“The light slowly came back into his eyes. Lou let go and it came rushing out of him like hurt from a child, so I wrapped my arms around him and felt the tension in his body go all at once and he cried like a baby and shuddered and licked my ear and moulded into me, shaking uncontrollably, whining, weeping, apologizing, trying to tell me what happened. Happy, oh so happy. Nicki came over and we both hugged him, and all three of us cried there on the driveway, neither dogs nor humans but family, just family.” —Steve Duno: Last Dog on the Hill, (The Extraordinary Life of Lou)
Rocky: "Pl-eeeze... just ONE more?"
In the US, studies reveal that 10 to 15% of the population is “allergic” to companion animals. The too-common resolution from the family doctor or allergist has generally been to “get rid of” the pet: municipal shelters and rescue groups are perpetually overwhelmed with animals surrendered for “owner allergy”; and worse, many others are simply abandoned. Other “experts” lazily admonish “owners” to banish the pet outside of the house: leaving unacknowledged the betrayal and irreparable damage to the human-animal relationship, and the crushingly lonely, despairing life led by the “backyard dog.”
More encouragingly, however, growing awareness indicates that many people believe the benefits of pet companionship outweigh the hardships of the sometimes attending allergies; and in the US, the National Institute of Health estimates that 25% of people with allergy/asthma-related health problems keep pets in their home. For those with allergies, living comfortably with a companion animal simply necessitates general knowledge about allergies and allergy management, and willingness to pursue some sensible, practical protocols, which include: good hygiene, diligent cleaning, air quality management, sensible pet handling, and prudent use of safe, effective medications or natural remedies.
The allergic reaction (click to enlarge)
HOW THE HUMAN ALLERGIC REACTION WORKS
The body’s immune system responds to and fights off bacteria, toxins, and other harmful substances. Upon sensing an invader, the immune system dispatches immunoglobulin E, or IgE,antibodies (proteins used to identify and countercheck foreign objects, such as bacteria or viruses). However, overproduction of these antibodies irritates surrounding cells, which release histamine that triggers an inflammatory response, causing the allergy symptoms. The allergic response represents a hypersensitive disorder of the immune system, as it inappropriately reacts to non-threatening elements, such as harmless proteins emitted by pets. In severe instances, it sets off muscle spasms in the airways (asthmatic response) which can be life threatening.
Allergens are any substance (such as animal proteins) that stimulate an allergic response. In allergic response, a reaction is provoked to harmless antigens (molecules recognized by T-cell receptors of the immune system) that are not associated with invading pathogens that need to be expelled. Allergic reactions are triggered when allergens cross-link preformed IgE bound to the high-affinity receptorFcRI on mast cells.These resident mast cells line the body surfaces and alert the immune system to local infection.
During allergic reaction, allergens bind to IgE on mast cells or basophils (certain white blood cells), crosslinking the IgE molecules and aggregating the underlying FcRI receptors. This triggers the mast cells to secrete chemical mediators stored in pre-formed granules, including histamine (neurotransmitters that trigger the inflammatory response), and by synthesizing leukotrienes (fatty molecules of the immune system that contribute to inflammation in asthma and allergic rhinitis), cytokines (proteins that transmit signals between cells), and other anticoagulants after activation occurs. Also stimulated are T-helper cells (TH cells: which assist other white blood cells in immunologic processes of the allergic response, including consuming antigens, creating antibodies, and maturation of B cells into plasma cells).
The outcome of IgE-mediated mast-cell activation depends on the amount of antigen and its route of entry: then tempered by the individual's sensitivity and presence of any cross-trigger allergen. Symptoms can range from a runny nose (rhinitis) or watery eyes to a strong hay fever when inhaled and brought to the eyes; extending to life-threatening circulatory collapse that occurs in systemic anaphylaxis: an acute, multi-system hypersensitive reaction,
such as severe asthma or seizure.
Harley: a chew toy carved by the hands of the sea
PROTEINS: ALLERGIES TO DOGS Many people still wrongly presume that dog allergies are caused by fur. In reality, allergies are triggered and aggravated by proteins (polypeptides: organic compounds composed of amino acids) that are secreted by oil glands and cast off with dander (microscopic scales of dead skin or hair that dogs continually shed), and proteins in saliva or urine. For example, when the dog licks himself, saliva gets on his fur: as the saliva dries, protein particles become airborne and work their way into fabrics in the home. These proteins and other substances have unique properties that cause an individual's immune system to react as allergens.
Dander is similar to allergens from non-animal sources, including foodstuffs and fruits, molds and funguses, mildew, pollen, smoke, ragweed, household chemicals, dust and dust mites, insects, parasite bites, plants, foods, plastics and other synthetic materials, cosmetics… in short: almost anything. Many are present in virtually all homes, regardless of levels of cleanliness or economic status. Allergens can be nearly effortlessly transferred via air, physical contact and other means; animal dander particles can be less than 1 micron (micrometer) in size and may remain airborne for more than 8 hours after vacuuming.
Cisco: the heroic Caballero
Allergic symptoms result when the allergens land on the lining of the eyes and nose, and/or are inhaled into the lungs: typical symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, itchy swelling eyes and congestion; and for some, allergen contact with the person's skin may also cause itching and hives. Symptoms may occur quickly: within minutes after exposure; or, bodily reactions may build up over several hours, and even become most severe hours after the individual has discontinued contact with the allergen or environment.
The severity of individual sensitivity and reaction to allergens and their levels varies: spanning from mild rhinitis (nasal drip), to severe asthma; which can present a potentially life-threatening reaction when the airways tighten and perhaps nearly close in an allergy-induced attack. Sensitivity is often compounded by allergies to other allergens and irritants (cross triggers) in the environment which, when combined (perhaps at different times), exceed an individual’s threshold of ordinary tolerance. Individuals sensitive to dog proteins can suffer symptoms even if the dog no longer resides in the home, because his dander may remain as particles for months, at levels that can continue to trigger allergic symptoms.
While some assume that the tightly woven fur of breeds such as poodles and bichon-frises limits the shedding of allergen-laden dander, other people have allergic reactions even to fur-less breeds. Despite popular belief, there are no "non-allergenic" breeds of dogs, and individual sensitivity varies, with size becoming a factor, (since a large dog would shed more dander than smaller breed, and for this reason, certain smaller breeds can be a better match).
Hazel: Is that I-fone more important than ME?
NOT GIVING IN… & THE ISSUE OF LAZY DOCTORING For the conscientious dog guardian—to whom the dog is a family member—realize that it is not only possible, but essential, to find an allergy specialist who understands your commitment to living with a canine companion. A skilled allergy specialist can develop a plan to help manage allergic reaction/asthma and prevent episodes.
As an informed client, you should feel justified in questioning before you first meet, if the practitioner respects the importance of the human-animal relationship. For all but the most severe and life-threatening sensitivities, a mixed medical control of symptoms, appropriate housecleaning, designation of a “dog-free zone,” and alert pet handling practices (limiting hugging/cuddling, hand washing after prolonged contact) is usually effective, enabling an allergic person to live comfortably with pets. In fact, in many respects efforts would differ little from the types of everyday precautions practiced to safeguard against the typical mid-winter flu.
Informed dog guardians now reject indifferent physicians who un-hesitantly scold clients with generic, age-old recommendation to “get rid of” the dog. Even when it's certain that a person is allergic to dog dander, saliva or urine, it is false to assume that removing the dog will resolve future symptoms. Dander is a very hardy antigen and can remain in an environment for months or even years; and studies have detected dog and cat allergens in nearly 100 percent of homes, even those without pets.
Clearly, it's important to be aware of all of the individual's allergy triggers—which can create cross sensitivity—and take steps to minimize exposure that can trigger allergic symptoms. Aware dog guardians correctly disavow "giving up” on a family member, and realize they would regret the wrenching experience of surrendering a dog on the recommendation of a physician, only to find that the child (or other family member) still experiences allergic reactions—and wish they had first attempted more thoughtful means to manage the allergy.
Natasha: irrepressible style
BANISHED: FORCED TO LIVE OUTSIDE.
Other doctors dispense the cheap and careless advice to keep pets outdoors to minimize allergic incidents, with the grossly simplistic insistence that having animals in the house inevitably leads to susceptible reactions. But logic knows that allergens will exist inside the home even if pets no longer live there (2004: JACI). Moreover, spending long periods outdoors— typically tethered— will stress and adversely affect the health of the dog, leading to body chemistry changes that will increase dander (even dandruff) and make him a more potent allergy trigger (in addition to the dirt, pollen, ragweed, grass and other outdoor allergens that will accumulate on his body). On those limited occasions when household members do interact with the dog, they will carry these allergens back into the house. Living outdoors is plainly wrong for a companion animal, who substitutes his human family members for natural canine relationships. Rescue volunteers and shelter workers, trainers, canine behaviorists, veterinarians and animal welfare associations stress that exiling a dog outdoors is a horrifically cruel fate for a social animal, and unmistakably harmful to the relationship between the dog and his guardian. Dogs left to this desperate and vacant circumstance often succumb to anxiety and boredom, developing behavioral difficulties that make them problems for their guardians and the community-at-large.
Crystal: thoughtful repose
Solutions... WORTHWHILE EFFORTS. HANDLING AND GROOMING. Remembering that dog allergens are present in dander, saliva, and urine, if possible, someone other than the allergic person should handle grooming, cage/carrier maintenance, and house cleaning chores. A dust filtering mask on hand may work if the allergic person wishes to groom the dog, and gloves can augment this protection. Try to comb and brush pets outside, or on a hard floor. Then mop (environmentally safe cleaners that lack harsh chemicals, may help lessen cross-sensitive allergic triggers), sweep up, or vacuum the area with a HEPA filtering appliance (see, discussion below) immediately after brushing.
Wash hands and forearms straight away: before any chance of rubbing nose or eyes, or touching the mouth, with allergen-contaminated hands. Institute as habit (just as you would to protect against winter-season flu), that after close handling, or exposure to a dog in someone else's home: try to shower and put your clothes directly into the laundry.
Marley: unfettered freedom
It's important to be alert that outdoor allergens including pollen or ragweed, can cling to your dog’s coat: so after walking or playing outdoors, make a routine of brushing out your dog upon returning to the house. Also, brush in response to seasonal shedding, or other times of excitement or stress: frequent brushing also distributes oil throughout the coat while removing loose fur and skin flakes. According to the HSUS, bathing pets weekly can reduce the level of allergens on fur by as much as 84%; so try to do so, at least monthly. Use a mild soap (homemade formula: baby shampoo to neutralize dander and saliva; adding white vinegar and glycerin).
Between baths you can rub down your dog pet (particularly helpful after walks and romps outdoors) with a damp paper towel or even better, special allergy wipes (or damp wash such as Allerpet) now available online and at many pet supply stores. This measure can help remove loose fur and dander along with any outside allergy-triggering substances that may hitchhike on the dog's fur. Switch to distilled water if tap water irritates your dog's skin.
Bridgit: eyes of a courser...
CLEANING UP. CLEARING OUT. It’s perhaps hard to hear: most problems with animal allergens can be swiftly eliminated by thorough and consistent cleaning, particularly if using modern appliances with better filtering. But soon, this can become an ordinary household routine, and even severely affected family members or visitors can very quickly co-exist in the dog-family home.
Dust frequently; using damp cloths or disposable wipes to prevent the rerelease of particles into the home environment (those with severe respiratory allergies should consider wearing a filtering mask). Choices include tape pickup rollers and similar devices (look to the warehouse-membership store for volume pricing) to remove shedding from clothes, bedding, and draperies; disposable dusting cloths and mitts that pick up fur with electrostatic (static electricity charged) attraction; or “static breaker” devices that release the static charge that bonds pet fur to rugs and furnishings, so that it can be more easily removed.
Conventional vacuums generally will pick up irritants, but cannot “filter” the small particulates and typically, exhaust them back into the room. Dog allergens are especially lightweight and can remain aloft for lengthy periods after this inefficient “cleaning,” worsening the environment for allergy sufferers. Investment in a better vacuum with multi-wall or ultra-fine HEPA(High-Efficiecy Particulate Air) certified bags can speedily change the home to a remarkable extent: HEPA filters purify or trap 99.97 percent of all airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns, and often, the capacity and efficiency of these models makes them cheaper to supply and use in the long run. Warehouse membership clubs, and most especially, numerous online vendors offer opportunities for volume discounts. If you cannot afford the immediate purchase of the appliance itself, efficiency of a conventional vacuum can be enhanced by using special disposable electrostatic bags. Allergic members should avoid handling the bags, which should be disposed of regularly. A periodic steam cleaning of remaining carpets will be helpful.
Clean areas where the dog sleeps, plays and eats twice a week; wash his bedding frequently (zip-able covers simplify) in hot water (as should the family’s bed linens), using “sensitive skin” detergent. Once a week, wash the dog’s rubber, plastic and other hard-surface pet toys in the sink with mild soap and hot water to remove saliva (it contains protein: an allergen); rise and toss the drying towel in the laundry.
Cassie: what need, for serious?
BARE FLOORS ARE BEAUTIFUL.
MAXIMIZE THE MINIMAL. As much as possible, keep pets out of rooms with carpets and upholstered furniture, since it's harder to remove dander particles from fibers and fabrics: the proteins left behind will trigger allergic reaction for allergy sufferers. Ornately carved or heavy, overstuffed furniture will collect all sorts of allergens. If you are committed to letting the dog on a couch or bed, cover with a throw (a good opportunity for a decorative touch!) so that it can be washed once a week. Furniture covered in non-fabric alternatives is more easily cleaned.
Wherever practical, dispense with wall-to-wall carpeting: it holds dust, dander, and allergens of all types which can cross-trigger (remembering that dog proteins are only one trigger,) and are difficult to clean even with diligent vacuuming, since allergens can work down into the fibers and lodge in the underlayment. If changing out wall-to-wall, don't extend rugs to the baseboards: bare wood perimeters are easier to clean.
For a family member with allergies, the more washable surfaces and materials in the home, the better. As such, overstuffed furniture, dust-collecting blinds, and accessories that tend to attract dander and dust should be minimized. When choosing fabrics, bear in mind that rough textured fabrics will trap allergens. Choose window treatments that can be easily taken down for a wash every couple of months. Special impermeable pillow and mattress covers keep allergens from lodging on bedding and can be washed, occasionally, since allergen particles can be brought into the room on clothes and other objects; (they also help control dust mites, a typical cross-trigger to dog proteins).
Milo: seeking a different perspective
Use of aerosols, sprays, paints, insecticides, chemicals, epoxy, and heavy fragrances in the home (and most particularly, smoking), may cross-trigger the effects of other allergens (such as dog dander), and should be avoided. While good air circulation is generally helpful, realize that tabletop or ceiling fans can stir up allergens. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers (humidifiers in winter) can help significantly, particularly if due effort is taken to maintain the filters.
Damp toweling the dog occasionally, especially coming from outside, can minimize shedding and release of dander. Some allergy sufferers find benefit in putting dog sweaters or similar clothing on the dog to control release of dander, reduce shedding, and protect the dog’s skin from outdoor climate conditions (which in turn has allergy symptom-abating benefits, since holding moisture in the skin can mean less potent dander and oil secretions).
Electronic "tower" air cleaner
VENTILATION & FILTERING DEVICES. Most allergic people spend a third of their day in the bedroom: for them, make it an allergen-free zone by keeping the dog out. Place a high-efficiency air cleaner in this room, to remove many types of airborne particles. You will need to decide regarding a mechanical (replaceable fabric filters) or electronic unit. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters were developed by the Atomic Energy Commission during WWII to remove radio-active dust from their plants. HEPA filters are the most efficient type available, generally 99.97% effective at removing particles as small as 0.3 microns.
ELECTRONIC AIR CLEANERS (typically "tower" floor or table models) are electric precipitators that use electrostatic attraction to trap charged particles. These devices draw air through an ionization section where particles obtain an electrical charge; the charged particulates accumulate inside the unit on a collector (a series of flat plates that is oppositely charged), which need cleaning when the plates become covered with debris. Ion generators, or ionizers, disperse charged ions into the air (similar to the electronic air cleaners, but without a collector); these ions enjoin airborne particles, imparting a charge so that they stick to nearby surfaces such as walls or furniture, or attach to one another and settle faster. The particles are thus "prepared" to be vacuumed or wiped up by the homeowner (but if not, would eventually result in "soiled" walls and surfaces).
Consider the size of the room or space in which the air filtration unit will be placed, the number of times per hour the air will be completely cycled, and the size of the particles the system will capture (stated in microns: the smaller, the better, when regarding pet dander). Contemplate the purchase and usage cost (electricity to run the unit, and cost of filters) to make a decision; perhaps influenced by calculating cost of filters vs. ease of cleaning. Electronic units, for example, cost more initially, but most run on less than 10 watts; there are no ongoing supply costs since the collection plates are permanent, and the technology is widely licensed or has gone “generic,” so prices have dropped dramatically.
Damelo & Philippe: standing tall...
Proper ventilation can lower concentration of pet allergens. Quality Furnace/AC duct filters can become a bargain in the effort to reduce airborne allergens year-round, generally not affecting airflow (LAD, or least affected deviation), and are rated in MERV (maximum efficiency reporting value) for HVAC (heating, ventilation, & air conditioning) units). Manufacturers have generally implemented color-coded packaging to make the differences more obvious to the under-educated consumer. Even better cost savings and effectiveness may be achievable with one-time purchase of washable permanent filters (plastic instead of cardboard frame, with synthetic fabric), which are generally available at the local big-box home center or warehouse club.
Typical flat panel residential filters have a MERV between 1 - 4, while medium efficiency pleated (extended surface) filters range between 5 -13: the higher end being nearly as efficient as a true HEPA filter. Higher efficiency filters can range from MERV 14 - 20 (perhaps misidentified as “HEPA filters”), but this may require professional modification of the HVAC unit and ductwork, owing to dimensional limitations and the increased static airflow resistance, which if un-remedied, would place undue stress on the main blower.
Smoky: immutably cheerful
DUCT MOUNTED AIR CLEANERS (in-duct, or “whole house systems”) are installed in a central heating system. Return grille air cleaners are installed in a heating system with a single central return. Of both types, most models include an air flow sensor that will only power the unit when the blower is running. Some of these systems are PCO cleaners, which use a UV lamp along with a catalyst substance, that reacts with the light: these help destroy gaseous pollutants by converting them into harmless vapors, but are not designed to remove particulate pollutants. For larger rooms, ceiling mounted air cleaners have their own fan, and are often mounted through standard 2x2' or 2x4' suspended ceiling tiles.
Depending on the installation, and thorough analysis of the total costs, (some studies suggest that whole-house systems clean only about 30% of the total air pushed through a system), it is often more practical to simply have your HVAC system including ductwork professionally cleaned, and simply switch to an upgrade furnace filter (as discussed above, and which you can change once a month), augmented by stand-alone electronic air purifiers in several rooms.
CLEANING YOUR OWN “FILTERS”: IRRIGATING NASAL PASSAGES. Further to working with a doctor or allergist respectful of the importance of the human-animal relationship (and whether pursuing conventional, alternative, or holistic/natural management of allergy symptoms), augmenting those protocols by “washing” the inside of the allergy sufferer’s nose can be significant, in just the same way hand washing is. The tiny hairs in the nose (cilia) are purposed to filter debris and allergens from the air we breathe, waving to push mucus either to the back of the throat (where it can be swallowed), or through the nose (to be "blown out"). Sometimes, these cilia become clogged (congested) or so dry (especially in winter) that they don’t move well; and mucus so thick that it hardens and cannot be normally expelled (removing the irritant).
Since these “filters” cannot be changed, a cleaning/moisturizing can be beneficial. Many allergy sufferers profit by use of a neti pot, to clean and irrigate the nasal passages. A neti pot is a small ceramic or plastic device (often mimicking appearance of a gravy boat), that uses gravity to draw a water & saline solution through the nostrils. Some vendors add sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to buffer the solution, and add eucalyptus oil or aloe vera extract to
soothe irritated tissue.
Stella: never faltering spirit
NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES: IMPROVING YOUR DOG'S DIET. A better quality diet can be a critical element of allergen reducing protocols, since it will improve your dog's skin condition, and decrease shedding and flaking. Dogs fed high carbohydrate grain-based (corn, wheat, rice) foods are not only at substantial risk of succumbing to a myriad of health issues, but more immediately, are often allergic to storage mites and glutens present in in these products, which increase scratching, shedding and general skin problems that trigger allergic reaction in their human guardians.
Further to quality food, essential vitamins, and nutrients, ensuring for an adequate and balanced ratio of Omega-3/6 essential fatty acids in the dog’s diet is important. Fatty acids are incorporated into cell membranes, and released when a membrane is damaged. They are then metabolized (altered) by enzymes into new substances that function to either decrease or increase inflammation (the body’s reaction to attack). The goal of any canine nutritional protocols should be to minimize inflammatory processes that support triggering an allergic reaction or an autoimmune condition.
Certain fatty acids (short-chain polyunsaturated fats) are identified as essential because they cannot be sufficiently manufactured by the body, and therefore must be sourced through the diet. Adding an ocean-caught source Omega-3 supplement (ALA,alpha linolenic acid; EPA,eicosapentaenoic acid;DHA,docosahexaenoic acid) to your dog's diet can help his skin retain moisture, and additionally, make it inhospitable to parasites.
Beneficial fatty acids (antioxidants: enzymes that counteract the damaging effects of oxidation in animal tissues) in dog foods are subject to rapid degradation, can be destroyed by heat during production of dog food, or, become rancid when dry dog foods are stored long-term. For these reasons, all food— but especially dry dog foods— should be fresh, and used in less than 5 months. How can you tell when that is? Quality/expiration dates are always listed on better quality foods packaging. To determine when a product was made: call the manufacturer and ask what the “shelf life” of their food is; you can then work backward to determine when the specific bag or can you are about to buy left the factory.
ALA is found in plant foods (flaxseed and nuts) while EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, trout, & mackerel). When choosing fish oil, ensure that it is sourced from ocean-caught (marineculture) fish: farm raised (acquaculture) fish are often grown in packed concentrations which lead to stressed animals in polluted pens rampant with disease and parasite infestations. To keep the fish alive until harvesting, aquaculture technicians commonly add heavy doses of antibiotics, which may accumulate in the animal tissues; and logically, end up in the supplement. Its important to also understand that fish oils are very highly prone to oxidative degradation: influenced by many factors, including fatty acid composition, exposure to O2 and light, temperature; any of which can and do begin during the collection and manufacture.An essay about eliminating the dangers of by-products, toxins, and allergens from your dog's diet can be found on our site: click HERE for information.
Duke: Hedging his bets...
RECENT ANIMAL ALLERGY RESEARCH:
THE “HYGEINE HYPOTHEIS” 2001: (Sweden), a study of 412 children; being around cats and dogs during infancy may actually reduce the chances that a child will develop allergies later in life. The children were tested for allergies at age 7 and again at age 12: of those children who were not around cats or dogs during the first year of life, nearly 9 percent developed asthma, compared to about 3 percent of children who were around pets; (see:
2012, below). 2002: August, Journal of the American Medical Assn. (JAMA), study of 474 infants, found babies raised in a home with two or more dogs or cats were up to 77% less likely to develop various types of allergies at age 6 than kids raised without pets. And immunity was greater for those babies in 2- pet households than single-pet households. Besides pet allergies, those children were less likely to develop reactions to dust mites, ragweed, and grass. 2003: Allergist Thomas Platts-Mills of the University of Virginia and Swedish researchers studied 2,500 children, observing that the longer children had pets when they are young (ideally during their first two years), the lower their frequency of having pet allergies is, years later. The children were tested for allergies between ages 7 and 8 and again at 12: children who continually owned pets were less likely to have pet dander allergies than new pet owners or those who had only been exposed earlier in life. Further, of those who proved to be allergic to cats, 80% never had a cat at home. Platts-Mills commented specifically on the recklessness of giving up the family pet.
2006: (Pediatric Allergy and Immunology; also The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 1999) concluded children who grow up with animals in the home gained a decrease in sensitization across a range of allergic conditions later in life.
Jax: who's just arrived?
2012:(June 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology): Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, concluded that house dust from homes with dogs appears to protect against infection of syncytial virus (RSV), a common respiratory virus in infants associated with the development of childhood asthma. The study compared three groups of animals: mice fed house dust from homes with dogs before being infected with RSV, mice infected with RSV without exposure to dust, and a control group of mice un-infected with RSV.
The study found that the mice not exposed to dust that received the RSV had lung damage, as well as mucus buildup and “infiltration of inflammatory cells.” The mice that were pretreated with the house dust did not exhibit symptoms associated with RSV infection, and they possessed a distinct gastrointestinal bacterial composition (“enriched with bacilli class bacteria [and] immune response profile”) compared to animals that were not fed dust.
The study asserts that the microbiome (collection of bacterial communities) in house dust from homes that have a cat or dog is compositionally different than house dust from homes without pets. Researchers concluded that microbes within the dog-associated house dust colonize the gastrointestinal tract, control immune responses, and protect the host (the child) against RSV. The study is significant since identifying the specific species that lend this protective effect may lead to comprehension about the role of microbes in defining allergic disease outcomes, and could lead to new
2012: (July; American Academy of Pediatrics Journal): European researchers tracked the health of 397 Finnish children born between September 2002 and May 2005. When the infants were 9 weeks old, parents began keeping weekly diaries to document indicators of their health (including runny noses, coughs and ear infections), also noting when their babies were given antibiotics. At one year of age, researchers determined that dogs were linked to a reduced incidence of various upper respiratory illnesses: babies who lived with dogs were 31% more likely to be in good health than those who didn't. The children with pet dogs were 44% less likely to develop ear infections and 29% less likely to have used antibiotics during their first year, the report said. The effect was amplified for children whose dogs spent more time outdoors: researchers explained that dirt brought into their homes by these dogs caused the children’s immune systems to mature faster than they would have otherwise. “We speculate that animal contacts could help to mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic response and shorter duration of infections,” they wrote. (The study didn't include children whose parents had allergies to dogs). CLICK HERE to read the full report.
Atticus: the searcher...
In all of these studies: the theory of
HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS, the premise that in today’s modern, ultra-hygienic living conditions, children aren’t being exposed to as many infections and microbes as in the past: with the result that their immune systems remain immature. An allergic reaction is an overreaction of the body’s natural defenses to an otherwise harmless substance. Researchers believe that growing up with pets trains a child’s immune system to be less reactive to allergens. More recent studies have focused on high exposure (more than 2 pets per household) with the same results.
For example, when children play with cats or dogs, the animals may scratch or lick them, transferring enough “Gram-negative” bacteria (endotoxins, which are the remains of dead bacteria) to temper the way the child's immune system responds. Scientists believe that regular exposure to endotoxins, (also found in dirt), may explain the ultimately defensive health benefits of pets in the home. However, on a related note, parents who smoke wipe out the anti-allergy benefits their infants receive from early pet exposure; (Medical College of Georgia).
Hannah: eyes as a window to a gentle soul
ENDNOTES:  Regardless of exposure to animals, a good allergy management plan typically includes prescription medications; significant development in treatments have occurred in recent years, including new steroid and antihistamines, for a combination of preventive and symptom control medications. In addition to accepted immunotherapy protocols, many “non-medical” (holistic, homeopathic, aromatherapy, etc.) remedies may be worth exploring, and which can be cost-effective. A commonly cited example is stinging nettles, a natural plant extract, which mimics the application of OTC antihistamines.
 The term hypoallergenic dog breeds is a misnomer: all dogs produce the allergens that some people react to, but a few breeds do not shed as much as others, which reduces the spread of allergens. Some suggested breeds for sensitive individuals include: Poodle, Schnauzer, Portugese Water Dog, Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier, Llasa Apso, Bichon Frise, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Shih Tzu, Irish Water Spaniel, Kerry Blue Terrier, Havanese, Chihuahua, Whippet, & the Italian Greyhound.
 July 2004 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Dogs and cats lived in only half of the residences examined in the study, conducted by the National Institute of Environment Health Sciences Institute, using data from the National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing. Dog and cat allergens were detected in 100 percent and 99.9 percent of homes, respectively, even though only 49.1 percent of the homes actually had such a pet.
Buddy: eyes on the prize...!
 Giving up a pet without a committed effort to first try other measures sends a life-lesson to children that pets are disposable. It also indicates a helplesness in the face of problem-solving, and yet too often, giving up the dog does not solve the allergy problem. When the allergic symptoms persist, the child shares a feeling of failure, compounding the emotionally wrenching experience of parting with a beloved animal companion.
 See: US Environmental Protection Agency, Indoor Air Quality- Air Cleaners in the Home:click HERE for PDF.
 See: US Environmental Protection Agency, Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?:click HERE.
 There are two types of fatty acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6: some considered essential, because they cannot be manufactured by the dog’s body, but must be sourced through diet. Omega 3 fatty acids (ALA,alpha linolenic; EPA,eicosapentaenoic acid; DHA,docosahexaenoic acid) have anti-inflammatory properties that help combat root cause of many chronic diseases, including: arthritis, infections, cholesterol control, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and dry skin conditions. Omega 6 fatty acids (LA,linoleic;GLA,gamma linolenic;DGLA,dhomo-gamma-linolenic; and AA,arachidoc) while essential, are more complicated. LA is important because it optimizes water permeability in the skin. However, when a cell is damaged, AA is released from the cell membrane and metablolized by enzymes into substances which increase inflammation (pro-inflammatory). Inflammation is beneficial if a dog has an infection to fight; but in most cases it manifests as a health problem, including pruritus (itching), allergies, blood clotting problems, and certain vitamin deficiencies.
Winnie: winsome (it had to be!)
AA (common in treats high in corn/vegetable oils, grain-based dog foods, animal tissues like pork or chicken fat, even grain-fed red meat) competes with Omega 3 for absorption (metabolization by enzymes). As such, the ratio between omega-3 (anti-inflammatory/ antioxidants) and omega-6 fatty acids is important, as DHA and EPA Omega-3s help negate the release of (pro-inflammatory) AA.
Supplementing becomes important, since these antioxidants in dog foods are subject to rapid degradation or oxidization from age, exposure to oxygen or light during collection or manufacture, may already have been destroyed by heat during production (even when listed on the label), or become rancid (oxidized) when dry dog foods are stored long-term. Choose a stand-alone Omega-3 supplement that does not combine Omega-6 (as many human supplements do), or contain synthetic preservatives (rather, Omega-3 coupled with natural antioxidant Vitamin E).
Schroeder: dappled and dapper
Sources of Omega-3s include flaxseed oil and fish oils. Fish that are especially rich (they consume the algeas high in Omega-3s) include mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, mullet, bluefish, anchovy, sardines, herring, trout, and menhaden. Tuna, at the top of the food-chain, would be discouraged, as the likelyhood of accumulation of heavy metals is high; whereas krill, an advised alternative, is generally devoid of that concern, since it is at the bottom of the food-chain. Environmentalists, however, are conerned about the growing demand (overfishing) for krill, which holds an important place in the ecosystem.
Food safety experts often suggest plant-based sources, since fish oil capsules contain highly unsaturated DHA and EPA. Unfortunately, the less saturated an oil is, the more unstable it is and the more quickly it degrades (becomes rancid). For this reason, manufacturers often add Vitamin E as an anti-oxidant/natural preservative. Somewhat more costly (but more efficient) are oils made from the algeas themselves. Nevertheless, consumers must now confront— and seek information about— the issue of algae-sourced oil being from genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Flaxseed oil contains higher levels of ALA than fish oil, and dogs can convert ALA to EPA and DHA; but as they lack the proper enzymes, the conversion is not efficient. Fish oil is a direct source of EPA and DHA. Fish oil supplements should be sourced from marineculture (see “Nutritional Strategies,” above); check the manufacture/expiration date to ensure that the product you purchase is fresh. Choose a supplement that has been independently certified for content, purity, and freedom of contaminants. The International Fish Oil Standards tests products for PCB, mercury, and other contaminants, and for label-claimed concentrations. Examine the label to ensure that the supplement you choose has been molecularly distilled to remove contaminants.
Since fatty acid supplements are indicated across a range of health concerns you should work carefully with your veterinarian to decide on an appropriate dosage.
 Other notable studies: 1989, The British Medical Journal; 1999, The Lancet; and 2000, The New England Journal of Medicine; have shown that infants who regularly are exposed to bacteria and other microbes, (perhaps from other children or from living on a farm or with pets) are less likely to develop allergies than children who are raised isolated from these sources or in clean environments. Also: studies in Germany and Switzerland concluded that children regularly exposed to animals on farms, had less allergies than children in urban areas (Downs SH.,Clinical Experiments in
Allergy Research, 2001).
N.B.: This essay is written for informational purposes. Our goal is to build awareness of concepts and define common terminology to stimulate discussion. We draw your attention to issues and concepts that are or may be important to the subject at hand, but do not consider that our interpretation is necessarily complete. Mutually respectful and open relationships with physicians, veterinarians, and shelter/rescue organizations are all essential to productive dialog on this issue. We welcome your comments or suggestions! We do not specifically endorse any of the organizations discussed here, but interpret that they may be of interest, and have provided links and/or PDF's to stimulate creative thinking so that you may conduct your own research (links are in blue & will illuminate when you pass your mouse over them: click to be directed to a site or to print a PDF).
“You've heard plenty of times how dogs love us unconditionally. They love us when we're cross and neglectful, sick or sorrowing. Who does that unfailingly? And dogs show us how to live big. They do everything with gusto, whether it's drinking from the toilet, or heading down the driveway for a walk they've taken a thousand times before. Every day is new, every activity is the best. In their company, we're lifted out of our human concerns and remember what it's like
to be excited.
But most important... it's not about something that they give us, but something we give ourselves. Our days on this earth are short, even if we live to a fine old age. Something we want out of this brief life is to love grandly. But we don't often give our hearts without reserve. With dogs, though, we can. Our feeling isn't complicated by hurts of the past or worries about our independence. We feel no need to be coy or cautious.
The humans we love have aspirations that don't always mesh with ours,
and when we come up against those different longings, we reign ourselves in. But we aren't so scared about loving a dog.
(Unlike a child)... a dog doesn't wish to go out and have a life of his own; he only wants to share his life with his person.
Dogs live in such a way that we forget their mortality. We can't imagine the day when the dog's exuberant spirit will be extinguished. So we open our hearts to them and discover our hearts hold an extravagant amount of love. We let it flow out. Think of what this does for us as people. Think how that enlarges us. Loving full out gives us a way to defy death. Death surrounds us, but love holds its own against loss.
I think this means (I'll) go on loving dogs.
For those of us who have been loved by a great dog, who have, in turn, loved the dog back, we can say, and this is not too large a statement, we have known Glory in our lives” —Patti Sherlock, A Dog for All Seasons (a Memoir)
You can brighten the long, lonely day of a needy dog:consider volunteering at a shelter. Your used but servicable linens, towels, bathmats, or cushions can provide comfort while he waits. Need help affording veterinary care? click HERE • Find low-cost spay neuter services: click HERE
Food & Safety Recalls/FDA Advisories for Dog Foods: click HERE
To think about: American taxpayers spend more than $1 billion annually to fund municipal animal shelters.
In those facilities, 14,000 animals are killed each day, often brutally: even in archaic gas chambers...
many within merely hours of their arrival: why are they called shelters?