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Help! I'm Allergic to My Dog!

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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What a cute puppy, you think. Then it comes – the sneezing, the sniffling, the eyes running like open faucets. Ugh, the bittersweet romance that you endure if you love dogs, but suffer dog-related allergies.

Allergies to dogs are generally based on reactions to their dander and saliva. The dander – tiny particles released from the hair and skin – become airborne and get trapped in upholstery, curtains and carpets. Saliva does the same thing once it dries. By taking measures to reduce your exposure to dander and dried saliva particles, you may be able to live comfortably with your pet.

Fighting Dander and Saliva

  • First, buy yourself an electrostatic high-efficiency particulate air cleaner, known as a HEPA filter. These filters can be used throughout the whole house.

  • Second, frequent vacuuming and washing of curtains and rugs can help reduce particles hidden in them. You may even want to consider removing rugs or carpet and replacing them with linoleum, tile or wood floors.

  • Third, bathe your dog twice a month, but not more frequently than that. More frequent baths can give the dog dry skin -- which will create even more dander. If your dog turns into the Tasmanian devil at the sight of water, brush her daily and wipe her down with a damp cloth. If you have a puppy, start getting her used to a bath early in life.

    If all else fails, see your doctor about allergy shots, which desensitize your immune system to the allergens. Be aware, though, that having the shots can be time-consuming -- as well as expensive.

    New Hope for Allergy Sufferers

    There is new hope for your allergy or asthma symptoms. A revolutionary new drug called "anti-IgE" can allow a child or adult with moderate allergies to dander to live with a dog. The drug is administered in one or two injections each month.

    If you need an inhaler or oral steroids to curb allergic reactions, anti-IgE may prove to be a favorable replacement. Studies show that 55 percent of those taking the experimental drug no longer required inhalants. The drug also greatly reduced inflammation and other symptoms, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. Even better, while harmful side effects may arise from the use of corticosteroids (normally prescribed for allergies) they are not seen in patients treated with anti-IgE.

    IgE is the antibody responsible for reacting against allergens and causing cells to release substances, such as histamines, that cause allergy symptoms. Rather than just treating symptoms such as sneezing, anti-IgE gets to the root of the problem and actually blocks this antibody.

    The drug is being developed jointly by Genentech, Inc., Novartis Pharma AG and Tanox, Inc. These companies have not yet filed an application for approval by the Food and Drug Administration, but they expect to soon, so watch for it.

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