Understanding Dog Allergies

Do you love dogs, but suffer from allergies when you’re around them? You’re not alone. Allergies to dogs are a common problem that affects many people. But how do these allergies work? And is there anything you can do about them?

What are Dog Allergies?

You may be wondering what exactly an allergy is. Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to a harmless substance, like dog dander or saliva. This overreaction causes your body to release histamines, which can lead to symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. When you’re allergic to dogs, your immune system overreacts to certain proteins found in their dander, saliva, and/or urine. So when a person with a dog allergy comes into contact with these proteins, called allergens, their immune system mistakenly identifies them as harmful and triggers an allergic reaction. This reaction can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including itching, sneezing, coughing, and redness.

There are several types of dog allergies, including skin allergies, respiratory allergies, and food allergies. Skin allergies are one of the most common types of dog allergies and can cause itching, redness, and skin irritation. Respiratory allergies can cause sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Food allergies can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

Dog allergies can be particularly challenging for people who love dogs, as they can make it difficult or impossible to spend time with dogs without experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. However, there are several treatment options available for managing dog allergies, including medications, immunotherapy, and lifestyle changes. With the right treatment plan, many people with dog allergies are able to live comfortably with their furry friends.

What Causes Dog Allergies?

Allergy sufferers are not allergic to the actual fur or dander of dogs, but the protein they are made of. You are allergic to dogs depending upon which protein(s) cause your immune system to cause a reaction. Here is a breakdown on the different dog proteins you may be allergic to:

  • Dog Dander
    • Dog dander is tiny flakes of dead skin that dogs shed naturally. When you breathe in these flakes, your immune system may react and cause allergy symptoms. Probably the most common cause of dog allergies. Dander is made up of tiny flakes of skin that dogs shed naturally, and it contains proteins that can trigger an immune system response in some people.
  • Dog Saliva
    • Dog saliva contains proteins that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. When dogs lick their fur, the saliva dries and becomes airborne, which can trigger allergy symptoms. Dog saliva can also contain allergenic proteins. When dogs lick themselves or other objects, they can spread these proteins around, making it more likely that people will be exposed to them.
  • Dog Urine
    • Dog urine contains proteins that can also trigger an allergic reaction in some people. When dogs urinate, the proteins can dry and become airborne, which can cause allergy symptoms. Some people may be allergic to proteins found in dog urine. This can be a particular issue for people who live in apartments or other shared spaces, where dogs may urinate in common areas.
  • There is also an occurrence called cross-reactivity, which is when your body’s immune system will identify proteins from other foods or animals that are related or similar to the true allergen. The body will have a reaction to those other substances. Those who have dog allergies can be known to have reactions to other animals as well, such as cats, hamsters, chickens, or even horses. Or even food stuffs such as milk and eggs.

Some breeds of dogs are more likely to cause allergies than others. This is because some breeds produce less dander or have different types of proteins in their dander or saliva. However, it is important to remember that no breed of dog is completely hypoallergenic, and individual dogs within a breed can still cause an allergy.

What Role do Genetics and the Environment Have in Developing Dog Allergies?

Genetics: Research suggests that there is a genetic component to dog allergies. People who have a family history of allergies, asthma, or eczema are more likely to develop dog allergies themselves. This is because allergies are an immune system response, and the genes that control the immune system can be passed down from parents to their children.

Environment: Exposure to dogs and other allergens in the environment can also contribute to the development of dog allergies. For example, people who are exposed to dogs frequently may be more likely to develop allergies over time. Additionally, exposure to other allergens (such as pollen or dust mites) can make it more likely that a person will develop dog allergies.

The relationship between genetics and the environment is a complex one. It is not always clear which factors are most important in the development of dog allergies. Some people may be genetically predisposed to allergies but never develop them if they are not exposed to allergens, while others may develop allergies despite having no family history of allergies.

How Prevalent are Dog Allergies?

Dog allergies are actually relatively common. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, about 10% of people in the US are allergic to dogs. This means that millions of people are affected by dog allergens, and it is a significant issue for many families who own dogs or are considering getting a dog.

Prevalence of dog allergies can vary on a number of factors such as: age, genetics, and exposure to dogs. For example, children are more likely to develop dog allergies than adults, and people who have a family history of allergies are also more likely to be allergic to dogs. Additionally, people who are exposed to dogs frequently (such as those who work with dogs or live in a household with many dogs) may be more likely to develop allergies over time.

What are the Symptoms of Dog Allergies?

Some common symptoms of dog allergies can range from mild to severe and can include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and skin rashes. In severe cases, dog allergies can also cause difficulty breathing and asthma attacks. This is because some dog allergens are small enough to get into your lungs once they are airborne. If you experience any of these symptoms after being around dogs, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. They can help you determine if you have a dog allergy and recommend treatment options.

Here’s a breakdown of symptoms by category:

  • Common symptoms:
    • Itchy nose, mouth, or throat
    • Cough
    • Itchy, red, or water eyes
    • Swollen, blue-colored skin under eyes
    • Runny nose
    • Nasal congestion
    • Post-nasal drip
    • Sneezing
    • Facial pressure and pain
    • Frequent awakening from sleep
  • Common asthma symptoms:
    • Chest tightness or pain
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Wheezing or whistling when exhaling
    • Difficulty sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
  • Common allergic dermatitis symptoms: (direct exposure)
    • Hives
    • Eczema
    • Itchy skin

How to Dog Allergy Symptoms Vary?

Skin allergies: one of the most common types of dog allergies. They occur when a person’s immune system overreacts to proteins found in dog dander, saliva, or urine, causing a range of skin symptoms. symptoms can include itching, redness, and skin irritation. In some cases, skin allergies can also cause hives or other types of skin rashes. In more severe cases, skin allergies can cause eczema or other chronic skin conditions. Skin allergies are typically managed with medications such as antihistamines or topical creams.

Respiratory allergies: another common type of dog allergy. Occur when a person’s immune system overreacts to dog allergens that are inhaled, such as dander or saliva. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, respiratory allergies can cause an asthma attack, which can be life-threatening. Respiratory allergies are typically managed with medications such as antihistamines, nasal sprays, or bronchodilators.

Food allergies: relatively uncommon, but they can occur in some people. When a person with a dog allergy consumes food that contains proteins found in dog dander, saliva, or urine, they may experience a range of symptoms. Some people may be allergic to certain foods that dogs eat, such as beef or chicken. Symptoms of food allergies can include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. In some cases, it can cause hives or eczema. And occasionally respiratory symptoms such as wheezing or shortness of breath.

You should note that the severity of symptoms can also vary depending on the person and the level of exposure to the allergen. For example, someone with a mild skin allergy may only experience mild itching or redness, while someone with a more severe allergy may develop hives or other types of skin rashes. Similarly, someone with a mild respiratory allergy may only experience occasional sneezing or coughing, while someone with a more severe allergy may have difficulty breathing or require medical attention. Or someone with a mild food allergy related to dog allergies may only experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms, while someone with a more severe allergy may develop hives or respiratory symptoms.

How are Dog Allergies Diagnosed?

If you suspect that you have an allergy to dogs, you should visit a doctor. Your allergy specialist will take into consideration your past symptom history, physical exam, and tests such as skin prick and blood tests to diagnose your allergy. Remember that allergies can change over time and develop at any time. Your doctor may suggest an allergy skin test to determine exactly what you’re allergic to. In this test, tiny amounts of purified allergen extracts are pricked into your skin’s surface.

If you’re allergic to dogs, your skin will become red and itchy at the site of the prick. Your doctor may also suggest a blood test to detect the presence of antibodies to dog allergens in your blood.

It’s important to note that not all dog allergens are created equal. Some people may be allergic to only certain breeds of dogs, while others may be allergic to all dogs. Your doctor can help you determine the specific allergens that trigger your symptoms and develop a treatment plan accordingly.

In some cases, your doctor may refer you to an allergy specialist (allergist) for further testing and treatment. Allergy specialists have additional training and experience in diagnosing and treating allergies. They may recommend immunotherapy, a treatment that involves exposing you to small amounts of the allergen over time to help your body build up a tolerance.

Remember, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis of your dog allergy so that you can take steps to manage your symptoms and avoid potential complications.

When you identify the specific proteins you are allergic to it can help you to better manage your reaction and symptoms.

Your allergy specialist can order a IgE component test, which can help to identify and categorize your allergen profile. IgE test results will show the specific components, broken down into a series of numbers and letters, which can help guide you when trying to manage your allergies.

  • rCan f 1, rCan f 2: indicates that your symptoms are caused by dogs. Common symptoms include asthma and rhinitis. Immunotherapy can be a possible treatment.
  • rCan f 5: indicates that your symptoms may be caused by dogs. Common symptoms include itching, sneezing, and runny nose. Possible treatments are antihistamines or immunotherapy. This is actually a hormone-driven protein, that is prostate-specific. If you just suffer from this protein, it’s suggested that female or (neutered) dogs should be tolerated.
  • rCan f 6: indicated that your symptoms are caused by dogs or mammals. This protein is associated with cross-reactivity, meaning that other animals such as cats, mice, and horses and other animal products such as milk and beef can also cause symptoms. Common symptoms include itchy and watery eyes, and hives. Possible treatments are corticosteroids and decongestants. Cooking the foods thoroughly may demonstrate a tolerance.

What are the Different Treatment Options?

While there is no cure for dog allergies, there are several treatments available to help manage symptoms, such as:


nose sprays: are usually pretty effective and have very little side effects. They work by reducing the swelling and inflammation in your nose. There are corticosteroid ones like Flonase and antihistamine ones such as patanase

nasal rinse: it’s a rinse for your nose, using a saline solution. It works by draining out the mucus and helping to eliminate the allergen from your nose.

eye drops: usually pretty effective to reduce eye symptoms. Works by reducing itching, burning, redness, and swelling of the eyes.

antihistamines: these work by blocking the chemical, histamine, which is released in response to an allergen. They help to reduce sneezy and itchy eyes and nose, rubber nose, and nasal congestion. They can come in a variety of forms such as liquid, sprays, or pills. Common ones are Zyrtec and Claritin.

decongestants: they work by shrinking the lining of nasal passages and reduce stuffiness on the nose. They come in a variety of forms, such as liquid, sprays, drops, or pills. Common ones are sudafed and afrin.

leukotriene modifiers: works by blocking the chemicals your body releases when you’re having an allergic reaction. Common ones are singulair

cromolyn sodium: this works by blocking the release of chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, such as histamine and leukotrienes. It comes in spray form that you spray into your nostrils. It is usually recommended to take several times a day.

immunotherapy: these are shots injected by your allergist to help desensitize you to dog allergens . The shot puts a small amount of your dog allergen into your skin. Then you’re doctor watches for symptoms. Your doctor will increase the amount of allergen they inject each time, helping to train your immune system for tolerance of the allergen. Can be effective, especially if all other treatments have had little progress. They do require a commitment on your part, as you must follow up with several appointments with your doctor. It involves regular injections of small amounts of allergens over a period of several years.

Lifestyle Changes

Reducing your exposure to dog allergens can help alleviate symptoms. So this could include not owning a dog, or keeping minimal contact whenever possible.

Maintaining deep cleaning of your home will help to eliminate the allergen as much as possible.


To prevent dog allergies, you should avoid exposure to dogs as much as possible. If you already have a dog, you can take steps to reduce allergens in your home.

Keep your dog clean by bathing them frequently. This can help reduce dander, which is a common allergen. You can also use a HEPA air filter to remove allergens from the air.

Create a designated “dog-free” zone in your home, such as a bedroom or living room. This can help reduce your exposure to allergens. You should also wash your hands after petting your dog and avoid touching your face.

Consider getting a hypoallergenic breed. These breeds produce less dander and can be less likely to trigger allergies.

If you’re looking into getting a dog, foster one first. This will help make sure you have little to no reactions from this specific dog before actually owning it.

Talk with your Doctor

It is important to work with doctors, allergy specialists, and veterinarians if you suffer from dog allergies for several reasons, such as:

  • Accurate Diagnosis:
    • Allergy symptoms can be similar to other conditions, so you’ll want to make sure you receive an accurate diagnosis from a health professional. A doctor or allergist can perform the necessary testing in order to give an accurate diagnosis, and help you to understand your severity to allergies.
  • Treatment Plan:
    • Once you have been diagnosed with dog allergies, a healthcare professional can help you develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms. This may include medications, immunotherapy, or lifestyle changes. A healthcare professional can help you determine which treatment options are best for you based on your individual needs and preferences.
  • Prevention:
    • A healthcare professional can also provide guidance on how to prevent allergy symptoms from occurring. This may include advice on how to reduce your exposure to dog allergens, such as keeping your home clean, using air purifiers, or avoiding certain areas where dogs are present.
  • Safety:
    • If you have severe allergies, it is important to work with a healthcare professional to ensure your safety. They can help you develop an emergency plan in case of a severe allergic reaction, and can provide you with medication or other treatments to manage your symptoms.
  • Veterinary Care:
    • If you own a dog and suffer from allergies, it is important to work with a veterinarian to ensure your dog’s health and wellbeing. A veterinarian can help you identify ways to reduce your exposure to dog allergens, such as regular grooming or dietary changes, and can provide guidance on how to manage your allergies while still caring for your dog.

Ultimately understanding dog allergies is important for anyone who loves dogs or is considering getting a dog. By being aware of the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for dog allergies, people can make informed decisions about their health and their relationship with dogs. Whether you’re managing allergies yourself or helping a loved one who is allergic to dogs, there are many resources available to help you navigate this complex issue. With the right support and information, you can continue to enjoy your relationship with dogs while managing your allergies effectively.

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