Dust allergies are a common problem in humans. Many people don’t realise that dogs can also be allergic to dust mites. This can cause symptoms such as runny eyes, sneezing and continuous licking. Keep reading to find out what causes a dust allergy in dogs and how to provide relief.
- Dogs, like humans, can be allergic to the body parts and faeces of dust mites.
- These tiny creatures live in almost every home. They are usually harmless, but increased exposure can cause a dog to develop an allergic reaction.
- Symptoms include regular ear infections, sneezing, itching and skin inflammation.
- Before treatment, it’s important to eliminate all other potential causes of an allergic reaction.
- Treatment involves minimising your dog’s exposure to dust mites. There are also medications available to help manage symptoms.
One of the most common airborne allergies for both humans and dogs is a dust mite allergy. These tiny mites live in sofas, bedding, carpets and curtains and release a type of protein that can cause a reaction.
Due to their microscopic size, many people don’t realise dust mites can cause such a problem. Unfortunately, this often means a mite allergy goes untreated.
What Causes a Canine Allergy?
One of the dog’s most important tools for fighting infection and disease is its immune system. When the immune system is functioning correctly, it identifies potential pathogens and eliminates them to keep your pup healthy.
Unfortunately, a dog’s immune system can falsely identify certain substances as dangerous. This is most common for proteins released by insects, plants or foods. If a protein is wrongly identified as dangerous by the immune system, it can cause a negative response. This response is an allergic reaction.
In most cases, a dog must be regularly exposed to an allergen for the immune system to react to it. A reaction is unlikely to happen the first time the dog encounters an offending allergen.
The True Cause of a Dust Allergy
Despite the name, a dust allergy isn’t caused by dust. It’s a reaction to a protein found in dead body parts and faeces of dust mites (unpleasant, I know!)
Dust mites are found in almost every home. They thrive in moist and warm conditions, which is why they often live in carpets or bedding. Dust mites are generally harmless as they feed off dead skin cells – but repeated exposure to certain proteins can cause some humans and dogs to become allergic.
Unfortunately, when we bring dogs into our homes it’s unavoidable that they’ll come into contact with dead dust mites. If your dog is susceptible to a dust mite allergy, it’s almost inevitable that he’ll start to show symptoms.
Most dogs show symptoms of a dust mite allergy at around 6 months to 2 years of age. Allergies can affect any breed, although there is some evidence to suggest that they may be inherited.
What are the Symptoms of a Dog Dust Allergy?
The symptoms of an allergy to dust in your dog can vary. Some of the most common include:
- Increased scratching (either generalised or in specific spots)
- Excessive licking
- Difficulty breathing
- Runny eyes
- Digestive system problems such as diarrhoea and vomiting
If left untreated, continuous licking and scratching can cause the skin to thicken. It may also become darker.
How to Get a Diagnosis for Your Dog
Diagnosing a dust allergy is hard enough in humans – it’s even more difficult with dogs!
As you can probably guess from the symptoms above, a dust mite allergy can present in a similar way to a variety of other conditions. These include skin parasites, food intolerances and other types of airborne allergens. This is why it’s important to get a professional diagnosis before starting any form of treatment.
Your vet will consider a range of factors to decide whether dust mites are the culprit. He or she will do a physical exam to check the coat condition, vital signs and general health. Your vet will also ask questions about the symptoms and when they occur.
There are also tests that help diagnose a dust allergy. A serum test can be performed on a blood sample to try to induce an allergic reaction. Intradermal tests are more expensive but also more accurate. They involve sedating your dog and using a small needle to check for up to 75 different allergens.
To help your vet, here are some questions to answer before you visit:
- When did the symptoms start?
- Where do they occur?
- Do symptoms seem to be seasonal?
- Do the symptoms get worse after vacuuming?
- Do symptoms get better outside?
- Is it possible your dog is allergic to a certain type of food?
Medication for Dust Allergies
Once a dust mite allergy has been diagnosed, your vet may recommend medication to help manage symptoms. The type of treatment depends on how severe your dog’s symptoms are, as some medications are riskier than others.
Some of the most common options include antihistamines, corticosteroids and immunotherapy shots. Your vet may also want to try topical treatments such as cortisone gel.
Additionally, it’s important to treat any damage to the skin caused by scratching or biting. Common treatments include a hypoallergenic hair shampoo and topical treatments for rashes.
7 Tips for Relieving an Allergy in Dogs
Aside from medication, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the number of dust mites in your home:
- Air out fabrics. One of the best ways to get rid of mites on bedding and other fabrics is to leave them outside in the sun. After around 12 hours, vacuum the fabrics thoroughly before bringing them inside.
- Vacuum regularly with a high-quality filter. It’s important to vacuum your home regularly using a cleaner with an effective filter. This gets rid of dust mite body parts that could cause a reaction. It also minimises the amount of skin cells available for dust mites to eat. The vacuums on our list of dog vacuums are great for this. We recommend vacuuming at least once a week, but if you want to reduce your dog’s symptoms you may want to clean high-traffic areas daily. Many people find using a cordless vacuum with pet attachment easier for quick cleaning (view our top picks on this page). You should also dust before you vacuum.
- Bathe your dog more regularly. Dogs absorb allergens via their skin. For this reason, regular bathing can prevent allergens that are caught in fur from coming into contact with the skin. It’s important not to bathe too regularly though, as this can dry the dog’s skin.
- Replace carpets and upholstery. Dust mites love warm locations such as carpet fibres and upholstery. Replacing these surfaces with hard floors, vinyl and leather can almost instantly reduce the quantity of allergens in your home.
- Wash bedding in hot water weekly. Like carpets, dust mites also thrive in bedding. Make sure you wash the cover of your dog’s bed on a high heat at least once a week.
- Steam clean your carpets. If you can’t get rid of your carpets, the next best option is to steam clean on a weekly schedule. This can kill bacteria and dust mites more effectively than just vacuuming.
- Buy micro-porous covers for your dog’s bed. Your dog probably spends most of his time on his bed, so an anti-allergy cover can make a big difference to his symptoms.
Even with these steps, your dog’s symptoms may not improve immediately. Some dogs take months for symptoms to noticeably reduce. If you have concerns about your dog’s allergies, you should always speak to your vet.
It’s also important to realise that a dog allergy cannot be cured. A combination of medication and reducing dust mites can relieve symptoms, but your dog will start to suffer again if you stop treatment.
Further Reading and References:
Please note: SpotlessVacuum.co.uk does not provide professional medical or veterinary advice.