“I woke up one morning and was suddenly allergic to my dog!”
This is a statement we hear more frequently than you’d think. Dogs bring joy, comfort, and companionship to our lives. What do you do when you suddenly find yourself sneezing, itching, and dealing with a runny nose every time you're near your four-legged friend?
If you’re experiencing these symptoms and frantically Googling "I'm allergic to my dog all of a sudden, what can I do!?" — don't worry, you're not alone. We’ve put together this guide to help you navigate this unexpected situation.
Can I Be Allergic to My Dog All of a Sudden?
Why am I suddenly allergic to my dog? Is that even possible?
Yes, it is possible to develop a dog allergy seemingly out of nowhere. Allergies can develop at any age, even if you've been around dogs your whole life without any issues. This phenomenon may seem perplexing, but it can be attributed to several factors and underlying changes in your body.
- Changing immune response: Allergies occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless substance, in this case, proteins found in your dog's skin cells (dander), saliva, or urine, as harmful invaders. Over time, your immune system can become more sensitive to pet dander, triggering an allergic response.
- Genetic predisposition: Are allergies genetic? Genetics plays a role in determining your susceptibility to allergies. If you have a family history of dog allergies, you may be more likely to develop them yourself, even if you've never experienced them before.
- Accumulation of exposure: If you’re allergic to your dog all of a sudden, it may actually be a buildup of exposure over time. Allergies can build up gradually as you are repeatedly exposed to those allergens. If you've recently spent more time with your dog or there have been changes in your dog's environment or coat, the increase in allergen exposure could have triggered your symptoms.
- Changes in your dog: The breed, age, or even the health status of your dog can affect the amount of allergens they produce. Older dogs, for instance, might produce more allergens than younger ones.
- Environmental factors: Allergies can also be influenced by environmental factors, such as the presence of other allergens like pollen or dust mites in your home. These allergens can interact with dog allergens and exacerbate your symptoms.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause, can affect your immune system and increase the likelihood of developing allergies.
If you've developed a sudden allergy to your dog, it's important to consult an allergist or immunologist for a proper diagnosis and a custom allergy treatment. An allergy test, such as a skin prick test or a blood allergy test, can identify the specific allergens responsible for your symptoms.
Is It a Dog Allergy or Something Else?
Determining whether you're suddenly allergic to your dog or if your symptoms are caused by something else can be challenging since allergy symptoms can sometimes overlap with other health issues.
Some key factors to consider when trying to identify the cause of your symptoms are:
1. Onset of Symptoms
Did your symptoms come up suddenly or gradually over time?
Sudden onset: Allergies can develop suddenly, but they typically involve a noticeable change in your health. If you've recently started experiencing symptoms like sneezing, itching, and congestion that coincide with increased contact with your dog, it may suggest a dog allergy.
Gradual onset: If your symptoms have been building up slowly over time and occur while you are away from your dog for prolonged periods of time it might indicate another underlying issue.
2. Common Allergy Symptoms
Many allergy symptoms overlap, meaning it could be a dog allergy or something else such as seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
Respiratory symptoms: Allergies often manifest as respiratory symptoms, including sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be triggered by exposure to allergens like pet dander.
Skin reactions: Allergic reactions can lead to skin problems such as hives, rashes, or eczema. Scratching or itching after petting your dog might be a clue.
Eye irritation: Red, itchy, and watery eyes are common dog allergy symptoms.
3. Seasonal Variation
Dog allergies are generally not seasonal, meaning they can occur throughout the year. If your symptoms seem to worsen or improve with specific seasons, it might be indicative of other allergies like pollen allergies. The most common type of seasonal allergy is hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Allergy Tip: What is hay fever? Learn more about this seasonal allergy next.
4. Other Potential Symptoms Causes
The answer to the question, “Am I allergic to my dog all of a sudden?” might not be other allergies — or dog allergies — at all. Sometimes there may be other underlying causes of your symptoms.
Illness: Consider if you've been recently ill or exposed to someone with an illness, as some symptoms like congestion and cough can be related to infections.
Stress: Stress can exacerbate certain symptoms, so evaluate if you've been under increased stress lately.
Non-allergic rhinitis: This is more common with older age and can be triggered by things like temperature changes, dust, fragrances, pollution, or smoke.
What To Do If I’m Suddenly Allergic to My Dog
If you suddenly find yourself allergic to your dog, it can be distressing, but there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms and continue enjoying the company of your furry friend. Short-term relief from your allergy symptoms focuses on managing the symptoms as quickly as possible while long-term allergy treatment options may help you build up an immunity over time.
Short-Term Dog Allergy Relief
To help you manage symptoms of sudden dog allergies quickly, consider these short-term relief options:
Limit exposure: Keep your dog out of your bedroom and create designated pet-free areas in your home to reduce allergen exposure, especially while you sleep. Use an air filter in your bedroom and other frequently used rooms to help remove allergens from the air.
Regular cleaning: Vacuum your home frequently using a vacuum cleaner. Pay special attention to carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture. Wash your dog's bedding and toys regularly to minimize allergen buildup. Use a damp cloth or mop to clean hard surfaces, as this can help trap allergens.
Personal and pet hygiene: Wash your hands and change your clothes after petting or grooming your dog. Consider wearing a mask when cleaning or interacting closely with your dog to reduce inhalation of allergens. Have your pet washed weekly.
Allergy medications: Over-the-counter antihistamines can provide relief from allergy symptoms. Be mindful of any potential side effects of antihistamines and consult your doctor or allergist before taking them.
Long-Term Dog Allergy Treatment Options
Immediate relief helps manage symptoms but doesn’t address the underlying cause of your sudden dog allergies. For those living with a dog or coming into close interaction with dogs regularly, this can be a recurring issue.
Long-term dog allergy treatment options like these may help you build up resistance or immunity over time:
Understand if your dog is really the culprit. See an allergy specialist or take a home allergen test associated with a CLIA-certified lab to accurately measure your body's response to the most common indoor and outdoor allergens in your region. Work with an allergist to come up with a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis of your dog allergy.
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots): Allergy immunotherapy shots involve regular injections of gradually increasing doses of allergens you’re sensitive to, such as those from your dog. The goal of this long-term dog allergy treatment option is to desensitize your immune system and reduce your body's allergic response to your dog. These shots are given over a period of several years and can lead to lasting improvements in allergy symptoms.
Sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops/tablets): This is an alternative to allergy shots where the allergen is placed under the tongue in the form of prescription allergy drops or tablets. Like allergy shots, allergy drops/tablets work to build tolerance to the allergen over time. These drops are a great alternative to allergy shots because they don’t require any injections, are able to be administered at home, and may be able to treat multiple allergies at once in a single treatment.
Prescription medications: Your doctor or allergist may recommend stronger prescription medications, such as corticosteroid nasal sprays or prescription antihistamines, to manage more severe symptoms.
Reducing Dog Allergies at Home
If you’ve suddenly become allergic to your dog, there are ways to reduce allergies at home and manage your symptoms successfully.
You should also consider ways to replace or recover surfaces that have materials that may trap allergens. This includes things like changing fabric furniture to leather and replacing carpet with hardwood floors. Using air purifiers throughout your home is another way to help reduce the allergens you may encounter.
Groom your dog regularly to reduce shedding, which can increase your exposure to pet dander. Groom them outdoors, if possible, or take them to a professional to avoid excess exposure altogether. You can also create pet-free areas in your home to make those more allergy-friendly for you.
If you’re wondering “Why am I allergic to my dog all of a sudden?” just know you’re not alone. The most important thing to do is to determine if it’s your dog or something else causing your symptoms. Once you’ve determined the cause, work with an allergist to begin treatment. Everyone’s allergies are unique, and what works for one person may not work for you. It's essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific allergy symptoms and needs.
They say knowledge is power. We couldn’t agree more. Learn about the chronic health condition that affects 50 million Americans every year.