People with an allergy to dogs may take medications to help manage their allergic reactions. A person can choose from several available options depending on the symptoms and their severity.
An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s immune system reacts hypersensitively to specific proteins called allergens. In response to these foreign substances, the body produces antibodies that release chemicals such as histamines. These chemicals cause allergy symptoms.
People may have an allergy to dogs, or dog fur may carry other environmental allergens, such as molds, pollen, and dust mites.
This article explores dog allergies, the best medications to treat them, and other possible treatments.
According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, 69 million households in the United States owned dogs from 2021 to 2022.
Pet allergens circulate in the air, including in areas with no pets. In people with a dog allergy, it is not the dog that triggers the allergic reaction but the proteins trapped in their fur. These allergens are present in dogs’ dander, which are dead skin cells, as well as their saliva and urine.
Different dog breeds may have different dog allergens, and people may develop allergies to some breeds but not others. Hypoallergenic dogs may cause fewer symptoms in people allergic to dogs because they shed less.
A person who believes they have a dog allergy may consider visiting an allergist. Allergists are healthcare providers who can help diagnose a person’s allergies and provide a specific treatment that suits their symptoms.
Symptoms of allergies
Allergens trigger allergy symptoms when they reach a person’s eyes, nose, mouth, skin, or airways. Symptoms include:
- a runny or stuffy nose
- a cough
- shortness of breath
- chest tightness
- rashes or hives on the face, neck, or chest
- itchy, red, watery eyes
Below are some of the most common medications for people with dog allergies.
Antihistamines block histamines, the chemicals that initiate the body’s immune response against allergens.
This type of medication can relieve itching in the nose and eyes and reduce sneezing, runny nose, and congestion. These come in pill, liquid, or nasal spray form.
A person can buy them online or obtain them through a doctor’s prescription. Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines include:
- fexofenadine (Allegra)
- cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy)
- loratadine (Claritin)
Nasal spray corticosteroids can reduce inflammation and control allergy symptoms. They contain low dose corticosteroids and have a lower risk than oral corticosteroids. Examples include:
Some of these drugs are only available with a prescription.
Decongestants shrink swollen tissues in the nasal passages to help a person breathe through the nose more easily. These come in nasal spray and oral forms. Examples of decongestants include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and phenylephrine (Sudafed PE).
Taking decongestants for longer than 5 days may lead to rebound nasal congestion.
Leukotriene modifiers are prescription medications that block the action of immune system chemicals called leukotrienes.
Doctors may prescribe them to individuals who cannot tolerate antihistamines or corticosteroids. Montelukast (Singulair) is an example of this type of drug.
Cromolyn sodium is an OTC nasal spray that blocks the release of chemicals such as histamines and leukotrienes.
A person needs to take this 4 times a day. It works best if people take it before symptoms develop.
Aside from OTC and prescription medications, people may also consider other treatments for dog allergies.
Allergy immunotherapy or allergy shots aim to train the body’s immune system to tolerate an allergen. Doctors may recommend this in people with severe or long-standing dog allergies.
A doctor delivers the allergen to the body through a series of shots. Allergists typically give the allergy shots once or twice a week for 3–6 months. A person continues to receive maintenance shots every month for the next 3–5 years.
Current research suggests that allergen immunotherapy may effectively reduce pet allergy symptoms.
Treating pet allergies using immunotherapy depends on consistent and reliable allergen extracts.
Lack of standardization in manufacturing dog allergen extracts can also be a safety issue. Having different lots of extracts that contain different amounts of allergen proteins, even from the same manufacturer, could potentially lead to sudden exposure of a person to high levels of allergens. This exposure can lead to adverse reactions like anaphylaxis.
A person needs to consult an emergency room immediately if they are experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:
- swelling of the face or mouth
- fast, shallow breathing
- a fast heart rate
- clammy skin
- anxiety or confusion
- blue or white lips
- fainting or loss of consciousness
If someone has these symptoms:
- Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
- Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
- Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
- Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.
Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.
Nasal rinse or irrigation
Nasal irrigation is a natural remedy that can help clear the nasal passages of any allergens to reduce symptoms. A person can use a device called a neti pot or a nasal lavage with a prepared saline rinse.
Research suggests that nasal saline irrigation, whether alone or combined with other traditional treatments, may improve symptoms, decrease the need for allergy medications, and enhance quality of life.
Exposure to allergens may affect individuals with asthma. Asthma medications such as bronchodilators or inhalable corticosteroids can prevent these allergens from triggering or worsening asthma episodes.
Dog allergies occur when allergens or proteins in dog dander, saliva, or urine cause a person to have an allergic reaction.
Avoiding exposure to dogs is the most effective way to prevent dog allergies. However, medications and natural remedies can help with reducing symptoms.
The best treatment for dog allergies depends on the type and severity of the allergy. A doctor or allergist may recommend a person take medication to manage it.