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 cause by the hair itself, but from dog
proteins that stick on the hair. The major dog allergens are small proteins found in dander (tiny flecks of skin and hair) called Can f 1 and Can f 2. Another
important dog allergen is dog albumin (called Can f 3), which is transferred to the hair from dog urine and sweat. About 30% of dog allergic individuals are
allergic to Can f 3.
It is true that some species of dogs produce more allergens than others. Overall, it appears 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. While dogs with soft or curly single coats produce less allergens (hypoallergenic), it is important to
remember that they can all cause allergies, even the much loved poodle.
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.
How to minimize dog allergens in the home
Removing the dog from the house ideal. 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
- Minimize carpeting. Go for linoleum, tile, or hardwood floors which are easier to clean.
- Minimize upholstered furniture. Go for leather furniture.
- Vacuum floors, carpets, and furniture weekly
- Wipe walls weekly. Dust cleaners such as the Swiffer® and Grab-It™ dust cloths work quite well.
- Wet mop floors weekly
- Wash the dog at least weekly – this will help decrease the allergens on the skin and hair.
- Wash bedding at 130˚ F (60˚ C) weekly
- Keep the dog out of all bedrooms
- Close closets at all times when not in use
Diagnosis of dog allergy
Dog allergy is diagnosed with a skin or blood test.
Treatment of dog allergy
Along with avoidance, medications such as antihistamines (Benadryl, Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec…) and steroid nose sprays (Flonase, Nasonex, Rhinocort,…)
can help minimize allergy symptoms. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) have been demonstrated to be effective for the long term treatment of dog allergies.
Moore BS et al. Breed-specific dog hypersensitivity in humans. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1980;66:198-203
Allergen immunotherapy: A practice parameter second update J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120:s26-s85
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