dander flies everywhere, not only where the dogs live, but other places as well. It's not actually the dog's hair or fur that causes the problem, it's actually the dander - flakes of dry skin - or the dog's urine and saliva. Some people get hives or skin reactions when a dog licks their face. Others have respiratory problems. This is because people with dog allergies have oversensitive immune systems where substances like dog dander almost attack like a virus. The watery eyes or wheezing is the body's attempt to flush out the allergen.

Treatments for Dog Allergies
If you're one of the unlucky ones who is allergic to dogs, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines which essentially blocks the chemical that causes allergies. There are ads on TV all the time for Claritin, Zyrtec and Benadryl. There are also decongestants which help to reduce swelling in the nose and congestion like Sudafed, and nasal steroid sprays like Flonase or Nasonex. If allergies are extremely severe, there are always allergy shots, but these can take years to work.

If you are allergic to dogs, here's some preventative tips whether you live in a house with a dog or are just exposed to them:

  • Dust, vacuum and vacuum some more. Dog danger can get everywhere. It is important you dust, mop and vacuum the floors regularly. Get a vacuum with a HEPA filter to capture the allergens.
  • Stay away. As tempting as it may be to pet the dog, do not! Also, don't let him/her lick your face.
  • Install hardwoods or tile. Dander can get easily trapped in carpeting. It's preferable to have hardwood or tile floors.
  • Have your ducts cleaned. A central heater and air conditioner can send dust dander flying. Have your ductwork cleaned, clean your furnace filters regularly, and install a room air purifier containing a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter
  • Say no to your dog sleeping with you. It's preferable to prevent your dog from sleeping on your bed and the bedroom in general. If it's warm outside, try to keep your dog outside as much as possible.
  • Groom your dog. Have someone brush your dog daily or take him to a groomer. Bathe your dog with a hypoallergenic or oatmeal-based dog shampoo.
  • Breathe fresh air. Open windows and doors as much as possible and use fans to keep your home well-ventilated.

Breeds for Allergy Sufferers
There is no such thing as a hypo-allergenic dog. Some breeds shed their skin every 3 or 4 days, while other shed every 21 days. There are breeds that shed less frequently and therefore produce less dander. Here are some dog breeds that may be better if you suffer from allergies:

  • Airedale
  • Basenji
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Chinese Crested
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Maltese
  • Poodle
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Schnauzers
  • Shih Tzu
  • Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Wire-haired Fox Terrier
  • Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican hairless)

At Bark Busters, we can't imagine living without our furry friends. We keep on top of any new developments that will help people be able to enjoy their dogs without sneezing!

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