Tag: understanding

Understanding Pet Allergies


Pete Souza CC-BY via Creative Commons

Pete Souza CC-BY via Creative Commons

Little Bobby sees a cute little kitten in a shelter. It is ready for adoption and he tugs at his mother’s sleeves. He lets out an aggrieved whine.

“Mum, why can’t we take it home with us? It needs a home,” he pleads.

“We can’t, darling. Your dad is allergic to cats.” Bobby’s mother tries vainly to appease him.

Bobby, resentment piqued, pouts all the way on the return drive home. Throughout dinner, he refuses to speak to his father, The older man tries to get his attention with the latest video game but to no avail.

Pet owners might find themselves too familiar with this scenario. Though Bobby might appear piquant and spoiled, it is quite hard to fault the child because it does seem a shame that he has to forgo his desire for a pet because someone in the family finds it difficult to live with one. Understandably, there are many owners who have been diagnosed with such allergies and find it heartbreaking to part with their pets.

The good news is that there is a way for all to come to a happy compromise. Yes, it is possible to live happily with a pet in spite of allergies.

It does take a little understanding of the causes of these annoying breakouts, why they happen and how to control them.


Who is  prone to pet allergies?

Those who are asthmatic or are prone to skin sensitivity are more likely to be allergic to pets.

This is particularly true of children, whose immune systems are still developing.


What causes pet allergies?

Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College CC-BY via Creative Commons

Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College CC-BY via Creative Commons

Pets, being the hairy creatures they are, will have attributes that unfortunately trigger allergic reactions in their human companions.

The protein found in:

  • dander

  • skin flakes

  • urine

  • and saliva

can cause allergic reactions or aggravate the symptoms of asthma.

An allergen is a usually harmless substance. However, it can cause allergies because it triggers the immune system to overreact to people with allergies, revealing some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction.


What are the symptoms of allergies?

Allergic reactions can be because of a number of symptoms, including:

  • Sneezing

  • A runny nose

  • Itchy,wet or watery eyes

  • Nasal congestion

  • Nasal drip

  • Cough

  • Facial pressure or pain

  • Insomnia

  • Swollen, blue skin under the eyes

  • Rubbing of the nose, especially for children

  • Raised, red patches of skin

  • Eczema or itchy skin


Diagnosis and treatment

James Heilman, MD CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons

James Heilman, MD CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons

An allergist can help to diagnose allergies to dogs, which can be especially important for families considering adopting a pet. Extracts of dog dander from the potential pet can be used to test if the person has an allergic reaction to pets.

Anti-inflammatory topical therapy (eg steroids) can be combined with changes to the environment to reduce allergens.

What else can I do to reduce the potential for allergic reactions?

The answer to that would be plenty! There are a number of constructive measures that can be put in place in the case of allergic reactions to pets.

  1. Restrict your pet’s access to certain areas of the home if anyone is suffering from an allergy. Keep areas which are frequently used pet proof.

  2. Have bare or easy to clean floors. Avoid wall to wall carpeting as it collects dander.

  3. Keep your pet clean and bathe it at least twice a week to reduce allergens.

  4. Open the windows once in a while to release dander.

  5. Make use of dehumidifiers or air filters to reduce dander. HEPA purifiers and filters can make a huge difference to pet allergy sufferers.

  6. Wash hands thoroughly after petting your dog.


Unfortunately, if the allergic reaction is too severe, the only option might be not to have a pet. Hopefully that option will only be exercised as a last resort!

Happy halloween and have a great week ahead!



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Recognizing and understanding canine dominance

David Shankbone, CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons

David Shankbone, CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons

This post is written for This and That Thursday, hosted by Two Brown Dogs and our friendly Ruckus the Eskie.


This Thursday, I have decided to discuss dog dominance, the signs of which many dog owners may not necessarily be alert to.

Needless to say, dealing with dominant behaviors in pets can be a challenge which takes time, effort and perseverance to overcome.

How do owners recognize the signs of dominance in pets and more importantly, overcome them? What turns sweet Fido into a domineering canine boss, sometimes over his owner?

What causes dominant behavior?

carterse, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Creative Commons

carterse, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Creative Commons

Pack Instinct

Dogs are social animals who have a natural instinct to be members of a pack. They would cooperate with each other for survival in the wild and in general. The tight structure necessitates that they get along with each other to minimize disruption and conflict. The pack order helps to lessen tension and competition, very much similar to the office or social politics we are familiar with. The presence of a pack leader should lessen aggression and stabilize a pack.

Dogs usually start a series of confrontations within the pack to establish their rank within the group. The dog who has a hold over the rest of the pack,exhibits dominant behaviors and defeats the rest into submission will usually get the top spot. Subordinate dogs will in turn display behaviors that show submission and that confrontation is not necessary.

Therefore,a pack is established in a multi-dog household. The first is Alpha and the last, Omega. Such a phenomenon also explains the occurence of dominant behavior.

Inhibited behavior versus dominant behavior

Some dogs also have a propensity to be less inhibited in their behaviors than others and would naturally assume dominance over shyer, more inhibited dogs. The roles may, at times, be reversed. Between my two dogs, Misty and Cloudy, Cloudy, being the rambunctious West Highland she is, is the more dominant of the two. Misty, when pushed into a corner, does give this little girl a run for her money though. Dominance power play, as with office politics, is common among canines too.

No interest in leading a pack

Some dogs, like some of us, have no interest in being leaders and are pressurized by pack privilege when they assume higher ranks in the pack. That can create instability in the lower ranks and start a scuffle for the top position, with dominant behaviors emerging.

Human disinterest in the top job

The above explains what happens when humans show disinterest in leading the pack. in the house, the human is always the pack leader. When he or she shows weakness , the dogs observe the signs and start exhibiting dominant behaviors.

What are these behaviors exactly?

A dominant dog is usually:

  • Stubborn

  • Headstrong

  • Demanding

  • Pushy

  • Begging

  • Paws in order to get its owner to play

  • Nudging in order to be petted

  • Sits on the very tops of sofas and loves looking down on its “kingdom”

  • Prevents others from approaching its owners

  • Whining or barking at owners without being told to do so (many consider this cute)

  • High pitched whines of protest against something it does not wish to do, like take a bath.

  • Jumping on human owners without authorization.

  • Persistently “claiming” a piece of furniture as its own without wanting to get off

How do owners cope with dominant dogs?

JoF, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Creative Commons

JoF, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Creative Commons

Once these dominant behaviors are spotted, coping with them becomes easier. Measures should be taken as soon as they are recognized.

Be a pack leader.

Understand that dogs see their human owners as other dogs which should assume the

top position in a pack. The Alpha Dog automatically becomes Beta after you.

To establish authority and to get him to obey commands, be calm, assertive but not mean when the dog exhibits unwanted behaviors.

Eat before dominant dogs.

A strong pack leader would usually be the first to eat at a meal. Make a dominant dog wait his turn while you eat first, ignoring it if it starts begging for food.

Make your dominant dogs sit or wait while food bowls are being prepared.

A dominant dog will usually hassle in the kitchen. Make it wait while you prepare their meals.

Walk through doors first.

When bringing a dominant dog out, walk through the doors first. Do not let the dog lead.

Train it in basic obedience.

A dominant dog should have skills in basic obedience, like sit, stay or down.

Dominant behavior can be corrected, with a few steps in a positive direction.

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