Dog allergies

Dog allergy is one of the most common animal allergies and is a strong risk factor for asthma.

What causes dog allergy?

A common misconception is that dog allergic individuals are allergic to dog hair. This is not the case: the allergy is not caused by the hair itself, but from dog proteins which are found on skin flakes (dander). The major dog allergens are small proteins from saliva called Can f 1 and Can f 2. Another important dog allergen is dog albumin (called Can f 3). These proteins end up on the skin when it licks itself, or via sweating. Dog dander particles are very small and light , meaning that they can remain airborne in the air for hours.

Dog allergens are transferred from place to place by floating naturally in the air, via air conditioner or heating ducts, and by sticking on shoes and clothing, making them detectable in locations that are free of animals, such as bedrooms, cars, shopping malls, movie theaters, hotels, and doctor offices. The more dander is present, the more potential for allergy problems. As a rule, older dogs produce more dander than younger dogs. Some breeds are also more prone to having dry skin and are felt to be more allergenic.

Some studies suggest that double-coated breeds such as the Akitas, Collies, German Shepherds, and Shetland Sheepdogs are worse than dogs with soft or curly single coats like the Bichon Frise, Irish Water Spaniel, Maltese, Poodle, Schnauzer, and the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. Conversely, these same studies suggest that dogs with soft or curly single coats produce less allergens and may be hypoallergenic. However, this is controversial, as not all studies support this idea. Regardless, it is important to remember there is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog - they can all cause allergies, even the much loved poodle.

Diagnosis of dog allergy

Dog allergy is diagnosed with a skin or blood test.

How to minimize dog allergens in the home

Removing the dog from the house obviously the most effective method. Keeping the dog out of the bedroom is not very effective since dog allergen is transferred from room to room on the owner’s clothing and via air circulation. If removing the dog from the house is not possible, some studies demonstrate that doing all the following measures together may help:

  1. Minimize carpeting. Go for linoleum, tile, or hardwood floors which are easier to clean.
  2. Minimize upholstered furniture. Go for leather furniture.
  3. Vacuum floors, carpets, and furniture weekly
  4. Wipe walls weekly. Dust cleaners such as the Swiffer® and Grab-It™ dust cloths work quite well.
  5. Wet mop floors weekly
  6. Wash the dog twice a week – this will help decrease the allergens on the skin and hair.
  7. Wash bedding at 130˚ F (60˚ C) weekly
  8. Keep the dog out of all bedrooms
  9. Close closets at all times when not in use ​

Treatment of dog allergy

Along with avoidance measures, medications such as antihistamines and steroid nose sprays can help minimize allergy symptoms. Allergy shots and allergy drops have been demonstrated to be effective for the long term treatment of dog allergies.