Ever been around someone’s dog and realized you always seem to sneeze or scratch at your eyes? Or maybe you keep getting sniffles around your family dog no matter how clean they are?
Well, here’s something you probably didn’t know: it is impossible to find a 100% hypoallergenic dog, or cat for that matter. There will always be something in their body that your immune system will be sensitive to. So what are hypoallergenic dogs anyway? Hypoallergenic dogs are dog breeds that are less likely to trigger your allergies, as compared to other kinds.
How to Deal With Allergies Caused by Your Labrador Retriever
While some people may be allergic to other things like pollen, dust, mold, etc., it is not uncommon to hear of dog allergies. When allergic reactions happen, no matter the trigger, it means that your system has detected a normally harmless substance (allergen) as a threat to your immunity, hence the sneezing or skin rash.
Therefore, your immune system produces proteins, scientifically referred to as antibodies, to counteract the allergens.
Causes of Dog Allergies
So what is it precisely about dogs that makes you allergic to them? Well, it is not just the dog’s fur as most people might think. It could even be their flaky skin, saliva, or even their urine. Dogs usually release harmless proteins that end up in their dander (dead skin), saliva, and urine. A sensitive person’s immune system, however, ends up reacting abnormally to these proteins during interaction with some dogs.
So what about Labradors? What makes them such a trigger for most people? The answer lies in their incredible coats. Labrador Retrievers have a neat, short, and dense double-layered coat.
This double coating serves two purposes: the glossy outer layer provides waterproof qualities, while the thick undercoat is designed to keep the Lab warm during the harsh winter seasons. This incredible coat, therefore, explains their enthusiasm to swim all through the year, regardless of seasons.
Wild animals, more so those that live in parts of the world with different seasons, have a biannual molting (shedding) cycle. This shedding usually occurs in spring, where animals shed their thick winter coats and grow sleek new coats in time for summer. As winter approaches, they shed off their summer coats and replace them with thicker winter ones.
Some Labradors shed in a big burst, twice or thrice a year, while others may shed all year round. The way dogs shed differs from wild animals, probably because dogs are mostly sheltered in houses rather than exposed to the harsh outdoors.
Dog Allergy Symptoms
Dog allergies may vary from mild to severe from one person to the next. People who aren’t highly allergic may not even react until several days after interactions with dogs. Dog allergy symptoms are usually similar to other common allergic reactions, and they include:
- coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath soon after exposure to a dog
- swelling and itching of your nose and also eyes
- reddening of your skin, or appearance of a rash after interacting with a dog
- severe asthma attacks in asthmatic people
In addition to the above-listed symptoms, some people can develop eczema, which is painful skin inflammation.
Testing and Treatment of Labrador Allergies
So you want to get yourself a Labrador, but you’re not sure if you’re allergic to dogs. You’re not sure if the allergic reactions you can recall were a result of your response to pollen, dust, or dogs. So how do you find out? You should visit your doctor, who will either perform a skin test or a blood test that will detect if you have dog allergies.
However, if you’re already a Labrador parent and you have found out the hard way that you’re allergic to your dog, do not despair. There are ways to lessen and manage your symptoms.
Your doctor can prescribe you some medication that will help you manage the allergies and offer you some relief. These medications will serve a variety of purposes, from reducing skin inflammation, relieving itching and sneezing, to shrinking swollen tissues to allow you to breathe comfortably.
Some of these prescriptions include antihistamines, decongestants, and allergy shots, among others.
Some people with dog allergies may be fortunate to find that using natural remedies such as saltwater rinses daily helps to clear nasal passages of the allergens.
Managing Your Environment
Although medication is helpful, most physicians agree that the best way to manage dog allergies is to avoid contact with dogs. If managing your environment is a viable option for you, here are some suggestions on how to go about it:
- You will need to avoid visiting homes that have dogs. If you must visit such households, you will need to alert your hosts in advance regarding your condition. Being sensitive when expressing your condition to dog lovers is very important to ensure that you don’t offend anyone.
- You will need to be vigilant in taking your medication when you know that you’ll be interacting with a dog soon. You may need to take your medicine a few weeks ahead of your visit. Remember that prevention is better than cure.
- You should also be wary of hosting guests who are dog owners. The reason here being that dog dander and fur often clings to clothes when humans interact with dogs. The situation is even worse with dog owners as they are likely to cause you much more harm without their knowledge.
However, if you’re already a fur parent, here are some tips on how to manage your environment:
- Set up some dog-free zones in your home. Essentially, pick certain rooms, such as your bedroom, where you’ll need to restrict your dog from getting access.
- As difficult as it may be, you will need to minimize your extremely close interactions with your dog, such as kissing and hugging.
- Increase your dog’s bathing sessions from biweekly to weekly. However, it would be better if a non-allergic person could take care of bathing your dog instead of you, if possible.
- You will also need to remove items from your house that may attract or accumulate dander, such as carpets, upholstered furniture, curtains, and any other such things.
- You might need to build an outdoor kennel for your furry buddy that he can sleep in during favorable climates.
- Training your Labrador to stop jumping onto all furniture is also advisable. If possible, seclude a specific chair for your four-legged buddy instead.
- Make sure you filter and purify the air in your home using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.
- You will need to brush your Labrador’s coat daily to eliminate a lot of stray hairs. Luckily for you, Labradors enjoy cleaning sessions, so you shouldn’t have trouble doing it.
- In extreme cases, you might be forced to give up your Labrador and look into getting hypoallergenic dogs instead.
Whether you’re a dog owner or you’re looking to become one, putting these tips into practice is guaranteed to help you with your allergies. Making a few lifestyle changes should be no trouble if it means keeping your beloved pet.
However, if you notice that your condition isn’t improving or is even getting worse, you might have to consider more drastic measures such as giving up your dog for a hypoallergenic breed or giving up your Labrador altogether.