Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Allergies in Dogs Prevention | Tips, Advice and General Considerations

Many of the approaches discussed in the articles Practical Tips and Advice and Communication, Boundaries and Other Considerations for people allergic to dogs, are equally relevant to the topic of allergies in dogs prevention. Of course, the type of allergy will determine whether a specific tip is relevant, but given that many dogs suffer from concurrent allergies (more than one allergy), developing a preventative mindset can still be highly advantageous. Preventative measures that might prove helpful for a dog with allergies include:

Minimizing Contact with Dog

This does not imply that one should neither spend time around your dog nor refrain from stroking it; given that dogs are social, tactile-loving pack animals, such actions would be considered cruel. It means that, depending on the type of allergy, you need to be aware when it is important to avoid contact with the dog.

We discovered in How do Allergy Suffers Come into Contact With Allergens? that allergens can be transferred either directly or indirectly. For example, if you inadvertently feed your dog a product containing an ingredient it is allergic to, the dog will come into direct contact with the allergen. However, if you happen to prepare that ingredient for a family meal, it is possible to transfer allergens indirectly through stroking the dog and depositing them on its coat. An allergy response might result should the dog subsequently lick itself clean. Alternatively, if your dog has an allergy to grass, you can bring allergens into the home indirectly on your clothing.

Basic Brushing and Grooming Tips

Regular brushing and grooming that is appropriate for the breed on question, is not only important for good hygiene but it can also help minimize skin irritation (e.g. brushing distributes natural skin oils and reduces matting), and helps contribute to both the dogs physical and emotional well-being. In addition, certain diseases and skin problems (e.g. inflamed and itchy skin associated with both food and flea allergies) can be detected far earlier and thereby treated more effectively when one has a regular brushing/grooming routine (See also: Allergy Friendly Dog Care – Grooming and Brushing).

Bathing the dog can help reduce the volume of allergens in its coat, which may prove helpful for allergies to dust, grass, pollen and weeds. In addition, medicated shampoos can help soothe and treat allergy-related skin irritation.

Use of Equipment

Hypoallergenic Covers

These specially designed covers act as a barrier to microscopic allergen particles and they can be very useful for dust mite allergies. The build-up of allergens can be reduced by wiping the covers (using a damp lint-free cloth) or by washing them together with their bedding on a regular basis.

HEPA Vacuum Cleaners

Regular vacuuming of one’s home can significantly reduce the volume of carpet and floor-borne allergens. These allergens can be of both airborne and non-airborne origin, and in the former case, reducing the volume of particles that have settled out onto the floor lessens the chance of them becoming airborne once again. Surprising levels of dust, dust mites, and shed skin/follicles reside at floor level, together with numerous other allergens transported around the home by footwear, clothing and various forms of ventilation.

The stature of most dog breeds means that their head will be in close proximity to the floor. Therefore, they are particularly susceptible to both contact and inhalant allergies originating from floor residing allergens. Given this scenario and considering how much time a dog will spend lying in its bed, it is especially important to vacuum the dogs bedding and surrounding area thoroughly on a regular basis.

Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filter are designed to filter out microscopic allergens highly effectively and as such, they can be a worthwhile investment for those treating dogs with relevant allergies.

Air Filters and Purifiers

Airborne allergens vary in size and an air filter/purifier can help capture and reduce the volume of small airborne particles. Heavier particles will tend to settle out onto various surfaces around the home; vacuuming helps remove those that end up on the floor whilst other surfaces can be wiped regularly with a damp cloth.

The efficiency of such equipment varies considerably depending on the manufacturer, make and model and if possible, allergy sufferers should opt for those with an interchangeable HEPA filter.

Other equipment

  • Electrostatic products help attract and hold allergens and come in many guise e.g. from dusters to furnace filters.
  • Steam cleaners not only clean but they can help sterilize surfaces e.g. kill dust mites.
  • Dehumidifiers can help lower humidity to a healthy level (40-50%) and lessen the risk of mold developing which is a common household allergen. Correcting the underlying reason for excessive moisture typically addresses most mold issues but small localized patches can be treated with a 10% bleach solution.

Allergies in Dogs Prevention - Tips, Advice and General Considerations

Reducing Allergen Build-Up

There are numerous ways to lower allergen levels around the home but as noted previously, the type of dog allergy will determine whether a particular approach is applicable i.e. reducing dust levels will be of little help to a dog allergic to food and not dust!

Avoid allergen traps and replace with allergy friendly alternatives

Examples of common allergen traps include:

  • Curtain and net curtains – Dust can be wiped away quickly from vinyl or wooden blinds compared to dust-laden curtains.
  • Household fabrics – Can they be washed easily? If not, is it possible to replace them with a material that can be wiped frequently or covered with a hypoallergenic barrier? Alternatively, can they be removed permanently?
  • Carpets and rugs – By comparison, it is a breeze to vacuum and damp-mop wooden, tiles or linoleum floors. Remember though, that floors washed with either soap or detergent must be rinse afterwards. Some dogs can be sensitive to the ingredients used in cleaning products and as a result, they may end up with various allergy symptoms such as itchy paws and pads or hair loss. Non-perfumed soap or detergent (e.g. hypoallergenic detergent) can help reduce the risk of sensitivity.
  • Soft dog toys – Avoid or use hard toys.

As a general rule-of-thumb, the following saying may prove helpful regarding household items and allergies:

If you can’t wipe it, rinse it or wash it . . . bin it”

For example:

  • Wipe it e.g. Surfaces should be wiped down with a damp cloth on a frequent basis.
  • Rinse it e.g. Rinsing the dog’s feet on a regular basis will reduce grass, pollen, mold and mite allergens.
  • Wash it e.g. Wash the dog’s bedding regularly using hot water and a non-perfumed soap or detergent. Use a separate container/bucket and do not use the household washing machine or tumble dryer; excessive quantities of dog hair in the machines can be undesirable and also, the appliances can end up distributing large quantities of dog allergens around the home via clothing and airborne emissions. Rinse repeatedly afterwards.


There will occasions that one should let others know that your dog has an allergy problem. For example:

  • Neighbors, friends, family and other visitors must not give any food treats to a dog with a food allergy without the owners permission.
  • If you happen to invite people over for lunch or dinner, they will need to be aware that any table dropped food must be retrieved immediately.
  • If you are considering boarding your dog and it has a food allergy, the kennel will need to feed it appropriately. Most kennels are business orientated meaning that they opt for efficiency and standardization; they will not prepare or cook individual meals for your pet! Therefore, owners should have found a suitable commercial hypoallergenic dog food prior to booking them into a kennel.
  • Some dogs are sensitive to certain soaps, deodorants, aftershaves and perfumes. If so, you may have to tell visitors about this so that they don’t end up making your pet unwell.
  • Owners of dogs with serious allergy issues will probably have been prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector (e.g. EpiPen) from a veterinarian. Although these devices can be a life saver when treating anaphylaxis, there are significant risks associated with misusing them or for sufferers with heart conditions. Therefore, having received appropriate training from a qualified practitioner, it is the owner’s responsibility to administer the device in an emergency.

Other Considerations

  • Setting boundaries where the dog is allowed helps minimize the risk of allergen exposure. Avoid locating the dog in environments that are known to exacerbate allergies e.g. damp basements or laundry rooms, dusty barns or chemical laden garages and workshops. Some people choose to crate their dog when they are not around in order to place them in a very controlled environment.
  • Be aware that house plants can trigger allergy problems in some dogs.
  • Dogs can be sensitive to cigarette smoke or smoke associated with indoor wood burners. Therefore, try to prevent smoking indoors and if possible, consider using an outside wood burner (OWB).
  • Fatty acid supplements are recommended by some people due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Given that a dog spends considerable time in its bed, be particularly careful not to contaminate its sleeping area.
  • A holistic approach will probably produce superior results. For example, optimal immune function requires a healthy, balanced diet with no deficiencies. Also, a sensible hygiene routine will help prevent disease or infections e.g. clean its food and drink bowls periodically, have an allotted toilet area and pick up feces promptly. Furthermore, it is essential to spend time interacting and socializing with the dog e.g. regular playing, walking etc.
  • If your dog has a pollen allergy, consider walking it in the evening when counts are lower. Also, install a pollen filter to home air conditioners.
  • When renting or buying a property remember that allergens deposited from the previous occupants can remain active for more than a year.
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