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Hard work keeping a dog when family member has allergy

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

A mother called to ask what she should do with her dog since one of her children has been diagnosed with severe allergies and the other children won’t consider finding another home for the pet.

This is a tricky question, since it involves the health and welfare of one and the emotional status of the rest of the family already stressed with the medical diagnosis. The first thing is to banish the dog from the patient’s bedroom if he has been allowed in there in the past. Then the bedroom must be thoroughly cleaned.

So the dog takes up residence in one of the other children’s rooms. Will they become allergic too? One of the suggestions I received when I asked a veterinarian is to keep the animal groomed. A dog that is washed and combed every week or two does not carry the loose hair and dander which are the main allergens for humans. For the sake of the dog, invest in the mildest shampoo from your veterinarian. Normal shampoos for dogs will cause the skin to dry out, itch and flake if used too often. There is a special shampoo called “Allerpet” that is supposed to reduce the itching, flaking, shedding and dander. I have not used it, so I don’t know how well it works, ask your veterinarian.

Short-haired dogs and dogs with only one coat (no undercoat) are less likely to cause an allergic reaction than one with a thick or a long coat. If your dog does have a thick or long coat, ask your veterinarian about the possibilities of shearing him. However, if you do shear the animal, be kind to him and provide dense shade during the summer so he doesn’t become sunburned or else plan to bring him indoors in the heat of the day.

To follow up on this family decision, the rest of the family will have to be willing to sacrifice some time in order to keep the dog. If the rest of the children go out to play with the dog, they must be willing to change their clothes and wash their hands before they join the allergic child. Someone will have to monitor the other siblings’ rooms and make sure that they are kept clean and the bedding is washed, but not with the patient’s bedding. Furthermore, the dog should be given his own bed on the floor beside the bed and not allowed to sleep with any of the children.

If it is at all possible, designate certain rooms as “dog-free” areas so the allergic child can mingle with the family and enjoy videotapes and family entertainment without the fear of an allergic reaction. However, the dog should be allowed in at least one “public room” for the simple reason that canines are pack animals and can get depressed if they are isolated from their pack (family). As I said, this is a tricky question to answer. Good Luck!