photo of lady sleeping with a dog who has taken an allergy med

Sleeping with dog allergies: What we know and 15 remedies worth a try

By Jason Wooden, PhD | September 13, 2021

If you’re sleeping with a dog and struggling with allergies, you’re likely not the only one since 20 percent of people are affected by allergies to dogs and cats.

Unfortunately, it can make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and increase your risk for sleep breathing disorders

Your options include allergy meds, immunotherapy, anti-dander treatments, air purifies, allergy-resistant bedding, trying a different dog breed, and various other remedies.

Sleeping with a dog + allergies, way more at stake than you think

Given how cool and fun dogs are, it’s no surprise there are people who want to sleep with their four legged friends even with allergies.

Or maybe it’s just that a dog allergy is making it hard to get sleep, even if you keep it out of the bedroom.

Regardless, you’re not the only one.

After all, dogs are the most popular pet with around 50 million households in the US owning a pet and 33 percent of house worldwide.

That’s a lot of dog owners and you’re bound to have more than a few struggling with allergies.

In fact, more than 50 million people deal in the US alone with various types of allergies every year and it’s 6th leading cause of chronic illness!

 

An allergy is what happens when your immune system reacts to something that normally doesn’t bother people.

Among the things that can cause an allergy are:

  • pollen
  • dust
  • mold
  • food
  • insect stings
  • drugs

Unfortunately, pets can also cause allergies.

Would you believe as many 20 percent of people deal with allergies to dogs and cats?

And that as many as 30 percent of people with asthma have pet allergies?

While we love our dogs, there’s no escaping what a dog allergy can do to make us miserable.

Yes, there’s the sneezing, itch, runny, and blocked noses.

The itchy and watery eyes…

There’s also the swelling of the face and eyes, diarrhea, and vomiting.

photo of man with runny nose from sleeping with a dog with allergies

Even worse is how it can wreck our sleep.

All those symptoms can make you miserable at night too because it’s harder to fall asleep AND stay asleep.  You’re more also likely to snore and more at risk for sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep disorder.

And we all need our sleep.

After a night of poor sleep, your brain doesn’t work as well as it should, you have a harder time learning, and don’t cope as well.

Over the long-term, poor sleep can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and dementia.

That’s some pretty serious stuff and bad news for people who really enjoy having a dog in the bed.

If you’re struggling with allergies and trying to sleep with your dog, it’s not something to be taken lightly.

So, what’s a dog owner to do?

Let’s take a look at what you’re up against, the pros and cons, and some practical remedies that can make a difference.

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Should you let your dog sleep in your bed?

Okay, so what are the pros and cons for people with allergies who want to sleep with their dog?

The benefits are obvious – fun, companionship, connection, and more time for new owners to bond with their dog.

Hanging out and interacting with a dog can be pretty relaxing before you go to bed.

For single people, you feel less lonely.  There’s also that feeling of safety you get knowing your four legged friend will alert you to anything strange going on.

Photo of dog under bed covers with paws sticking out

That’s all good stuff.

On the other hand, a noisy dog can disturb your sleep.  Ditto, if it moves around a lot during the night.

There’s also the risk that you may accidentally injure your dog while sleeping.

And, of course, dog allergies too!

Can dog allergies get worse at night?

Yes, dog allergies, like any other allergy, can certainly get worse at night.

It’s pretty common that when people lay down you can get even more congested.  Sleeping on your back encourages the flow of postnasal drip into the throat and can lead to more spells of coughing.

Another thing is that you may be exposed to more allergens in your bedroom.  Besides your dog, there’s dust mites, pollen, mold, and chemicals.

And it’s pretty easy for pet dander to accumulate on carpet, curtains, bedding, and pajamas.  That stuff sticks to everything.

So, if you have dog allergies, it’s no surprise if they’re worse when you try to sleep.

What can dog owners with allergies do if they still want to sleep with their dog?

So, you may be struggling with dog allergies but still want to try sleeping with your dog in the bed.

Maybe you’ve seriously thought about the downsides and have a good reason to sleep with your dog…

It could be that keeping it in your bedroom is your only option…

Or maybe it’s just that your symptoms are currently mild…

Regardless, you should know that the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends that you keep your pets out of the bedroom if you have allergies to them.

The challenge is that it’s so easy for pet allergens to accumulate and stick around in a bedroom.

That’s why the most effective way to deal with a dog allergy is to avoid having them in your living space.

However, depending on your symptoms and situation, there may be some things you can do to keep things more manageable:

1) Allergy medications

This one is pretty obvious.  Your choices include antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids.  Depending on your symptoms, it may not be the best long-term solution. 

Learn more

Photo of allergy medication that may help when sleeping with a dog

2) Allergy shots

Also known as allergy immunotherapy, a doctor can give you a specialized shots to train your immune system to react less to dog allergens. 

Learn more

3) Wear a mask

This may seem a bit extreme, but may still be worth a try depending on how desperate you are.  An N95 mask can block small particles such as allergens.

4) Rinse out your nose

A nasal rinse can help remove excess mucus from the nose and provide some temporary relief.

5) Weekly dog baths

Bathing your dog more regularly can help can allergens that accumulate in the fur under control.

photo of lady washing dog because she’s sleeping with a dog with allergies

6) Brush your dog more frequently

Another way to keep the allergens and fur from spreading throughout your bedroom.

7) Keep your dog indoors

Allowing your dog to spend a lot of time outside means more opportunities for it bring in outdoor allergens into the house.

8) Try an anti-dander product

Ask your vet for a dog-safe treatment to prevent dander from building up.

9) Keep your carpet clean

Pretty obvious, vacuum your carpet frequently and steam clean it on a regular basis.  Make sure your vacuum cleaner has a HEPA filter attached to it.

10) Remove the carpets

Even better, stick to bare surfaces such as a hardwood floor in your bedroom.

photo of dog on carpet

11) Use an air purifier

Another way to cut down on allergens in your sleeping space.  Try running an air purifier with a HEPA filter.

Better yet, you can also add a certified allergen HVAC filter to your central heating and air conditioning system.

12) Wash your bedding more frequently

Try washing your bedding on hot cycle at least once a week if not more frequently.

13) Use allergy-resistant bedding

Look for hypoallergenic sheets, blankets, and pillow cases.

14) Keep rover out of the bedroom during the day

The idea is to keep the amount time your dog spends in the bedroom and allergen spreading to the bare minimum.

15) Try a less allergenic dog breed

This one is a bit controversial as there isn’t any clear scientific evidence that some dog breeds are less allergenic than others.  However, dogs with less fur and non-shedding coats might be less of a problem.  Learn more

Other things that can help keep your sleep on track

It should be obvious that dog allergies may not be the only challenge for your sleep.

Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that affect sleep.

So, why make things any harder than it already is?

That’s why it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene, the everyday habits that set the stage for restful sleep.  Poor sleep hygiene can sabotage everything else you do for your sleep.

Woman sleeping on bed

For better sleep hygiene, you should:

  • keep consistent wake up & sleep times
  • avoid naps
  • exercise during the day
  • avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as
  • caffeine before bedtime
  • maintain a regular bedtime routine
  • avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics before sleep
  • keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing

It’s also important to see a doctor, especially if your insomnia becomes a long-term issue.

Too many people are unaware how many other medical issues can cause problems or worsen sleep.  The list includes things like chronic pain, heartburn, cancer, dementia, and asthma.

You could also be living with an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

Sources:

1. “The Most Popular Animals Owned As Pets In The US”, Worldatlas.com

2. Pet ownership infographic, Petfoodindustry.com

3. “Allergy Facts and Figures”, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

4. “Allergy”, MedlinePlus website

5. Dog and Cat Allergies: Current State of Diagnostic Approaches and Challenges, Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2018 Mar; 10(2): 97–105.

6. “25 Noteworthy Allergy Statistics & Facts to Know in 2021”, MedAlertHelp.com

7. “Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment”, 2021, American Kennel Club website

8. “Allergies and Sleep”, Sleepfoundation.org

9. “Why Do My Allergies Get Worse at Night?”, MedicineNet

10. “Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats?”, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

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