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Anyone who lives with allergies knows how deeply unpleasant they can be, knocking you out with a range of symptoms affecting you from head-to-toe. Dogs feel our pain, too, and can be allergic to a number of the same things we are.

But if humans can be allergic to dogs (or, more accurately, their dander), can they be allergic to us? Here’s what to know.

Can dogs be allergic to people?

Like humans, dogs can be allergic to certain foods, skin irritants, and medications, as well as environmental allergens, like pollen, dust miles, mold, and animal dander, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). And yes, this includes human dander.

Is this new?

Even if you’ve had dogs your entire life, this may be the first you’re hearing about the possibility that they can be allergic to people. And Dr. Valerie Fadok, an AKC veterinarian specializing in dermatology, says there are good reasons for that.

First, she says, testing dogs for human dander allergies has only recently become a routine part of the test in vets’ offices. The second reason has to do with fleas. Sort of.

Prior to the early 1990s, when effective, modern, preventative flea control treatments became widely available, it was far less common for dogs to sleep in bed with their humans, Fadok explains.

Now that excellent flea protection exists, dogs are spending longer periods of time snuggled up next to their people (especially in bed) and being exposed to their dander—which, in turn, makes their human dander allergies noticeable in a way that they weren’t before, Fadok notes.

The signs a dog is allergic to people

Dogs’ environmental allergy symptoms are largely the same for any allergens, so if yours experiences any of the ones below, you’ll need to take them to the vet for a test to identify the cause.

According to the AKC, the signs that your dog may be allergic to human dander (or any other environmental allergens) include:

  • Scratching and licking themselves, especially around their groin, anus, eyes, muzzle ears, paws, and underarms
  • Moist, crusted-over, or bare patches of skin
  • Runny nose and/or sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Hives
  • Diarrhea

What to do if your dog is allergic to people

If your vet has determined that your dog is, in fact, allergic to human dander, they will also talk to you about the best ways to treat their allergies. Depending on the type and severity of you dog’s allergic reaction, the vet make recommend longer-term solutions, like allergy shots, or short-term treatments, like an antihistamine, or cortisone cream to soothe their skin.

There are also things you can do at home to help reduce your dog’s exposure to your dander (and other allergens), including:

  • Vacuuming your home as much as possible
  • Switching to washable rugs, and washing them regularly
  • Using an air purifier with a HEPA filter in your bedroom
  • If your dog sleeping in your bed is nonnegotiable, changing and washing your bedding often

Report back to your vet after a few weeks with an update on your dog’s symptoms. If they’ve stayed the same or gotten worse, your vet will help you determine the next steps.

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