According to estimation, about 10% of the population suffers from a pet allergy, with dog allergies being the second most common. It is still believed that many breeds of dogs, especially those with short hair or those who do not shed hairs, are suitable for people susceptible to dog allergies, but this is not applicable to all the cases. It has been researched that the dog's fur is not essentially responsible for the allergic reaction. Rather, a protein found in the dog's dander, saliva and urine leads to dog allergies.
The dogs that may cause allergies to you can be one among the following divisions:
- Small Dogs - They distribute allergens
- Dogs with Extremely Short or No Hair - In these type of dogs, the dandruff and saliva are more allergenic
- Dogs with "Human Like" Hair - The effects may be very less.
- Dogs with Non-Shedding Hair - Its coat could drag in more number of dust and allergens.
Symptoms of dog allergies usually occur shortly after exposure, but can be visible after two to three hours, as well. The symptoms are mostly airborne allergies like coughing, wheezing, red and itchy eyes, watery eyes, runny nose or stuffy nose, sneezing and occasionally, a skin reaction. If a dog drools on a person, prone to allergic reactions and the dog saliva touches the skin, he or she might get hives or a rash. In case of severe reactions, hives on the face or chest are seen. A person with asthma can have sudden breathing problems due to an allergic reaction.
The immune system of the sufferers reacts to proteins in the dog's urine, saliva and the dry flakes of skin, also known as a pet dander, shed off by the dog. The immune system recognizes these proteins as foreign bodies or antigens, and releases immunoglobulin antibodies. This in turn releases histamine and other chemicals that cause the allergic reactions in the body. A person having a family history of pet or dog allergies is more likely to have dog allergies, similar to a person having other airborne allergies.
Diagnosis for dog allergies is usually done through a blood test, or a skin test. During the skin test, the skin is pricked and exposed to the dog proteins. If a reaction develops, then the person is confirmed to having dog allergies. In cases where both tests show a negative result, but the symptoms still persist (usually when a person has a dog or is frequently exposed), then it could be a reaction to a substance the dog brings into the house on its fur, like pollen or mold.
Limiting and avoiding exposure to dogs is the best treatment, though this is often not possible. The reactions can be treated by antihistamines and decongestants, but in some severe cases, steroids are prescribed.
A person who cannot restrict exposure to dogs can also opt to have allergy shots. These are not always effective and the impact can be cumulative, so it can take more than one course to see a difference. Frequent bathing of the dog to reduce the amount of dander and keeping certain areas of the house dog free, for instance, the bedroom and rooms with carpeting, can help.