I've Never Been Allergic But I Think I Might Be Allergic To My Aunt's Dog. Or Could It Be Fleas??


Asked by Susie

I've Never Been Allergic But I Think I Might Be Allergic To My Aunt's Dog. Or Could It Be Fleas??

I'm 26 years old and never really had any allergies in my life. I guess I've been pretty sensitive to bug bites. Mosquito bites get huge on me and super itchy, but other than that, nothing. I grew up with a collie, have volunteered in shelters, LOVE dogs, etc. and never had problems. For the past 10 years, I've been dogsitting for my aunt's cockapoos. Two years ago, she got a new puppy, and I've been dogsitting every couple months for her and her sister.

Everything was fine until a few months ago when I went to dogsit. I sleep in my aunt and uncle's bed when I'm there. I woke up one morning and had little itchy hives all over my ankles, legs, and arms. They were especially all over the arm that she was cuddled into. At first I was convinced the dogs had fleas! Ew. You may think it's strange that I didn't tell my aunt and uncle, but if you knew them, it would make sense. I talked about it with my mom, and we decided she would be SUPER offended if I questioned her dog's cleanliness, etc. I left to go back to my apartment, and after a few days I was fine.

About a month ago, my aunt asked me to come over in the afternoon, take the dogs out, and play with them for a little bit. So I went to her house Tuesday through Friday for about 30 mins and played with them in the back yard. I had long sleeves and pants on and wasn't overly cuddly with the dogs. By Wednesday night I was starting to get itchy, and by Thursday I had huge hives all over my body. There were lots on my ankles and my back, my stomach, and my legs. They were bigger than before and itchier. I figured it probably wasn't fleas since the dog didn't touch my bare skin, and I barely spent any time with them. Maybe it was something in their yard. After I stopped seeing them, the hives remained for about a week, but no new ones appeared, and they slowly got better.

Now I'm dogsitting again. I slept there Wednesday night, and when I woke up, the dog was curled into my arm (a different one than before), and by Thursday night I broke out in itchy hives all over the crook of that arm. It's Friday now, and I don't seem to have any new ones. I'm there until Sunday, so we'll see what happens.

Does this sound like fleas or some kind of allergy? I would definitely think fleas, except for the second time I was there and had hives everywhere and was barely near them. I love this dog more than anything and want to continue dogsitting. I'm definitely telling my aunt and uncle this time, but I would love to know what this is! Thank you :)


Hi Susie,

Nothing like a medical mystery to solve! Where's Dr. House when we need him? Seriously, though, it's obvious that you're reacting to something related to the dogs. It's hard to say from here just what it is. You can check for fleas; they're usually visible. They look like little tiny black specks. It's sometimes easier to see them on a dog's stomach or in the ears. And by the way, fleas aren't really an indication that the dog isn't clean or well tended. Even a minor infestation can quickly multiply into a major one, especially when multiple dogs are involved.

It could also be an allergy to dogs' dander, even if you've never been allergic to dogs before. Allergies can develop at any time, for no reason at all.

I'd encourage you to talk openly with your aunt and uncle and also make an appointment with your physician. We can't diagnose you here. That takes a physical exam and a knowledge of more of your history. If an allergy is at work, the doctor can advise you on the best course of action. There are many medicines available these days that can help prevent allergic reactions.

Thanks, though, for your very detailed story. I wish you luck in figuring this out!

To your health,


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