Does Spot make you sniffle? If so, you may be allergic to dogs.
Although fewer humans are allergic to dogs than to cats (link to cat article), canines dander (dead skin cells), saliva, and urine can cause allergic reactions in as much as 10 percent of the population. The hair of furry animals like dogs also can pick up dust, pollen, and other allergens that set off reactions in people (but the hair itself is not an allergen). Pet dander can travel on clothing or reside in carpeting.
Given that at least one dog is present in 39 percent of U.S. householdsa statistic that reflects Americans deep attachment to dogslearning how to recognize dog allergy, treat it, and alleviate its recurrence are essential in this canine-centric country of ours.
For people without allergies, a dog bounding up to them and licking their face can be a happy occasion. Its an altogether different feeling when this happens to a person who is allergic to dogs. For these individuals, the animals allergens land on facial membranes and cause eyes to itch, tear, and burn and the nose to get stuffy.And, for people with asthma, pet dander is a common trigger that can cause symptoms to flare up or worsen.An allergy sufferer scratched by a dog can find the impacted area turning red and becoming highly irritated.
When there are low levels of allergens or low sensitivity to them, dog allergy symptoms may take time to manifest. In some people, symptoms can be more severe and appear quickly, such as when airborne particles get into the lungs, are inhaled, and mix with antibodies. Highly sensitive people can experience severe breathing problems within 15 minutes to 30 minutes and even get a rash on the upper chest, neck, and face.
Is There an Allergy-Free Dog?
The desire to keep dogs as pets is so strong that it has perhaps contributed to the notion that there are hypoallergenic dogs, but a truly allergy-free breed does not exist.
The Humane Society of the United States and others contend that Poodles or the Bichon Frise may be less apt to irritate dog-allergic humans, but a recent study found no evidence that so-called hypoallergenic dog breeds produce fewer environmental allergens than other types of canines.A 2011 study compared dust samples from 173 homes and found no difference in the levels of allergens released by breeds deemed hypoallergenic versus nonhypoallergenic. The researchers argued that exposure to dogs early in life can protect against allergy developmenta contention not without controversybut that claims of dogs free of allergens are not supported by the evidence.
Diagnosis and Treatment
An allergist can help diagnose allergies to dogs, which can be important for families considering adopting or purchasing one as the family pet. Allergy tests using extracts of dog dander from the potential dog or to one of the same breed can be conclusive, although some studies show that factors related to individual dogs may influence allergenicity more than a dogs breed or gender. Skin tests of self-prepared dog allergen extracts may also be used by allergists to diagnosis canine allergies.
For dog allergy sufferers, staying away from dogs is the best way to limit exposure to their allergens and reduce the red eyes and stuffy noses they cause. When outbreaks to dog and other pet allergies do occur, medical treatments vary depending on the symptoms severity and frequency; for instance, an allergist may treat episodic symptoms with nose sprays or antihistamine pills. For people with moderate to severe perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR)year-round pet allergiesan allergist may treat with allergen immunotherapy (shots), which has shown success in patients with pet-induced PAR. Allergy shots gradually improve tolerance to the dog allergen. Bronchodilators may provide temporary relief for people with asthma, but anti-inflammatory topical therapy, the strongest of which are topical steroids, are necessary for nasal and lung symptoms caused by heavy or prolonged exposure.
For owners found to be allergic to dogswho are understandably unwilling to part with their pet, an allergist may combine these and other medications with remedies to reduce the overall levels of environmental allergens. Such strategies include restricting the dogs access to certain areas of the household and the use of air filters, frequent and proper housecleaning, and furnishings less likely to harbor allergens.
For more information, find an allergist in your area.